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Friday, September 1, 2006

Idle Men in Lucas Park

In 1940, the Salvation Army opened an Industrial Center for job training adjacent to the YWCA Building at 1411 Locust Street, now the New Life Evangelistic Center. A January 1940 report from the Advisory Committee of the local Salvation Army on establishing the center notes with concern that a "floating population of idle men fills the benches in the park back of the library [sic]." This park, of course, is Lucas Park and this situation, of course, continues to this day.

The building housing the Salvation Army's Industrial Center, by the way, has been demolished for a surface parking lot.


tobyweiss.com said...

Well before the turn of the 20th century, Lucas Park stretched on for miles and miles. It was the place city folks went to get some fresh air.

Months back, was talking with someone about why there has yet to be any "beautification" of a spot near the center of major refurbishment. They said there's no point in painting park benches that will just get hobo filthy a month after it's painted. And, of course, a Larry Rice slam was made.

But from what you learned, it's not a Larry Rice problem. Historically, that spot is for the downtrodden. Kind of romantic, in a way.

Claire Nowak-Boyd said...

Oh, it's largely a Larry Rice problem these days. Don't get me wrong, I certainly think the homeless have a right to be there, but....yeah. I think a more responsible shelter or agency would not produce the surrounding area that Reverend Rice does.

There are homeless service providers who try to help people lift themselves up, and then there are service providers who don't really try but at least give them a good meal; Larry Rice definitely is not the former, and he is barely the latter.

Anonymous said...

Correction Tobby Weiss,

Lucas Park did not stretch on for miles but was established around 1840 and composed of two blocks. It blocked what is today Locust from continuing west from downtown. Locust was originally named Lucas as in Lucas Place, the first St. Louis private place of the wealthy. Two churches once existed on the Place: Second Presbyterian and Methodist Episcopal. The two block park separated the private place and estates from the upper middle class neighborhood to the east. When pollution from factories and encroaching development surrouded the north and south of Lucas Place the people moved to Lafayette Square and Vandeventer Place around 1870s. For more accurate information pick up Lion of the Valley by James Neal Primm.

The real park that stretched for miles from today's downtown was called the "commons."