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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Visitation Park: a microcosm of the condition of St. Louis

Decayed, but slowly resurgent.

Fractured, yet still beautiful.

The Visitation Park neighborhood was so-named because of the school and religious institution that used to anchor Cabanne and Belt Avenues, from 1892 to 1962.

Viewing the picture below, it's hard to believe that anyone would have allowed this building to be demolished. It was a breathtaking landmark--a status that probably did it in in the 1960s, considering the costs of rehabilitation and the uncertainty of a "changing" neighborhood.

KETC has done a wonderful history of the park (now known as Ivory Perry Park) and the neighborhood around it in their "Living St. Louis" series. You may access it here.

I cannot help but hold a grudge against Visitation Academy, who abandoned Visitation Park for the pastures of Ballas and Highway 40 in the 1960s. Their predictable move only further harmed the neighborhood they claimed was "too dangerous for their girls to walk to" (See the Living St. Louis video above for that quote).

Now no one can walk to their campus!

For that reason, Visitation Park is a microcosm of the city of St. Louis as a whole. In a city always a victim of urbanophobia, an indifferent citizenry simply threw up their hands in a climate of racial change and federal incentives to head out west. "Sure, let's move this community anchor to a place that is community-less," they must have said. No, not aloud, but in a mere thoughtless acquiescence, as if paralyzed in a river current.

Is auto-ownership next to Godliness? Is a visit from Jesus more likely if you locate your House of God along a major interstate?

My W.W.J.D. radar is beeping at the thought that He just might have remained with the dwindling neighborhood where He was needed most. And, with any luck, he would not have been embarrassed by the magnificent, even ostentatious chateau.


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