Forest Park is located in the western portion of the city of St. Louis, Missouri. Forest Park is a prominent civic center that covers 1,371 acres. Officially opened in 1876, more than a decade after it was suggested at a town hall meeting, the park has played host to several significant events, including the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904 and the 1904 Summer Olympics.
Geographically bounded by Skinker Boulevard, Lindell Boulevard, Kingshighway Boulevard, and Oakland Avenue, Forest Park is endearingly referred to as the “Heart of St Louis” by residents. It includes various attractions inside, including the St. Louis Zoo, the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Missouri History Museum, and the St. Louis Science Center.
Starting in 2000, Forest Park underwent a $100 million restoration of its facilities through a public-private partnership, with changes including an improved landscape and habitat. Today, the park embodies meadows and trees, various ponds, manmade lakes, and freshwater streams. The park is still working on restoring prairie and wetlands areas of the park region, thereby reducing flooding and attracting a much greater variety of wildlife and birds, which are establishing new habitats in the renovated environment.
History of Forest Park
It wasn’t easy getting to the Forest Park we know and love today. In 1864, St. Louis voters rejected the first plan for the park. In 1872, St. Louis developer Hiram Leffingwell, the Missouri General Assembly authorized the city to purchase the land; however, city taxpayers again challenged the purchase, this time in court, and in 1873, the Missouri Supreme Court decided to rescind the plan to move forward with the park.
The next year, Andrew McKinley, another developer, tried again with a new park plan and met some more legal challenges. The tract selected that became Forest Park included a heavily forested 1,375-acre area west of Kingshighway along Olive Street.
However, the tide finally turned in favor of the park in 1874 when the General Assembly passed the Forest Park Act, which established the park and created a countywide property tax to fund the park’s development. By November of that year, the Missouri Supreme Court upheld a new law and referred all questions of land ownership to the circuit court. The largest portions of land for the park, held by Thomas Skinker and Charles P. Chouteau, sold their land to the city by 1875. The city paid $849,058 in total for the collection of the land.
By 1876, Forest Park was official. It was a rural park, with the eastern and western edges marked by unpaved roads. Flowing through the northern lowlands and turning southeast in the park was the River des Peres, which became a central focal point for visitors.
Louisiana Purchase Exposition
By 1901, Forest Park was looked at around the world as the official location for the 1904 World’s Fair, also called the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Opening in April 1904, the fair closed in December 1904 and left the park vastly different.
More St. Louis Attractions:
Busch Stadium – Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis – Fox Theatre – Gateway Arch – Lambert International Airport – Mississippi River – Missouri Botanical Garden – Peabody Opera House – Publicly Traded Companies in St. Louis – Soulard District – St. Louis Cardinals – St. Louis Zoo – Union Station.