Groth Guide to Fairground Park

Fairground Park is a north St. Louis neighborhood bound by Emily Street to the north, Kossuth Avenue to the south, Warne Avenue to the west and Grand Boulevard to the east. The 2000 census data counted 2,472 residents (down 33% from 1990’s count) of whom 98% were black, 1% white. There were 1,216 housing units counted, 71% occupied (48%/52% owner/renter split). Another north city neighborhood that bled residents at an alarming rate from 1990-2000. A drive through this part of the city makes you understand why people are migrating to other areas. I would be surprised if the occupancy rate on housing is at 71% today, I think things have gotten worse since the 2000 Census count. This neighborhood is rough and I’d be lying if I didn’t describe it as such.

Before I get started here, there are three excellent stories on Fairground(s) Park for which the neighborhood takes its name by Kate Boudreau here on nextSTL. The first asks what it says about Fairground Park that we can’t even settle on a name for it. The second highlights the current neglected state of the park and the third addresses the “race riot”, desegregation of the park pool and extreme white flight from the surrounding neighborhoods:
Fairground Park: What The Signs Say

Fairground Park: What History Remains
Fairground Park: The History We Choose to Forget

First, what Fairground Park once was:

{the southeast entrance to Fairground Park}

{the Fairground Park racetrack and jockey club}

{the park drew thousands to the annual Agricultural and Mechanical Fair (1856-1902)}

{the bear pit facade – part of the first St. Louis zoological park}

{Fairground Park pool, once touted as the largest in the world}

It’s hard to think about the massive losses we’ve experienced as a city over the years. It’s hard to believe we let this happen. What a disposable society we are that allows this kind of architecture and history to fall by the wayside. Fairground Park is crumbling and is a tad threatening in more ways than one. This has been a volatile place when it comes to race relations in St. Louis going back to the 1940s.

Racial tension is not a problem that plagues current day Fairground Park as the citizenry is nearly 100% African American…zero diversity. Unfortunately, this appears to be a forgotten place for almost all city services excluding the police who had a strong presence during my time here today. Buildings are burned out, crumbling, collapsing and rarely boarded up. There is trash lining the streets and roads. There is rampant dumping and other bad behavior on all levels.

When the sidewalks are covered in ice and snow, people are walking in the streets to get from here to there. So, the level of racial and other commentary was especially thick today and nice and close to my car window so I got a good earful. When one of the neighbors was questioning my presence in his neighborhood, I asked if he knew what the name of the neighborhood was and he said “yeah, crime neighborhood”. I’ll take his word for it, as there is evidence of all kinds of trouble to be found here. This is one of the part of town that I would categorize as unwelcoming and/or dangerous. That’s not to say the police aren’t working hard here, they were all over the place and tracked me for awhile until they found out I was taking photos and not looking for a hookup. I am always appreciative the police presence in some of the tougher parts of town.

Here’s some sights from Fairground Park today:

The more contemporary infill of the last 20 or 30 years looks just as bad:

I love the view of the 2 water stands in College Hill and the church steeple providing a great skyline on N. Grand just south of Florissant Ave:

While sights along Grand are largely suburban styled strip malls and a large supermarket, there are some interesting buildings including the former North St. Louis Trust Co:

Some impressive churches and schools still exist:

Check out the barbed wire on the top of this former apartment complex:

And some of the cooler signs and businesses past and present in the neighborhood:

Fairground Park is a reminder that much of our city is completely uncared for and still in a state of decline. The people in charge and others that led to the current day state have collectively thrown their hands in the air and said, what can you do?