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St. Louis Regional history comes alive in this joint production by KDHX and the Missouri Historical Society. Stories of our past are connected with the present in these well researched and entertaining short presentations about the people, places, and events that have shaped who we are and who we are becoming. 

Nov 6, 2023

Forest Park is a treasure for all to enjoy, and is recognized nationwide as one of America's great parks. It, however, had its birthing pains, and would probably not have been what it is today without a few of our nation's darkest episodes, which created opportunities for its growth. Just press play to hear the whole story. ------

Click on search links to see if there are episodes with related content: Jody Sowell, Forest Park, Parks, Landmarks,------


Podcast Transcript: I'm Jody Sowell, Managing Director of Public History  at the Missouri Historical Society, and Here's History, on eighty eight one, KDHX. ------

Forest Park has been called “one of America’s great public spaces” and consistently ranks among the country’s best parks. But without some of the bleakest moments in American history, the park might not be what it is today. ------

When the park was established in 1876, the main concern was how to get St. Louisans all the way out to the 1,300 acre piece of land. A train ride from downtown would take 20 minutes and streetcar lines had yet to stretch so far. ------

But that problem would pale in comparison to what would soon face the country. ------

In 1893, the United States was in the beginning of a depression, and unemployment skyrocketed. National unemployment reached 20 percent and in some states it topped 40 percent. In St. Louis, we turned to Forest Park. ------

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch started a campaign to fund a new lake in the park. The lake would offer boating to the public, but, more important at the time, its creation would require the employment of thousands of men. -------

When the country faced an even more serious depression following the stock market crash in 1929, it again turned to Forest Park. The Works Progress Administration was established in 1935 to create jobs through public works projects across the country. Some of those projects helped to transform Forest Park. WPA workers cleared paths, built picnic areas, and improved the park’s lakes. Two of their biggest projects were the creation of an art deco greenhouse called the Jewel Box and a new waterfall west of the Grand Basin. ------

The Jewel Box and that waterfall can, of course, still be seen today, and the next time you go to Forest Park you will likely see people boating on or walking around Post-Dispatch Lake. ------

For many St. Louisans the park serves as a playground or a place to expand their knowledge at one of its museums, or simply a place for a moment of peace. ------

But Forest Park also serves as a reminder that sometimes our best and most enduring ideas are borne out of our toughest challenges. ------

Here's History is a joint production of KDHX and the Missouri Historical Society. I'm Jody Sowell, and this is eighty eight one, KDHX, Saint Louis.