St. Louis Police Mounted Patrol Unit to Return to Historic Location in Forest Park

{St. Louis Mounted Patrol at Forest Park headquarters c.1902 – image courtesy of Missouri History Museum}

I imagine that most people didn’t notice the couple paragraphs by the Post-Dispatch on-line that mentioned the St. Louis Police Department’s Mounted Patrol Unit. We’ll they’ve moved out at their stable in the southeast corner of Forest Park due to lead contamination at the existing building. Where did they move? Well, were does anyone (or anything) in St. Louis City move? To Chesterfield of course. But seriously, the horses will be temporarily housed in a separate building in Forest park.

If you’re on the pedestrian path between Hampton Avenue and the Jewel Box/athletic field area you might see the horses in a new fenced area. The accommodation by the Parks Department will save the Police Department more than $500,000 according to the Post-Dispatch. The savings will be used for new roof and lead abatement at the traditional stable. Why is this important? Mounted patrols were a very urban answer to crime and crowd control.

{another view of Mounted Patrol headquarters, now the site of the McDonnell Planetarium (St. Louis Science Center) in Forest Park}

Mounted police have a long history in St. Louis. The unit was created in 1867 by an act of the Missouri Legislature and began with 16 officers. They moved to Forest Park in 1893 and consisted of more than 50 horses. As automobiles were introduced horses were considered by some to be “too slow to combat modern crime” and in 1948 the Mounted Patrol was disbanded.

Mayor Cervantes brought the patrol back to St. Louis in 1971 and found a home in an airplane hanger just a few hundred feet from where their original Forest Park headquarters had been. The hanger has always appeared to me to be a simple barn likely erected not long ago to be used as a horse stable. In fact the hanger was built in 1919 and served to house airplanes for adjacent Aviation Field, now athletic fields.

Personally, I love seeing the mounted patrol in Forest Park. Besides being an effective patrol mechanism appropriate for a very large city park, the mounted patrol attracts people and connects officers to the public in a way that cruising the park in a patrol car does not. Mounted police are still used in many places for crowd control and urban policing. It’s good to see that the police and parks are working together to keep an active mounted patrol.

{the mounted patrol stable today, originally built in 1919 as an airplane hanger}

Although the imposing headquarters in Forest Park has long been demolished, there are several remnants of the mounted patrol around St. Louis. Once is a building that served as a substation of the Forest Park headquarters at 2720 Clifton Avenue, very near where Clifton meets Southwest Avenue and crosses Magnolia.

{the St. Louis mounted patrol substation at 2720 Clifton Avenue}


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