Thursday, August 02, 2007

Freedom Crossing

Yesterday, I cashed in on my trade of a knitted sleeping cap for a guided tour of civil war sites in St. Louis.

No photos, but I do have links.

We started in Carondolet, looking at historic homes, some dating back to the early 1850s, and visiting the first kindergarten in the United States. We got so distracted by all the homes that we almost didn't get out of the area. It's easy to forget Corondolet's history. It looks just like any other neighborhood, but it was actually well settled even before the Lewis and Clark period and was annexed by the city of St. Louis in 1870. Cool local sites include the several mansions, one of confederate General Bowen, a convent that had been in the city since the 1830s, limestone laborers' homes, the site of where Eads made ironclads, and more.

Next, we went to Benton Park and the monument to Friedrich Hecker, one of the Forty-Eighters.

Nearby, covering a two- by three-block area, was Fort No. 4, the site of a massacre of Confederate prisoners in retaliation for earlier abuses of Union prisoners.

Fort No. 5 bordered Lafayette Park (scroll down for history), and we ate lunch at Soda Fountain Square (any place that wants to charge $8 for a corn dog had better be damn memorable--and this ain't. It's not bad, but eminently forgettable).

After lunch, it was up to Fairgrounds Park and Benton Barracks. It's amazing to think how many tens of thousands of troops were quartered there.

We finished up by visiting the Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing, an underground railroad site. It was woefully under-marked and very difficult to find, but find it we did, and climbed all the way down to the river to view where the runaways had crossed in the hope of freedom. Really well-written PDF here.

Thanks Doug! I know we barely scratched the surface, but it was an inspiring day and made me so glad to live in St. Louis


Cindy said...

That sounds like a fabulous day! Makes me wish I could have tagged along.

I don't know if your interest in history extends to bells, but if you ever want to hear about the history of the bell founderies that used to be located in St. Louis, my dad is the local expert.

Rachel said...

Wow. Sounds like a great day.

Carrie said...

Oh wow, as I was leaving the comment above, I saw that you were just in my neighborhood! You probably went right by my house too, as it's on Michigan just a couple blocks from the Des Peres School!