The Lafayette Park Conservancy has seen much accomplished over it’s twenty year existence, with the support of donors, the Lafayette Square Restoration Committee, and the City of St. Louis. Please consider donating to help fund further restorations and enhancements, or become a volunteer. Click the links below for a retrospective of park improvements since 2001.
Kern Pavilion | Perimeter Sidewalks | Benton Monument Restoration | Rock Garden Irrigation | Playground Update & Expansion | New Washington Statue Plantings | Park House Gazebo | Urns | Park House Renovations | The Multi-Purpose Recreation Field | Revolutionary War Monument | Grotto Bridge Railing | Pathways Renovation
The Kern Pavilion
Renovation of the Boathouse by the central lake was one of the largest projects defined by the Lafayette Park Master Plan. The goal was to provide event space complete with catering facilities and updated restrooms. The Boathouse, which is near the middle of the park, was built in 1908 as a shelter and comfort station.
Phase 1 of the project fixed a structurally unsound roof. Asphalt roofing shingles were replaced with historically accurate Spanish clay tiles and scalloped rafter ends. State of the art insulation enabled the vaulted interior ceiling to regain its original look. (Completed in 2012.)
Phase 2 reworked the interior, adding publicly accessible restrooms, a caterer’s kitchen, new lighting, HVAC, and insulated windows and doors. The Boathouse was renamed the Kern Lakeside Pavilion to honor Max Kern, the park superintendent credited with landscaping Lafayette Park in the 1860s. The pavilion is managed by the St. Louis Parks Department. (Completed in 2014.)
The perimeter sidewalk was in need of repair for decades. Sections raised by tree roots and broken sections made it difficult for the constant stream of walkers, runners and dog walkers using it every day. The entire Lafayette Avenue sidewalk was replaced, in addition to individual sections along Mississippi, Missouri and Park Avenues. Brown gravel aggregate was mixed into the concrete so new sections would blend with the old. (Completed in 2014.)
The Benton Monument Restoration
The classical bronze statue of Thomas Hart Benton, Missouri’s first senator, as well as its granite pedestal, stone base and steps, had deteriorated over the years from neglect and the weather, requiring major conservation. The urns that originally stood at the four corners of the base are missing and its decorative plantings have become overgrown. An estimate of the cost to return the entire monument to its original glory is approximately $160,000. A Conservancy gala held in 2008 raised approximately $24,000 toward the first phase of the project; removing oxidation and restoring the bronze’s original gold patina. The next phase will begin as additional funding becomes available. (Statue restoration completed in 2011.)
Rock Garden Irrigation
Saving hours of manual watering by volunteer gardeners, an automated irrigation system was installed in the Rock Garden on the Missouri Avenue side of the park. Grants from St. Louis Master Gardeners and Flora Conservancy, plus generous donations from park supporters enabled this improvement. We now expect many years of beautiful flowers, with less time spent watering and more spent planting, dividing, mulching and weeding this glorious and tranquil spot. (Completed in 2010.)
Playground Update & Expansion
Lafayette Park boasts a large, modern, diverse and safe playground set. Federal grants and matching city funds totaling approximately $150,000 enabled this major playground upgrade. (Update completed in 2007; Expansion completed in 2010.)
Washington Statue Conservation
Conservation of the bronze statues in our park is periodically needed to address the effects of age and weather. One of the premier conservation artists in the Midwest, Bob Marti of Russell-Marti Conservation Services, gave our George Washington statue a complete review. He stripped what remained of the statue’s old protective coating and applied a new one. Bob said GW is holding up well for a man of his age. The Conservancy continues to tend to the father of our country, just south of the mid-Lafayette Avenue gates. New landscaping will be installed in early 2022 to complement his restored look. (Conservation performed in summer of 2021.)
The Park House Gazebo
This gazebo evokes one that graced the same spot early in Lafayette Park’s history. The Lafayette Square Restoration Committee raised the funds and managed the construction project. In addition to providing a shady respite from St. Louis summer heat and extending the event space available at the Park House, the gazebo provides ground-level ADA access and further enhances the visual impact of this southeast corner of the park. (Completed in 2009.)
Thanks to generous private donations, four missing urns that originally graced the ends of the Grotto’s iron bridge were recreated. The mold used for the new urns was newly made, modeled with the guidance of old photographs to replicate the historic design. The replacement urns were then cast, finished, and mounted on the original pedestals at the corners of the restored bridge. (Completed in 2007.)
Private benefactors later funded the installation of two additional handsome urns at the stairs leading down to the Grotto area on the Mississippi Avenue side of the park. Together with the Grotto bridge urns, they enhance this beautifully landscaped area, and are popular with photographers, artists and wedding parties. (Completed in 2008.)
Park House Renovations
An extensive interior renovation project was completed by the Lafayette Square Restoration Committee (LSRC). It included restoring deteriorated walls and ceilings, replacing flooring and light fixtures, and configuring a second floor meeting space. Interior decor now incorporates appropriate historic themes, and the Park House hosts many meetings and events throughout the year.
The LSRC restored the building’s exterior with its own funds, support from the City of St. Louis and a grant of $25,000 from the Whitaker Foundation. Proceeds from LSRC home tours also contributed significantly. The project included adding an historically accurate slate roof, replacing windows with authentic replicas, installing copper gutters, tuckpointing the brick exterior and painting the exterior trim. The Conservancy then redesigned and replanted the decorative landscaping surrounding the Park House. (Completed in 2007.)
Multi-Purpose Recreational Fields
Improvements to the athletic field at the northwest corner of the park made the space more inviting for kite flying and frisbee, while maintaining an expansive field for casual softball, soccer, lacrosse and football. St. Louis’s two 1860s vintage base ball teams, the Perfectos and Cyclones, call Lafayette Park their home field. Members of those teams were instrumental in implementing changes recommended by the Park Plan. Deteriorated backstops and benches were removed, and the dirt infield was replaced with a continuous expanse of grass lawn. (Completed in 2005.)
Revolutionary War Monument
A priority of the Conservancy has been restoration of three large naval guns raised from the wreckage of the HMS Acteon, a British Man of War sunk in Charleston Harbor, SC in 1776. These were gifted to Lafayette Park a year after the devastating 1896 tornado, and represented the resolve of the neighborhood to rebuild itself.
The first gun was fitted to a new carriage made of long-lasting Ipe wood from Central America and placed on a brick and concrete platform built by the LPC. The second gun was refitted to a new carriage and installed on a new brick platform. The third gun, a carronade, was conserved at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory in Ft. Leonard, MD, and restored to the park with a new carriage. (Completed in 2017.)
Grotto Bridge Railing
The Grotto bridge was originally a rustic wooden structure, built in 1865. Destroyed in the Great Cyclone of 1896, it was replaced with an iron span around 1900. Over time, the iron bridge became unstable, and an eventual collapse into the pond below seemed a possibility. The bridge underwent a stabilization, thanks to a grant from the Whitaker Foundation. To meet standards set by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), an elegant handrail was created. St. Louis City Parks Department funded this project through the sale of park bonds. (Bridge stabilization completed in 2012; handrail installation completed in 2016.)
Lafayette Park is often referred to as a strolling park. Good pathways make for good strolls, so keeping them in user-friendly condition is an ongoing goal of the Conservancy.
About one quarter of the pathways in the park were resurfaced in 2012 through a Darden Foundation grant. The Grotto bridge was reconnected to the pathway system for the first time in decades, thanks to City Parks Department funding. Smooth asphalt surfacing was an instant hit with park visitors. The LPC then upgraded the rest of the pathway system in 2015. Many square yards of excess asphalt paving surrounding the Music Stand were removed in 2016, and replaced with seeded soil. This will allow for lawn seating once the Music Stand renovation is complete. In 2017, the final section of pathways were repaved using funds from the Arch/Park bond issue. (Completed in stages during 2012-2017.)