Located in far south St. Louis, Carondelet Park is the third largest park in the city, and dates back to 1875. The green space is hilly and tree filled, with several bodies of water and unique architectural features (including the Lyle House, the 1842 home of the original owners of the grounds that the park is built upon). The 180-acre park is geologically significant in that it is the only representation of Karst topography evident in the St. Louis city parks system. This distinctive feature means that Carondelet Park possesses characteristic landforms, including sinkholes, that provides a glimpse into what the area of south St. Louis would’ve looked like before development.
The park was established as a compromise between nearby residents and the city, which was seeking popular approval for the creation of Forest Park. At the time, the location of Forest Park was too long of a trip away to be enjoyed by residents of far south and far north St. Louis, so the city added proposals to establish two additional parks to abate criticism (Carondelet and O’Fallon). Carondelet Park is the recreational focal point for five, adjoining neighborhoods, Boulevard Heights, Carondelet, The Patch, Bevo Mill, and Holly Hills, but receives visitors from throughout the metropolitan area. On the day that Photo Flood St. Louis visited, the most popular activity seemed to be fishing, but the park offers opportunities for picnicking, music performances, athletic activities, bird watching, and more. A draw worth noting is the so-called “Bear Pit”, a bit of sinkhole corralled mysteriously by an undulating stone wall. The name is essentially urban lore owing to the origin of the St. Louis Zoo. When the St. Louis Zoological Society was established in 1910, St. Louis already had a small zoo in Fairgrounds Park (which incidentally, does still have an actual, former bear pit). The Society wanted to build a new zoo in Forest Park, but entertained proposals for locating it in other locations, including Carondelet Park. Thus, the “Bear Pit” is a bit of facetious wordplay linking an odd structure to what might have been.
The blood in the photo below, is less an indication of unsafe park conditions, and more a testament to chance encounters. With all of the beautiful things going on around where this image was taken, it just goes to show that living in St. Louis is sometimes a tug of war between the extremes of humanity.
In 2002, a proposal was put forth to revitalize the park, which has been observed as somewhat deteriorated. This plan was originally met with some skepticism (about cost and the reworking of popular attractions, like the “Bear Pit”), but seems to have begun anyway. The again spewing fountain of Boathouse Lake is an example the plan in action. Ultimately, the Carondelet Park Master Plan draws inspiration from the successful revitalization of Forest Park, which implies that beautiful things are on the horizon for the beloved park.
Our end point (at 5425 South Grand Boulevard; not the location on map) was Chimichanga Mexican Restaurant, were we all enjoyed delicious Mexican fare and potent margaritas.