Sunday, August 11, 2013

Columbus Square Park

Columbus Square Park, 1 of 108 St. Louis parks is located at 11th and Biddle streets, the park was founded in 1980 and is a mere 1/2 acre.


The park takes its name from the Columbus Square neighborhood in which it resides.  The homes that surround the park were built in the mid-1980's and are by no means contributors to the architectural heritage of St. Louis.  But, they are at least built on a grid (e.g., no cul-de-sacs) and have street trees and are largely occupied, so it looks like more like a city vs. a suburb.  And, the streets are clean and the properties appear to be maintained.




The savior is, even amongst 1980's uninspired architecture, you are never far from St. Louis history and pride from the heyday.  The park is directly south of the stunning Shrine of St. Joseph, a church listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Here's some history of the church from the Shrine of St. Joseph website:
This beautiful old church, at the corner of 11th Street and Biddle in St. Louis, Missouri has a vast and interesting history. The church had its beginning in 1843. The Jesuits founded the parish to serve a pleasant residential community consisting mostly of German immigrants. Also, the church is the site of the only authenticated miracle in the Midwest.
After founding the parish in 1843, the Jesuits immediately began plans for building a church. Mrs. Ann Biddle, a wealthy widow, known for her many philanthropic deeds, donated the land for the new church. The cornerstone was blessed by Bishop Kenrick on April 14, 1844. The completed structure was a modest building facing west toward 11th Street. It was dedicated on the first
Sunday in August of 1846 with Father James Van de Velde, later Bishop of Chicago, officiating.
St. Joseph Parish soon became a very active community. In1862, a large parish school was built nearby. The Sisters of Notre Dame staffed the school for the many children of the area. 
In August of 1866, work progressed on the remodeling of the church. There was an outbreak of cholera at that time in St. Louis. St. Joseph's Parish alone had as many as 20 burials a day! 

Bueschers of Chicago, famous for their religious art work, were employed to carve an elaborate altar. It was designed as a replica of the Altar of St. Ignatius in the Jesuit Gesu Church in Rome. The only exception was that the figure of St. Joseph and the Christ Child would be substituted for the figure of St. Ignatius. Beneath the central figures appear the words: "Ite ad Joseph" Go to Joseph.

Known as The Altar of Answered Prayers, because of its origin, this beautiful work can still be seen at St. Joseph's Shrine, where it serves as the Main Altar. It was installed early in 1867, at a total cost of $6,131.00.

The primary remolding was completed in 1866. Father Pierre Jean De Smet, noted missionary to the Indians, officiated at the dedication services on December 30, 1866.

In 1880, the church was once again enlarged and remodeled. This work, which was completed in 1881, included the addition of an elaborate Romanesque face and twin towers surmounted with delicate cupolas.
After the Jesuits left the parish, it was staffed by a priest of the Archdiocese. Further alterations had to be made in 1954, under the supervision of the Shrine's pastor, Father Anthony Corey. At
this time, for reasons of safety, the beautiful original towers were shortened and the cupolas replaced by heavier hexagonal caps. This altered the exterior of the building considerably and
detracted from its former beauty.
While now owned by the Archdiocese of St. Louis, the Shrine of St. Joseph is leased to The Friends of the Shrine of St. Joseph, Inc.
The church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the Department of the Interior and is the site of a Vatican confirmed miracle...a big deal in the Catholic religion.





A bronze plaque at the church entrance carries the likeness of Father Filipiak, a beloved priest and savior of the church building itself, with the inscription: “He always said he would die for this church, and he did.”  After some quick research, I learned the story is a sad one.  Back in 1979 a group of teenage thugs went to steal wine from the church, were confronted by the priest and they murdered him.  Andrew Daugherty, the 16 year old murderer, only got 15 years for his crime and in a testament to Karma was shot at his mom's home in North City in the 5200 block of Lexington Avenue years later.


Photo:  St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Fr. Filipiak was the one person who saved the church from the Archdioscese wrecking ball (a mighty and still active wrecking ball indeed):
In 1979, the Rev. Edward Filipiak was a one-man pastorate on a mission to save his church, built in 1844, from demolition. Archdiocese leaders planned a new building nearby but backed off after some former parishioners organized the Friends of St. Joseph, and the National Register of Historic Places designated the twin-spire structure a landmark. (source)
The interior of the church is amazing:


Photo:  St. Louis Post-Dispatch source

The park itself is actually quite well done.  There are stairs on all sides that lead to the center of the park which is really a just a simple circle with some plantings. The perimeter contains Linden's and Red Bud which make for some great shade. 











There was a wedding taking place on my visit, so there were a lot of people in the park.  

There is also a park which is just east of the Shrine property, dedicated to Fr. Filipiak.  

This park is in the shadow of the AMAZING Patrick Henry Downtown Academy School built and designed in 1906 by renowned architect William B. Ittner.






Columbus Square Park is a decent 1980's contribution to a beautiful setting from the mid 19th Century.

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