Saturday, July 19, 2014

Tandy Park

Tandy Park is 1 of 108 St. Louis parks.  This 5.6 acre park was placed into ordinance in 1918 and is located at the corner of Kennerly and Billups Avenues in the shadow of Sumner High School and the former Homer G. Phillips Hospital in the Ville neighborhood:


The park was named in the honor of Captain Charlton H. Tandy.  Per the State Historical Society of Missouri, Tandy was born a free black man in Kentucky and went on to great things, serving in the Missouri Militia during the Civil War and a respected member of the Republican Party and civil rights activist.  Sounds like a great man:
Charlton H. Tandy was born to free black parents on December 16, 1836, in Lexington,Kentucky. Tandy Moved to St. Louis in 1857 and worked as a porter, coachman and waiter until the Civil War. He enlisted in Company B of the 13th regiment of the Missouri State Militia and at the end of the war, was honorably discharged as a captain In 1870 he was appointed a messenger in the U.S. Customs House, the first of eleven commissioned positions in federal, state and municipal government. 
Tandy was a persistent fighter for black civil rights and active in Republican politics. He helped establish Lincoln Institute (Lincoln University) in 1870, the first school of higher education for blacks in Missouri. He successfully worked to get black educators into the St.Louis public school system. In 1870 he organized a boycott against the segregated St. Louis streetcar lines and , after time in jail and litigation, integrated the streetcars. During the"Colored Exodus" from the South in 1879, he assisted 2, 000 refugees who were stranded inSt. Louis. Appearing before a U.S. Congressional committee he urged Congress to provide aid for these refugees and to investigate and stop the violation of Negro rights in the South.He was known as a great orator and spoke on behalf of many white politicians. A loyal Republican he did not hesitate to criticize the party for neglecting the needs of Negroes. Tandy organized Negro political clubs to encourage Negroes to vote, run for office and become involved in political parties. He predicted the decline of Republicans in St. Louis politics if they continued to ignore Negroes. His predictions came true. He died in September, 1919.

The park is in the heart of arguably the most historic black neighborhood in St. Louis.  Once home to a thriving black middle class, the Ville was quite a source of pride.  It is rough today a result of a 31% loss in population from 2000 to 2010; but, this neighborhood is not without its gems.  This park is one of them, and the setting that surrounds it is beautiful.  This is the most stable part of the Ville.


The park is in the shadow of Turner School (now closed), Sumner High School, the Annie Malone Children's Home and Homer G. Phillips Hospital, all beautiful buildings and works of art if you ask me.  While the hospital closed in 1979, it is now senior living apartments.









Although the vast majority of the housing stock in the Ville is run down and not maintained well or abandoned.  The homes directly north of the park illustrate this point.



But back to the park...this really is a nice combination of Sumner sports fields including the Tuskegee Airman Football Field (surrounded by a nice track), Arthur Ashe Tennis Courts





The park itself also has basketball courts, a skating rink (kind of rare, but not anomalous), a playground.





The park is home to the Tandy Recreation Center which was built in 1937/1938 and is on the National Register of Historic Places, just like Homer G. Phillips across the street.  It is operational to this day hosting tennis, boxing, zoomba, etc. for the community.







From the application for inclusion on the National Registry:



I would love to see the African-American community rally around this part of the city and instigate an effort to get a strong middle class back here.  The investment in the park in the shape of new street trees and a beautiful retaining wall along Kennerly Avenue brings hope.

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