Tower Grove Park Pavilions
If you’re not familiar with Tower Grove Park in St. Louis, please allow us to introduce it. It’s one of just eight parks in the country considered to be a National Historic Landmark, putting it in the company of parks including Central Park in NYC, Balboa Park in San Diego, and the Boston Commons. It is the second-largest park in St. Louis, covering a total of over 289 acres.
Tower Grove Park was founded in 1872 by wealthy entrepreneur, Henry Shaw. Shaw built his fortune in the hardware industry, and his businesses thrived as the population in the region spiked. He also sold vital goods to pioneers as they passed through the region, headed west. With his great success, Shaw bought up land in the St. Louis area and eventually became one of the biggest landowners in the region. He donated the land that would become Tower Grove Park to the city of St. Louis in 1867.
Shaw oversaw the park’s development, but he entrusted James Gurney to the park’s general design. Gurney was an English-born garden designer and horticulturalist, and the prairie setting of the park lent itself to an English gardenesque style. To this day, the overall assembly of the landscape architecture, ornamental sculptures, and the collection of pavilions is considered the best-preserved example of an 1870’s park in the United States.
The Victorian pavilions scattered throughout the park were designed as “summer houses”, or a spot to rest in the shade while touring the walking-park. In fact, they still provide shelter for park visitors nearly 150 years later. Pavilion rentals are popular for everything from birthday parties to family reunions, but after 150 years of exposure, each shelter has taken a fair amount of abuse from the elements.
Early this year, the park began the process of restoring The Turkish Pavilion and The Old Playground Pavilion. Made possible by generous donations, these historic structures are both receiving full-scale restoration and preservation treatments designed to keep the pavilions operational for another 150 years. This includes lead abatement, roof and column repairs, detailed iron work, brick paver removal, historically accurate painting, and a significant amount of wood rot repair.
Abatron’s products were included in this project thanks to a specification by Amy Gilbertson, Principal at Trivers architectural firm in St. Louis. Gilbertson was introduced to Abatron’s wood restoration products while participating in the Association of Preservation Technology International conference in 2019.
“At the time, we were wrapping up construction documents for the pavilions and had planned to replace much of the damaged wood. As this was a restoration effort, salvaging original material is always preferred. When I came across this product, it seemed to be a great solution for the pavilions. We’ve since put it in several other project specifications” – Amy Gilbertson
In addition to the pavilions’ restoration, both structures will be receiving full-scale exterior lighting for the first time. This will enhance the visitor experience, shedding new light on the design and architecture of the pavilions while also increasing the aesthetics and the safety of the park.
According to Tower Grove’s Director of Operations & Special Projects, William Rein, these improvements are taking place just as people are falling back in love with public parks. Throughout the COVID 19 pandemic, people began flocking to public green spaces in unprecedented numbers.
“We’re seeing Saturday morning traffic on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons. It’s more important than ever to have well-kept public spaces for people to congregate outdoors.” – Will Rein
The first two pavilion projects are expected to be complete by the Fall of 2021. The additional 9 pavilions in the park are also in need of restoration and repairs. The park is at the center of some of the most socio-economically diverse and densely populated neighborhoods in the region. The park is an accredited arboretum and features an internationally renowned collection of Victorian park architecture. Visit towergrovepark.org to learn more and support the park.
For a complete album of photos, please visit Abatron’s Facebook photo gallery. This project includes Trivers Associates as architect, Navigate Building Solutions as owner’s representative, and Vanstar Construction as general contractor.