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Hills to Clear The Mind

Today my ride was more about clearing my head than seeing anything. I did hit a couple new neighborhoods and biked more through Forest Park. The morning was cool but it was damp, cloudy and dark. Not ideal but it could be worse. There was some rain that was actually more of a mist than anything.

I’m not saying I didn’t see anything interesting but I just wasn’t that focused on it as much. I didn’t take many pictures. I just thought and huffed and puffed a lot. This ride was mostly about forgetting about all the political nonsense going on right now that has sent my stress level to an unhealthy level. It’s the type of stress that causes me high anxiety and endless ruminating on things I can’t control. It sends me into a ranting and inconsolable angry mess. I don’t like feeling powerless and unable to see a meaningful future that is hopeful. I am always hopeful for a better future cause I typically see the present as a unmitigated disaster or just boring. I just don’t have a sunny disposition or have unrelenting positivity about the present so I hope for a better future where I learn to be happier. I’m not sure how to make that happen.

I’m not saying NOTHING makes me happy. Many things make me happy or bring joy but it’s always tempered by some underlying doom. So I hope to be happier but in my soul I know that it may never happen. It’s just how it is so maybe I should just own it and like it.

wfpav-postcardAnyway, I started at the World’s Fair Pavilion that actually wasn’t there during the pinnacle of St. Louis history that was the 1904 World’s Fair. The pavilion is rather nice and I look it with the thought that it would be a great place for a wedding. It’s on a terraced hill and features waterfalls and features. The pavilion it self has this southwestern look with curved clay tiles on the roof, arched columns. I bet people have weddings there all the time. The pavilion opened in 1910 as a gift from the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Committee. It was designed by Henry Wright, with George E. Kessler, a landscaper.

Looking more into Henry Wright I learn he did many things in St. Louis. He designed the private subdivisions Brentmoor Park, Brentmoor, and Forest Ridge in Clayton. They were platted in 1910, 1911, and 1913. He was also instrumental in creating the design for Hi-Pointe subdivision between 1917 and 1923. The area just south of the southwest corner of Forest Park. He also did work in other cities such as Pittsburgh, New York City, Washington DC and other places on the east coast.

Another things Henry Wright is known for is that he was a major proponent of the Garden City. It was method of urban planning that was conceived in 1898 by Sir Ebenezer Howard in the United Kingdom. The vision was utopian and intention was to create highly organized, self-contained communities surrounded by “greenbelts”. There would be designated areas of residences, industry, and agriculture. I haven’t looked into this too much but it sounds like the concept of suburbanization – there would be a central cities with little cities around it with highly organized and separate spaces for housing, industry, commercial development. I’ll call it “zoning”. I think the idea was to create healthier environments for people to attain a higher quality of life. This was in opposition of the old, dirty, polluted, unorganized cities where factories and businesses and people were all were mixed together.

So I climbed up the hill by the Art Museum, swept down curvy winding hills passing people on morning walks, jogs and walking their dogs. I weaved through the forest on bumpy paths of mostly potholed concrete and gravel. I eventually made my way around the Zoo and over to cross the highway at Tamm. I made pedaled past the Bob Cassily created Turtle Park without giving it much notice. I swung over on to Oakland and then into the Clayton-Tamm neighborhood. The scenery was mostly brick multifamily housing that is distinctly different to the architecture closer to downtown. My guess is most of this was built in the 1920s-1930s and some later. The neighborhood is also known as Dogtown and it a neighborhood known for it’s Irish heritage and you will see that in the numerous pubs, and places decorated in green, shamrocks and such. It is St. Patrick’s Day weekend so I’m sure that area will be buzzing with activity. Headed south and east the houses are pretty ordinary, modest and lots of shotgun houses. Go further you will head downhill to Manchester.

I then swung up on to Macklind where it’s mostly light industry with some offices. One place is called American Pulverizer – that sounds like could maybe be the title of a book or movie. It would have to be something violent and action packed. I don’t think that is what is there now but it is carved into stone so it’s there forever. I was attracted by the White Castle regional office building which looks just like one of their restaurants. It’s white with a crenelated tower and their logo. All I could think of were chicken ring sliders. I love those things. I think I like them more than the burgers. I decide to turn around and breeze down the hill through the mist and cross Manchester and go into The Hill.

10554231_560357424124032_2144883462_nFirst though I stop on the bridge before the big hill to go into The Hill. It crosses what I think is the River Des Peres. At this point I think it is just a big open sewer. It is mostly empty right now and the bed is covered in concrete. The river used to snake through Forest Park but it was heavily modified for the World’s Fair probably for sanitary reasons. I think I read something about it being swampy and was known for harboring cholera and other water borne diseases. Eventually the river was buried. That said what a person sees of the River Des Peres today doesn’t resemble a natural river. It just looks like a wide concrete channel that goes through the south side and forms the southern border of the city and county. It eventually empties into the Mississippi. It looked nearly empty today but if it rains a lot it will fill up and can cause some flooding like it did around this past New Years.

I then huff and puff slowly cranking up the hill. I will mention Dogtown and Forest Park isn’t entirely flat. There was a lot of hill climbing. The climbing is really what clears the head cause there the thinking is for survival. Its breathe, breathe, breathe. Go. Go. Go. Keep going. Don’t quit. You can do this. Almost there. This is all as your legs are burning and getting tighter. Once to the top it is such a great relief and i just coast a little to get my composure. I’m not thin and fit. I’m middle aged and a bit chunky so I’m sure it doesn’t look graceful.

The Hill is the center of all that is Italian in St. Louis. Honestly, when I got up the hill the the scent of food cooking was mouth watering. Whatever it was, I bet it was heavenly but I got other things to do. I really didn’t spend much time in the neighborhood. A lot of modest homes, some shotgun, some simple one-story ranches that looked mid-century, some “gingerbread” tudors. It’s a variety but not big mansions or the more opulent styles just north of Forest Park. North was more upperclass and south was more working class.

magic-chefI retraced my route down Macklind and then I wanted to check out the old Magic Chef building which is now a big U-Haul storage area. It doesn’t look like much with all the corrugated metal cladding but it is a significant piece of midcentury modern architecture. It was built in 1947 and it’s architect was Harris Armstrong. It was in the International Style and there are not many buildings in St. Louis like it. It had big curtain windows on the south and east side. The west side has this tall brick tower jutting out. One part is rectangular and the brick portion is angular like a knife cutting into the glass and metal structure.

What may be more significant is the fact that there is a hidden Isamu Noguchi designed ceiling that is still there but under a drop ceiling. I hear it may be uncovered someday. That would be awesome to see. The curtain windows may never be uncovered again. I think it was said the cladding probably damaged it and it’s all in bad shape.

Here a little article about it from St. Louis Public Radio. Click to read.

The rest of the ride is getting back on Oakland and riding by what used to the the Forest Park Highlands that I never got to see. It was an amusement park that was around from 1896 to 1963. You can see lots of pictures and learn more about the pace here. Today Forest Park Community College occupies the space. I also ride past where the old Arena was. I do remember that pace. I went there some as a child to see the Ice Capades and other kid friendly stuff. It was the Blues used to place. I won’t hash out too much on it since there is a lot of stuff about it on the web, I am sure.

Here’s a video of the implosion. It was quite the spectacle! Lots of booms! Watch on YouTube.

From there it was past new glass structures for mixed use development, a Mercedes-Benz dealer, the vacant land left from the old Forest Park Hospital. The Zoo is supposed to do something with it. From there it was returning back via the bike/running trail and dodging runners and returning to the madness of life.

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