Thursday, June 19, 2014

Ivory Perry Park

Ivory Perry Park is 1 of 108 St. Louis parks.  This park, formerly named Visitation Park, was placed into ordinance in 1961.  The city website has the park at 0.29 acres, but that doesn't seem accurate.  It is much larger.


The park is bordered by Cabanne Avenue to the north, Belt Avenue to the west, Arlington Avenue to the east (roughly) and Clemens Place to the south and is located in the Visitation Park Neighborhood.


Again the park used to be named Visitation Park until 1989 when the name was changed to honor Ivory Perry, a local civil rights activist.

Ivory Perry lying down in front of a car during a protest against police brutality
1965 Photograph by Lester Linck, St. Louis Post-Dispatch © 1965, St. Louis Post-Dispatch


Ivory Perry was an interesting guy who fought for social justice and racial equality.
In each part of his life Ivory Perry faced conflicts and issues that helped prepare him for what was ahead. Born to sharecropper parents in 1930, Ivory grew up in rural Arkansas and later Pine Bluff. His family was near civil rights activities, but never participated in them.
The segregation and racism that Ivory experienced as a teenager in Arkansas meant that he was not surprised to serve in a segregated unit when he joined the army in 1948. But toward the end of his time in Korea, he found racism in the military intolerable and began to object to it, though he did not join protests. 
Ivory came to St. Louis in 1954 and was drawn into civil rights protests within a few years. When the extensive picketing for jobs at Jefferson Bank began in 1963, he became one of the most reliable activists on the picket line. It was during this time that Ivory was often in the press when he was arrested for actions such as lying down in front of cars.
Protests of the 1960s objected to the exclusion of Blacks from American life — from jobs, from voting, from being served at lunch counters. 
But when Ivory became an employee of the Human Development Corporation in the late 1960s, he faced a different aspect of racial injustice — Black people being crowded into substandard housing. Ivory’s experience in demonstrations served him well as he organized for tenant rights, including the rent strike of 1969. 
While visiting renters in their homes, Ivory noticed recurring health problems among children. He discovered that they could be traced to lead in the paint of old homes. Previously, Ivory had been a dependable foot soldier for events that others called. But with lead, Ivory was the person who drew attention to a major problem. His work was instrumental in persuading the St. Louis Board of Aldermen to pass the city’s first legislation on lead in 1970. 
Ivory Perry had broken new ground in making the link between social justice and human health issues. By the end of the decade, problems such as these would become known as “environmental racism.” (source
In 1892, the Catholics built Visitation Academy on what is now Ivory Perry Park.  The original Visitation Convent and Academy was on Cass Avenue.
The Academy of the Visitation was incorporated in 1858 by Visitation Nuns who arrived in St. Louis from Kaskaskia following the flood of 1844. Its three story brick building was erected on a large wooded lot donated by Mrs. Anne Biddle on Cass Avenue near Twentieth Street. In a westward move in 1892, the Academy occupied a large French Renaissance style building on a tract at the southeast corner of Cabanne and Belt Avenues. This structure was designed by Barnett, Haynes, and Barnett and was occupied by the Academy until 1962 when it made another westward move to 3020 North Ballas Road in St. Louis County. The old property was sold to the City; the main building was razed and its site became the present Visitation Park. (source)


The sale of "Viz" to the city in 1962 was a blow to the neighborhood as it became a staple of the neighborhood.

There is a nice video from local PBS affiliate KETC's "Living St. Louis" series on the park and Visitation Academy:


The park has a walking path complete with work out stations.


There is a pavilion for parties, a playground and a basketball court:




There is also a former fountain that was not operational upon my visit:


There is also a tree in the park that is surrounded by a small fence.  Upon further inspection, there is a plaque placed in the memory of Rodney McAllister, a 10 year old boy who was tragically killed by a group of stray dogs in 2001.  You can read about the entire tragic incident here.


The park plays host to an annual summer concert series.  This year's shows will take place June-August:


  • Kreative Pandemonium 6/22/2014, Sunday, 6:00 p.m.

  • Ptah Williams' Trio 7/27/2014, Sunday, 6:00 p.m.

  • The Uncensored Band 8/24/2014, Sunday, 6:00 p.m.

  • The homes to the south of the park along Clemens Place are straight up beauties:


    There is a large apartment complex north of the park (Winston Churchill Apartments):

    1 comment:

    Anonymous said...

    It's a shame that Visitation Academy abandoned the city. St. Louis University High continues to anchor it's surrounding neighborhood. Though I do give credit to St. Elizabeth for hanging in there and am pleased to hear that upon its closure, the former school building will house the International Institute.