Monday, October 3, 2011

The Forest Park Parkway Wall

Parkway Wall 01
Central Corridians or anyone else who drove the Forest Park Parkway before 2001 might remember the concrete wall that bordered the south side of the Parkway from Skinker to just west of DeBaliviere and the north side of the Parkway from DeBaliviere to Union. To many the wall was known as the "World's Fair Wall" due to its location along what was once the northern boundary of the 1904 Worlds Fair. Evidence suggests however that this name is incorrect as photographs of the area researched by Landmarks Association have dated its construction to about 1910.

Forest Park Parkway - October 1st 2000
The wall was likely built by the developers of the Catlin Tract, which comprises the large homes located along Lindell Boulevard facing Forest Park. The wall separated the deep lots of the homes from a railroad that once ran in the Parkway right-of-way.

Parkway Wall 09
By the later part of the 20th century, the portion of the wall between Skinker and DeBaliviere was crumbling.

Parkway Wall 02
The many weed trees that grew along the the wall were one of the culprits of the decay as trunks and roots pushed against the wall and branches grew through the openings.

Bob Cassily's Forest Park Parkway wall sculpture
Bob Cassily however saw potential for beauty in the decaying wall and 1998 he created this amazing sculpture by hand forming new concrete around the existing wall. Bob had asked permission of a Lindell home owner who agreed to let him do the work. Some of the trustees of the street were apparently not happy with this, however they did not seem to be coming forward with any other plan to deal with the walls condition. Photo by Carrie Zukoski.

Close-ups of the figures that Cassilly formed around remaining wall elements. Photos by Carrie Zukoski.

cassily girl
The fat of the portion of the old concrete wall between Skinker and DeBaliviere was sealed with the routing of the Metrolink Blue Line along the south side of Parkway, and the wall was removed for construction of the extension.

As part of the Metrolink construction, a new pre-cast concrete wall was built along the south side of the right-of-way.

Part of the new wall was incorporated into a pedestrian crossing over the tracks at Des Peres Avenue.

The new wall bears some resemblance to the old wall, however there are not openings in the wall, only indentations.

The recessed design only shows up on the south side of the wall facing the Lindell homes. As part of the Arts in Transit program, neighborhood artist Andy Cross was commissioned to design decorative metal screens on the north side of the wall that faces Metrolink and the Parkway.

Unfortunately there is not much contrast between the metal screens and the wall, so they do not show up well.

The portion of the wall between DeBaliviere and Union was in much better shape than western half of the wall. Unfortunately this wall was removed as part of a separate City project to re-build the Forest Park Parkway from DeBaliviere to Kingshighway. The removal of the wall allowed for a larger shoulder along the new roadway. A new wall similar the the one installed along Metrolink was put up along the south side, but in this case, the indented based on the old wall faces the Parkway. Photo above courtesy of STL Style.

When the old wall was taken down, artist Bill Christman salvaged a few pieces that he has incorporate into the garden adjacent to Joe's Cafe.

Cassily walls on Lafayette Avenue
Beside the sculpture that he did along on the old wall itself, Bob Cassilly was obviously inspired by the wall and its construction. Bob designed and fabricated several styles of pre-cast concrete walls that have been installed in various locations around the City. Above is an installation that surrounds the yard of an architectural salvage business located on Lafayette just west of Jefferson. The wall at the rear is a replica of the Parkway wall and in front is a variation with a diamond pattern. A Post Dispatch photo from 1984 shows Bob standing with one of his walls.

Cassily wall at Dorris Lofts
Another of Bob's walls can be seen along Sarah Street behind the Dorris Loft building. The wall surrounds the building's common courtyard space. Bob had an amazing way of enlivening our built environment with everything he created. He will be sorely missed.

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