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A Brief History of Lafayette Square

Lafayette Square is a gorgeous neighborhood in St. Louis, Missouri, that features some of the oldest historical buildings in the city. With the upcoming Summer Home and Garden tour in the Square, we’re taking this opportunity to give a brief history of the homes and the neighborhood they represent.

Originally part of the French settlement of St. Louis, Lafayette Square is one of the first neighborhoods to develop during the sprawling growth of the city westward from the Mississippi River. It was marketed as the place to move to to get away from the stench, noise and pollution of downtown. In its prime, it was the cultural hub for politicians and influencers among the city’s elite. But after a series of natural and political disasters fell into disrepair.

However, in the latter part of the 20th century, many individuals took it upon themselves to restore Lafayette Square’s former glory. Today, it’s back in its prime and once again a cultural center within the city.

Lafayette Square Origins

Initially, the land around Lafayette Square was common pastures for farm animals and not privately owned, except for the plot of land that is now Benton Place. In 1835, when the land began being parceled out, the mayor designated Lafayette Park for community recreation, and it remains the only land in St. Louis that is not under private ownership.

Established in 1836 and dedicated in 1851, Lafayette Park is also the oldest of the city parks and the first park west of the Mississippi River, making it a unique and rich cultural hub for city residents. The park was named after Marquis de La Fayette, a French general crucial to the war for American Independence.

Post-Civil War

Following the American civil war, politicians and influencers among the city’s elite began purchasing plots around the park and building the immense Victorian-style mansions and townhouses that grace the neighborhood today.

The neighborhood flourished in the 1870s through the end of the 19th century as residents invested in the beauty and infrastructure of the park and surrounding streets.

1896 Tornado and Subsequent Reparation

In May of 1896, a vicious cyclone ripped through the city and went directly through Lafayette Square, destroying many of the homes and uprooting nearly all the trees in the neighborhood. Facing millions worth of property damage, many residents moved westward to neighborhoods surrounding Forest Park in anticipation of the 1904 Worlds Fair.

The subsequent events of World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II caused further instability and financial decline in the area, as it was difficult for residents to continue to invest in the neighborhood's maintenance.

The Lafayette Square Restoration Committee

Following World War II, Lafayette Square was in disrepair. Many of the once prestigious homes were abandoned. Many of the most prominent metropolitan residents were moving further west to the county, and Lafayette Square, among other neighborhoods in the city, remained neglected and deserted.

In the 1960s, a small group of courageous individuals passionate about the neighborhood's inherent beauty and cultural value formed the Lafayette Square Restoration Committee (LSRC). Throughout the next 60 years, they would transform the dilapidated state of the neighborhood into a resurgence unparalleled across the United States.

In 1972, the city acknowledged Lafayette Square as its first historic district and placed the neighborhood on the National Register of Historic Places, preserving its cultural relevance for all to see and appreciate.

Stay at Lehmann House and See Lafayette Square Today

Today, Lafayette Square is once again in its prime as one of the city's most beautiful and oldest neighborhoods. The focal point of the neighborhood, Lafayette Park remains a cultural hub, with free concerts, period-baseball games, and a variety of flora and fauna to appreciate. It's just across the street from Lehmann House.

Additionally, it's consistently ranked one of the best places for wedding photos in St. Louis and a beautiful location to host all kinds of events.

Lafayette Square commemorates its beauty and history each year with semi-annual house tours where visitors can see and appreciate the unique and impressive homes on display. Proceeds go towards the restoration and beautification of the Square.

If you're interested in attending the House Tour or visiting the Square yourself,CONTACT US today to learn more information or BOOK NOW to get a front-row seat to the Square and all its activities, we're just across the street from the park!

Written by Creative Copywriter Chris Davies


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