70 acres of Willmore Park was donated by Cyrus Crane Willmore. Mr. Willmore was a prominent St. Louis developer, responsible for many suburban sub-divisions in University City, Webster Groves and Normandy. His main St. Louis contributions were Kingshighway Hills (now in the North Hampton neighborhood) and St. Louis Hills.
Cyrus Crane Willmore: photo source Missouri History Museum
Believing southwest St. Louis was ready for development, he started expanding into the largely undeveloped tract of more than 700 acres that would become St. Louis Hills. In the late 1920s, Willmore took steps to acquire that property.The park is truly massive, extending from the Walgreens at Gravois and Hampton all the way along the River Des Peres to past Loughborough.
Willmore started developing the property around Francis Park. Pushing quality homes, he persevered through the depression. His development wasn't completed until several years after his death. (source)
The park is one of the best maintained I've seen thus far. There are a lot of things that make this park active including the only disc golf course I've seen to date, pet friendly walking path (including bags to curb the dogs), a dog park, multiple covered pavilions for picnics, tennis courts, fishing lakes, roller hockey rink, multiple softball fields and a massive new playground currently under construction.
Let's start with the sports amenities. The softball fields are in excellent condition and are routinely used for kids practices and adult leagues. The tennis courts are highly used and maintained to above average conditions. The roller hockey rink needs new goals, but otherwise is in good shape. The North Lake is a hot spot for local fishermen where the bass are reportedly in good numbers.
lighted tennis courts
hockey rink in the background
The 18-basket disc golf course utilizes most of the park's 100 acres.
the "baskets" are all over the park
The good news doesn't stop there, the Southwest City Dog Park is one of the nicest I've seen.
This members-only leashless dog run is a fenced-in spot for dogs to run and play, complete with water source, curbing supplies, toys, etc. It is a serene setting as there is a nicely landscaped "Dog Park Garden" at the entrance.
This volunteer effort was made possible by corporate and personal donations.
Check out www.swcitydogpark.org for more information. These efforts take a huge amount of time and effort from volunteers, I know this first hand, so congrats to all those who made this happen...you have a lot to be proud of in Willmore Park!
There are several pavilions scattered throughout the park, most were in use and the maintenance is at a high level as the grills were in good shape, trash cans emptied, benches and tables ready to go.
There are new trees and landscaping all over the park. This investment will make the park beautiful for years to come.
bald cypress grove
low lying ares with cat tails
clump river birch
The River Des Peres Greenway in the background
northern catalpa in bloom
The investment continues to the playground that is being completely redone as a handicap accessible playground sponsored by Unlimited Play:
Unlimited Play is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that helps to plan, design and build fully accessible playgrounds that allow all children – regardless of their abilities – to play together. A valuable resource in our community, Unlimited Play has unique expertise in this area, and is available to assist in the development of inclusive playgrounds that promote dignity, understanding and respect among children.This is 1 of 2 full access playgrounds in St. Louis, the other is in O'Fallon Park (I'll get to that one soon), and it has reached its goal of $600,000. The Willmore Park playground was named after two local residents: "Gus's Playground and Theresa's Splash Pad" and it is 86% of the way toward their fund raising goal. Click here is you'd like to donate.
How can you not love that? Check out the design and some of the construction going on:
The park truly feels open, yet secluded on the southern edge of the city. The residences that line the park's north side are largely well-maintained early to mid 20th Century rentals.
What needs improvement? Well not much, but I'd put my efforts into revitalizing the horseshoe pits to rival the nearby Carondelet Park pits. And there is a seating area south of the playground that has some planters...these could use some trees to provide some much need shade and soften the paved surface. Red maple or ginko would look great surrounded with liriope or bishop's weed so you don't need to weed wack around the trees.
The best thing I can say for Willmore Park is that is was in heavy use by people young and old and there are several volunteer efforts and groups with vested interests anchoring the park for years to come.