Lafayette Park St. Louis

Beautiful morning light in Lafayette Square

 

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During my last visit to St. Louis, I indulged myself. I decided to stay in a historic mansion that is now a a bed and breakfast called the Lehmann House, just off of Lafayette Park, in the historic Lafayette Square neighborhood of St. Louis. This beautiful section of urban space is unrivaled in any U.S. city. It was one of the earliest planned communities in the once mighty industrial city, and it catered to the very wealthy when it was developed in the 1800s. It was built around the oldest municipal park west of the Mississippi River, Lafayette Park.

I have shared photo essays on my blog before about the area’s exquisitely built brick homes and architectural styles. I did not have much time to enjoy the area as I had hoped, but I squeezed in two morning walks that were about as perfect as I can remember, ever. The light had that brilliant Midwest-morning Kodacolor glow, and the air smelled fresh from a recent rain. I wandered around the “hood” and snapped these shots, allowing my senses to guide me. If you visit St. Louis, you have to put this place on your list. You will then wonder what we have done so wrong in urban design since we built communities with craftsmanship and care not that long ago.

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April in Paris? Mais, non, c’est le printemps à St. Louis

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Lafayette Square in St. Louis is one of the most beautiful urban spaces in the United States. It remains mostly hidden from outsiders because of the city’s relatively lowly status as a tourist destination for U.S. and international visitors.

I frequently visit Lafayette Park, the oldest park west of the Mississippi River, and the surrounding Lafayette Square neighborhood. when I see my family on home visits to the St. Louis metro region. I stopped by in Mid-April and soaked up the scenery.

I did not experience the sublime pleasures of “April in Paris,” as Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong so eloquently evoke, but I had a fabulous time enjoying April in St. Louis.

Winter morning in Lafayette Park

Paris? Toulouse? Perhaps Lyon? No, not really, but the city that is home to this park was profoundly influenced by its original French-American inhabitants, who named their town after their beloved king, calling it St. Louis.

Lafayette Park, also known as Lafayette Square, is the oldest public park in the United States west of the Mississippi River. It was dedicated in 1851, 10 years before the Civil War. It is found on St. Louis’ south central side. It remains a treasure for anyone who appreciates urban design and American architectural history. The former upscale neighborhood surrounding the park has been well-preserved, including the elegant French row houses and mansions. This is where the 1 percent called home in the city’s heyday.

I visited in early January and found the public space well maintained and used by dog walkers. If you visit St. Louis, visit this park and spend a few hours wandering the neighborhood.

(Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)