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Fairground Park
16 Apr 2015
Published To
Description

Fairground Park is a 132-acre park  located in North City on Natural Bridge Road. Originally used as the site of the St. Louis Exposition from 1856 to 1902, when preparations began for the 1904 World’s Fair, the park was purchased by the city in 1908. In 1912, construction began on a pool in the park. This pool was the first municipal pool in the city and was the largest in the world when it was built. It remained popular for many decades. In 1949, the city decided to desegregate the pool in response to a recent Supreme Court ruling stating that prohibiting African-Americans from using public golf courses was a violation of the 14th amendment. For a few hours, a few black children played in harmony with the white children in the pool. Eventually, a group gathered outside of the pool gates and started yelling at the black children in the pool. This escalated into violence across the city, with about 8 injured in the ensuing race riots. Due to this violence, the city resegregated the pool.

A theme that runs through many of the locations is the idea of choosing to forget parts of history. Although this historic park in North City was awarded a cake, the description on the STL250 website memorializes the cake only because the park was the site of the first city swimming pool, and fails to mention the significant race riot that occurred there. This location is significant because of the history of the riot, as well as the racial divisions in the city--driving through the park, all of the people playing basketball, fishing, and playing on the playground were African American, which speaks to the fact that the territory north of Delmar is overwhelmingly black. This is very different from Forest Park, just a few minutes away, where most of those who use the park are white. This theme of neglecting history is common throughout modern times in St. Louis, and this cake is no exception.

An article published by NextSTL examining the history of the park and its effect on the current St. Louis climate notes that, “We don’t talk about this part of our history because it forces us to confront the city’s racial divisions.” This is evident in the Cakeway to the West exhibit, when parts of history are left out, and when locations are not talked about because of their unfavorable history. However, it is when we examine these locations that we can better understand St. Louis as it is today.

 

Photo: http://nextstl.com/2010/12/fairground-park-the-history-we-choose-to-forget/

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