Saturday, January 11, 2014

Minnie Wood Memorial Square

Minnie Wood Memorial Square is 1 of 108 St. Louis parks making up 4.5 of the total 2,956 acres of parkland in the city.  The park was placed into ordinance in 1925 and is located right on the border of the Mount Pleasant and Dutchtown neighborhoods at the intersection of South Broadway and Meramec Street:


Most probably recognize this park by the beautiful yellow pavilion that sits near the southern edge of the park facing Meramec Street.




The city website calls the park Minniewood Park (one word), yet it is actually named after a woman, Minnie Wood, and is called Minnie Wood Memorial Square in honor of this charitable woman.  Here is the story of Minnie Wood and the park from the Missouri History Museum website:

Born in Germany as Minnie Sommers, she and her parents immigrated to Columbia, Illinois, in 1851. This is a town known for its German heritage. Minnie Sommers worked as a servant when she was young. In 1876, she married an Englishman in Springfield named Henry Wood.
Both Henry and Minnie Wood lived the typical “rags to riches” story in America. Not only did Henry flourish as a self-made millionaire, accumulating $4 million, but he and his wife gave back to society through their charitable deeds. They established a boardinghouse for milk-wagon drivers, and Minnie would rise at 3:00 a.m. each morning to prepare breakfast for them. The couple lived frugally as well. Henry became the president of the Union Dairy Company at Jefferson and Washington, the president of Jefferson Bank, and the president of the Humane Society of Missouri. His reports for the Humane Society reflected the ideal of progressivism in the early decades of the 20th century. He wrote, “children’s lives and morals spared animals of all kings given defense and protection against vicious men.” An interesting and noble thought from a man who started his career as a milk-wagon driver.
What seemed to be a positive and happy marriage had turned sour, however. When Henry and Minnie separated, he agreed to give her $2,400 a year “if she would not annoy him.” After his death in 1917, Minnie fought hard to obtain her husband’s estate. The Missouri Supreme Court awarded her $1 million in 1921 even though the bulk of the estate was left to some hospitals and a nursing home.
Minnie Wood died on April 7, 1924, at the age of 77. She had donated some land to the City of St. Louis, mainly for a playground. In 1926, Minnie Wood Memorial Square was established and continues to this day.
—Leo Thomasson, Missouri History Museum Volunteer

The Union Dairy Company was located at 2611 Washington Avenue, but is no longer there.



One of the unique features within the park is the presence of one of the relatively new Cops Care Libraries that can be found in this park as well as other areas around South City including Mt. Pleasant Park.  Here's the back story on these libraries from December, 2013 KSDK article:

The family of slain St. Louis American newspaper manager Paul Reiter funded the project.
The libraries are large, wooden structures placed throughout the neighborhood, stocked with books for children of all ages. The books are free and children are encouraged to "take a book, keep a book."
Reiter was 58 when he was gunned down in May 2011 after happening upon a man trying to break into a neighbor's home. The shooter, Rico Paul, was sentenced in September 2013 to life imprisonment.
The books were donated by the St. Louis American and Cops Care helped with the project.  The books will be replenished by the St. Louis American with the ultimate goal of making reading freely available to kids and having healthy and positive contact with police in the community.  It is good to see something positive come out of a horrible murder and tragedy.


Other amenities in the park include swings, a playground with some rather unique rock climbing gyms, a spray pool and multi-purpose sports fields.






Hopefully the nearby Carnahan High School of the Future use the fields for sports and P.E.

It was great to see some recent investment in the park as evidenced by the newish looking bike racks, water fountain, benches, trash cans, trees and landscape around the pavilion.




Minnie Wood Park is a nice addition to the area.  I would like to see a prairie restoration in the small part of the park that extends south of Meramec along Broadway.  This is largely un-utilized and would create a beautiful natural buffer between a very busy street and the cozy neighborhood to the west.

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