Saturday, June 21, 2014

Jet Banks Park

Jet Banks Park is 1 of 108 St. Louis parks located at Cass and Garrison in the Jeff Vander Lou Neighborhood.


This 3.36 acre park was placed into ordinance in 1963 and sits just south of Vashon High School.


The park used to be called Garrison-Brantner-Webster (street surrounding the park) but was changed to Jet Banks Park.

State Senator J.B. "Jet" Banks

Mr. Banks was a state politician who died in 2003. He sounded like quite a character in addition to being an accomplished politician and advocate for mainly black causes...even though he ended his career with a tax problem the got him 5 years probation.  But what is a career politician without a good old fashioned felony?

Apparently he was oft stylin' and profilin'; froState Sen. Harold Caskey:
As the Legislature's fashion plate, Banks at times changed suits several times a day -- what Caskey called "just his way of being flamboyant." 
"That was his trademark. He'd put on a fashion show," Caskey said, recalling that Banks' wardrobe -- from green leather suits to all-white duds topped off by a matching hat -- left no detail unattended, right down to a matching handkerchief. 
Banks at times resorted to theater to make his case. In 1995, he strapped toy six-shooters under his suit coat to mock backers of a measure that would have legalized concealed guns. 
"There's nothing more important to the people I represent" in St. Louis, Banks pressed then, suggesting that crime in his hometown "is as rampant as raindrops when it's raining."
He was to be taken serious too though, as he was a staunch advocate for Harris-Stowe University in Midtown:
In the 1970s, Banks also shepherded legislation merging Harris-Stowe, a historically black St. Louis college that was financially struggling, into the state higher education system -- an achievement Caskey cast as "one of his finest hours." 
"There would not be a Harris-Stowe State College had it not been for Jet Banks," said Henry Givens Jr., the college's longtime president who also credits Banks with expanding the school's degree offerings from one to a dozen. "He will be sorely missed. This is a tremendous loss."
But, he did run into some problems when he admittedly lied about income...a felony barring him from holding office:
Banks' leaving the Senate came three months after he pleaded guilty to filing false state income tax returns for 1994 and 1995, a felony that netted him five years of probation and a court-ordered 300 hours of community service.  By pleading guilty, Banks admitted he overstated his investment in an airport limousine company. (source)
Regardless of his felony charges, he climbed the political ladder from humble beginnings.  Banks was born a sharecropper's son in the boot heel of Southern Missouri.  He served in the Missouri legislature, eventually the state Senate majority leader which landed him the distinction of Missouri's highest-ranking black elected official.  It's easy to see how his good worked out weighed the bad, so it is fitting that a park be named after him.  

The park is the home to a Cardinal's Care ball field.  This one dedicated to beloved Cardinal shortstop Ozzie Smith.




That's really it, nothing other than the ball field on the park property.  The field and facilities are in great condition.

There are some really cool modern homes to the south of the park, including roofs with solar panels and a cool looking building called "Tillie's Corner 'Butterfly' Home".  This building is dedicated to Mrs. Lillie V. "Granny" Pearson (Miss Tillie) 1915-2006, local storefront snack shop and market owner and neighborhood sweetheart.  The building that Miss Tillie's Corner was recently destroyed in a windstorm in 2013.  She sounded like a great person and there is a nice write-up on Miss Tillie and the story in St. Louis Magazine by Stefane Russell.

Here's the Butterfly Home:


And here are some examples of the handsome new homes:




There are many ultra-cheap suburban style apartments too from previous attempts at re-generation.


Glad to see the housing stock improving around Jet Banks Park.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The homes that you are fond of are ones built by Habitat for Humanity, my employer.