Rumbold Park is 1 of 108 St. Louis parks. This 3 acre park was placed into ordinance in 1945 and is located near North Spring and North Market Avenues in the Jeff Vander Lou Neighborhood.
Named in honor of Charlotte Rumbold, superintendent of public playgrounds and recreation in the St. Louis Parks Department from 1906 to 1915. That is just the tip of the iceberg in Ms. Rumbold's distinguished life.
Ms. Rumbold was an early progressive and activist and a straight up amazing woman. Born in Belleville, Illinois (my beloved hometown) and educated in New York and Europe, she moved to St. Louis where she was a colleague of Jane Addams a fellow advocate and pioneer of urban playgrounds. Rumbold's motto was, "If we play together, we will work together." I love it!
The daughter of a successful physician, Charlotte Rumbold grew up well-educated and secure. Yet she knew from intense observation that too many of her fellow St. Louisans lived in unacceptable conditions: substandard housing, filthy streets, meager health and recreation services. Eager to make a difference, she compiled a report on housing conditions for the city’s Civic League, rallied support for public bathhouses, organized the enormous Forest Park Pageant and Masque in 1913, and supervised the neighborhood playground movement for the city. The list of her accomplishments goes on, and by 1915 she could look around her city and smile at the steady improvements to which she had contributed.
In 1907, she was named the first secretary of the Public Recreation Commission in St. Louis. In her new position, Ms. Rumbold summarized a report commissioned by the Civic League Housing Committee of forty-eight blocks of the worst slums in the city, which had been surveyed by graduate students from the Missouri School of Social Economy. Filled with statistics and interpretive text, her report focused attention on the appalling living conditions in the urban environment and sparked legislation requiring better standards for construction of tenements.
Her successful work in St. Louis continued. She made a difference by gaining support for public bathhouses, organizing the city's large 150th anniversary celebration, and improving the city's parks. In 1914, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat named her the "best-known young woman in St. Louis." In 1915, however, she asked for a raise and was denied by the city's Board of Aldermen, on the grounds that "she is not a voter." (source and source)
This certainly didn't sit well with Ms. Rumbold, a known suffragette, so she resigned her position in St. Louis and moved to Cleveland, Ohio of all places. In Cleveland, she worked for the next 30 years or so to remove slums. This story of progressives being beaten down by their time and place in industrial age cities is fascinating to me.
I hope to do a separate story on Charlotte Rumbold in the future.
Read all about her life in St. Louis here.
That's where the fun ends on researching and visiting this park. Well, if you want to see the open drug and prostitution trade this is your place. Ever seen the Wire? This is the STL version of those Baltimore scenes of street drug use/sales. Scales on playground equipment, drive thru pickups, not good, not safe. Sorry, some places are not so nice. This is one of them. I'd be lying if I didn't mention this. When ever I have a negative experience as I did here, I go back a second time to see if I just caught the park on a bad day. Nope, I confirmed it on 3 separate occasions which to me is enough to call it like I see it.
As I was writing this, I read of a Aug 23rd, 2014 murder that occurred in front of the park on the sidewalk along Spring Avenue and another woman was shot while in the park. Here's a snippet from the story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
A 22-year-old woman told police that she was standing inside the park when she was shot by unknown males who began firing gunshots at several people in the park.
If the neighbors don't stand up and put an end to this kind of stuff, it will go on and on.
Here's what you'll see at Rumbold Park:
trash cans must be chained to poles or they'll be stolen and sold for scrap
Recycling dumpsters being used for yard waste blocking the sidewalks:
It is a sad testament that through Ms. Rumbold's struggles to make respectful spaces for people to get a respite from the busy/dirty Industrial-Era city and this is how the current citizenry choose to treat the park.
It's shocking to me that the police and neighbors don't work together to fight and put an end to this when it is so out in the open. The squeaky wheels get the grease.