Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pontiac Square Park (With Updates From November, 2016)

Post includes updates from November, 2016

Pontiac Square Park is 1 of 108 St. Louis parks making up 1.08 of the city's total 2,956 acres of park space.
The park was placed into ordinance in 1908 and is bordered by 9th Street to the east, Ann Avenue to the north, 10th Street to the west and Shenandoah Avenue to the south.  It is located in the Soulard Neighborhood. A one-acre park seems perfect for this location and there are densely packed homes surrounding the park, giving it a private, neighborhood-y feel.
Updates (November, 2016): 

The park takes its name from Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa Nation (1720-1769). Pontiac was born in Michigan and was famous for leading the Native Americans in wars against the British:
Pontiac or by his native name, Obwandiyag (c. 1720 – April 20, 1769), was an Ottawa leader who became famous for his role in Pontiac’s Rebellion (1763–1766), an American Indian struggle against the British military occupation of the Great Lakes region following the British victory in the French and Indian War. (source)
Pontiac, the former General Motors automobile line active from 1926 - 2010 was named after Chief Pontiac as was the city of Pontiac, Michigan.

Although Pontiac’s influence had declined around Detroit because of the unsuccessful siege, he gained stature in the Illinois and Wabash country as he continued to encourage resistance to the British who wanted to take the land of the Indians and displace them. Seeking to end the war, British officials made Pontiac the focus of their diplomatic efforts. In July 1766, Pontiac made peace with British Superintendent of Indian Affairs Sir William Johnson. (source)

Pontiac eventually moved to Illinois east of St. Louis and was eventually murdered by a Peorian Indian on April 20, 1769. There are some disputes, but some experts believe he was buried at Walnut and Broadway in Downtown St. Louis, others believe he was buried on Apple Island in Michigan.
Image is an artist's interpretation of what Pontiac looked like, there are no authentic images in existence (painting by John Mix Stanley)

There is a plaque commemorating his burial place on the unsightly stadium east parking garage, right across from the massive Busch Stadium surface parking lots at Walnut and Broadway.
Pontiac Park is one of my favorite parks in the city. It is so well cared for by the neighbors and there is investment in the form of public art and additional plantings that were not apparent on my original post back in 2013. 

A sculpture titled "Terra Madonna" by artist Uriel Starbuck was installed in the tiered bed leading to the playground:
The sculpture was donated by Starbuck and the Soulard Restoration Group's Beautification Committee was responsible for the move and installation within the park. It was previously on display at the Unity Christ Church in the Wydown/Skinker Neighborhood, right across from Forest Park. (source)

In November, 2014, the Soulard Restoration Group installed a beautiful enclosure screening the utility boxes at the Shenandoah and 10th Street entrance to the park.
Further evidence of the neighbors taking stock in the park takes the form of large planters near a new bench/bike parking station and ferns flanking the interior playground entrances:
My favorite approach to the park is at the corner of Ann and 9th Street where a nice mix of deciduous and conifers blend with lower growing shrubs providing an inviting entrance.
Someone (likely not the park's dept.) has installed berms with beautiful plantings.  There is irrigation and drip tape, leading me to believe the park's dept has nothing to do with this, probably the Soulard Restoration Group. There is a nice mix of new and older trees and smaller perennials.
Anyhow, the park is surrounded by trees and a handsome metal fence.
The stone retaining wall that surrounds the area south and east of the playground is beautiful and speaks to how old the park really is.
There was a person playing catch with her chocolate lab and a father with his two little ones at the playground.  There is a backstop and multi-purpose field that seems right sized for kickball or softball. You can tell the park is respectfully used.
There is also a spray area; neighbors indicated it is functional during the summer.
The homes that surround the park are the typical mix you'd expect from Soulard both original and new.
The gorgeous Lafayette Elementary School at 815 Ann Ave sits in the shadow of the park.  This building is for sale by the SLPS.  I hope it becomes a charter or private school in the future. My wish came true as a developer purchased the former school for $800,000 and did a comprehensive $3.5M renovation into 36 market-rate apartments which will bring added density and people to use this beautiful park. (source)
Check out some good photos of Lafayette School HERE. And here are some photos post renovation as the "Lafayette Lofts":
Congrats to the Soulard Restoration Group Beautification Committee for the wonderful work you have done in Pontiac Park, your volunteer efforts and fund raising does not go unnoticed. Thank you.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

In the late 90s I lived on 7th and Lami and there was an informal dog park around 5-6 pm in the evenings there. I remember Nina had Caesar, Max had Raisa and added a second shy dog, but I can't remember her name. Kim had Casper who was friends with my dog. Rose lived across the street with this poodle Frosty but he was kind of a shit so he couldn't play but she always gave treats to us when we were out walking. I think Cedric, Nesta and Girlfriend/Uma were some of the other dogs.

My dog was Billy. He's actually still kickin it and turns 16 in January.

Anonymous said...

And I also remember someone unknown would dump bags of white bread over by home base of the ballfield which was annoying because then all the dogs would run over and eat it instead of play.

Anonymous said...

the spary thing is totally functional, if a bit crumbling. used by a lot of kids and occasionally a 20's pool zone party area.

Scott Plackemeier said...

I've lived in Soulard since 07 and within a block of this park the last year and a half. I used to see Rose walking Frosty quite a bit, but haven't in quite a while :(

Thanks for posting this Mark. This is the perfect little neighborhood park. In the warmer months impromptu games of bocce ball can be found on Sunday afternoons. Some other dog owners aren't as responsible as the rest of us so sometimes the park is messier than it needs to be.

But other than that it's a great little jewel and the homes that surround it almost make it look like a movie set.

jimboboss302 said...

I lived on the corner of 10th and Shenandoah just across the street from the park from 2000 to 2003. I used to see Rose and Frosty the white poodle every day. He used to try to kill my puppy whenever they crossed paths. How funny. I thought I was the only one who noticed those two. I loved living there !