When Lafayette Park was first developed, around 1851, the initial landscaping needed protection from livestock on surrounding grazing lands. A rough wooden paling fence was erected around the 30 acre park, serving to define and protect the tract.
Following the end of the Civil War in 1865, a bond issue passed in the City of St. Louis, providing funds for an iron fence and gates to enclose the park.
A design competition resulted in a contract awarded to Francis Tunica, who won $100.00 for his trouble. Fabrication was contracted through P.J. Pauly and Brothers, a company with extensive experience in steamboats and locomotives.
The fence was completed in 1869, at a cost of $36,000. Iron gates for the park’s eight entrances followed sometime later, contracted to John Stupp and Company.
With its borders secured, and surrounded by moat-like 120 foot wide streets, Lafayette Park quickly became an ornamental showpiece, with ponds and a lake, a rock garden with rustic bridges, a pavilion, a music stand and a cottage for the park superintendent.
The iron fence was largely flattened in the great tornado of 1896, and sections have been displaced fairly often over the last century. A characteristic of the fence is that it is easily knocked off its pins by careening autos or falling trees. However, this feature avoids larger damage, and makes it fairly easy to return sections to their rightful place.
Fence maintenance has proceeded in fits and starts ever since its original installation, but the Lafayette Park Conservancy has initiated an ambitious multi-year project for complete restoration of the fence along original lines. This will require no small measure of time, patience and money, but the LPC is committed to restoring this defining feature of the park to its original glory. The continued generosity of park patrons will ensure its survival for the enjoyment of generations to come.