Monday, July 8, 2013

Buder Playground

Buder Playground is 1 of 108 St. Louis parks, making up 2.31 acres of the total 2,956 acres of parkspace.

The park is located between Rutger, California, Hickory and Ewing Avenues in the Gate District neighborhood.


The park was dedicated in 1912 and the city website boasts basketball courts, playgrounds and a recreation center.  The rec center is not technically within the confines of the park, rather is located on the south west side of Hickory and Ewing .  I will try and visit this place which used to be a "bath house" at a later date.



While the city website does not confirm the history of the name, I can only assume it was named after Susan Rassieur Buder, a notable German immigrant who settled in St. Louis.  A St. Louis City school, library and St. Louis County Park were also named in honor of Ms. Buder.
As the mother of five sons, Buder was interested in the welfare of children. According to her wishes, a public bathhouse, a swimming pool, a playground and a community center were given to the children of St. Louis. Later, her sons gave more than 100 acres along the Meramec River to the city to be used as a recreational farm by the general public. Susan worked with her husband at the Susan Buder Jewelry Company in St. Louis. At the time, jewelry was a sideline to watches for St. Louis merchants, and it was a testament to her acumen that her enterprise prospered greatly. After her death, the South St. Louis community where she had lived petitioned the Board of Education to name a South Side school for her. Each member of the first graduating class of the Susan R. Buder School was awarded a scholarship to Washington University through a fund donated by her sons. (source)
Like many great St. Louisians, Ms. Buder was laid to rest in Bellefontaine Cemetery.



This was an old and historically black neighborhood but you wouldn't really know that now as much of the original housing stock was destroyed due to neglect and abuse and the 1990s brought a suburban styled sectioning off of the streets, complete with cul-de-sacs and Schoemehl pots to cut down on the pressing drug trade that was a big concern for those who chose to stay.  It's gotten a lot better these days though.


The homes that line the park range from old classics in poor to fair condition to newer suburban style homes.


Famous poet and writer Maya Angelou grew up near Buder Park on Caroline street and attended Toussaint L'Ouverture Grammar School just around the way.  I wish the African-American community did a better job of embracing the history and the meaningful black contributions to this city.  There should be something commemorating Ms. Angelou's time here but I couldn't find anything.  If anyone knows the exact address that Ms. Angelou spent parts of her childhood, please let me know.

Sadly, the park has seen a lack of interest from the neighbors over time.  I doubt anyone would say this is a positive space nor asset to the neighborhood.  That's not to say there isn't tremendous potential as the park was built up to rise above Hickory Street and providing excellent views of Downtown and Midtown.




There is a once cool old concrete retaining wall surrounding the park that needs attention.  It is crumbling on all 4 sides.


The homes just north of the park along Hickory Street are largely boarded up; but are classic St. Louis shotgun and 2-family flats.



The homes on the Ewing are a mix of old and new...not unlike most of the Gate District.



There is some really cool older park equipment that could be even cooler if given some TLC:



The swings, playground and surrounding area are kind of treacherous for little ones.  The asphalt is buckling from tree roots, the pea gravel is strewn all over and the park's dept chose to plant sweet gum trees right on the asphalt over the playground, so gumballs are everywhere.




The park is alos used by folks drinking and getting their public groove on.



The playground equipment has been trashed by the local park goers.   The slide is unusable.


It's been a long time since anyone cared about this space and it shows.

Too bad, because the western edge has decent basketball, volleyball courts (no net) and picnic tables.




There is a water fountain, but it is inoperable.


The eastern edge is nothing...just a field of weeds and grass which the city mows.


Trees were planted along Ewing Street, but most have died.



Looks fairly bleak, no?  Well, there is good news on the horizon.  Things are on the upswing in this part of the city and our new alderman, a proven friend to park space, is listening to the neighbors and is working with some Gate District citizens who want to see some positivity in the park.  Said residents have identified the playground as the place they'd like to start (couldn't agree more). On July 10th, 2013 at the Gate District East Meeting, there will be a public comment portion on how to spend the $170,000 allocated for redoing the playground. There are 2 volunteers working with the alderman to identify grant funding, etc to get action going in Buder Park.  

The future looks bright for Buder Park.

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