The Fairground Neighborhood is located in North St. Louis City. The boundaries of the neighborhood are West Florissant Avenue to the north, Glasgow on the east, Natural Bridge Avenue to Grand Blvd on the south, then northward on Grand to Kossuth, with Kossuth as the southern edge along Fairground Park, then Warne for the western boundary. Surrounding neighborhoods are College Hill to the north, the Hyde Park Neighborhood to the east, the JeffVanderLou and The Greater Ville neighborhoods to the south and O'Fallon to the west.
The St. Louis Public School District is the public school system that serves the area school children. There are no district schools within the neighborhood, but there are many located in the surrounding neighborhoods. Bryan Hill Elementary School is in College Hill. Clay Elementary School is located on North 14th Street in Hyde Park Neighborhood. Dunbar Elementary School and Columbia Elementary School are both in JeffVanderLou. Sumner High School, Farragut Elementary School and Hickey Elementary School are found in The Greater Ville Neighborhood. Yeatman Liddell Middle School on Athlone Avenue is in the O'Fallon Neighborhood.
The Fairground Neighborhood was originally part of a much larger area, the Grand Priairie Commonfield which was land used by the early French settlers for farming. In the early 1800s, the land was subdivided and the early landowners had familiar names such as Lindell, Clay, O'Fallon, Vandeventer, Carter, Shreve, Hull and others. Streets by those names can be found throughout North St. Louis neighborhoods. Land that belonged to John O'Fallon would become the site of Fairground Park.
Fairground Park, which gives the neighborhood its name, had its beginnings when several businessmen started the St. Louis Agricultural and Mechanical Association which then bought the first 50 acres of the park grounds from John O'Fallon. They held the first St. Louis Fair there in 1856. The fairground buildings at the time included an amphitheater, a floral hall, a mechanics building, a machine shop and livestock stalls. During the Civil War the Fair was canceled and the fairgrounds were used by the Union Army as "Camp Benton" for the training of Union troops and for a hospital to treat wounded and sick troops. The St. Louis Fair did resume after the Civil War in 1866.
In 1873 the park was opened to the public for daily use. Up until then the park had been private and was only open to the public during the week-long Fair. During that time a zoological gardens was established along with an art gallery and a natural history museum. The Fair was held annually until 1902 when preparations for the 1904 Worlds Fair brought about the final blow to the already wanning popularity of the annual fair. Throughout its neary fifty years, the fair saw horse racing, sulky racing, horse and livestock shows, displays of manufactured goods and textiles, museums and a zoo. Auto racing was even tried in the end to bolster attendance to the Fair. In 1902, when the Fair ended, the fairgrounds had a total of 132 acres and they lay abandoned until the City of St. Louis purchased the land in 1908 for a park. The bear pit structure, that was once part of the extensive zoological gardens, is the only remaining building left from the Fair.
Parks and Recreation
Today the 132 acre Fairground Park has many amenities available to the residents of the Fairground Neighborhood and surrounding areas. One of those amenities includes a nine acre fishing lake that is kept stocked throughout the year. Other features in the park are a playground, outdoor swimming pool, a seasonal skating rink, five baseball/softball fields, a one-mile walking and biking trail, three lighted football fields with bleachers, a soccer field, eight lighted tennis courts, 2 lighted full basketball courts and lots of open green space!
A unique item in the park is a monument to Louis Kossuth, a Hungarian freedom fighter who is called the "Father of Hungarian Democracy". In 1852, he came to the United States, making him only the second foreign Statesman to be officially invited to the US and to address a joint session of Congress. He came to ask for help with the Hungarian fight for democracy which the US declined to give. He also visited St. Louis in 1852 and was warmly received. Kossuth is the name given to the street that runs east to west from Glasgow to Euclid forming the northern border of the park.
Fairground Neighborhood Related Links:
Photo Gallery for Fairground Neighborhood - click thumbnails
Historic bear pit structure at Fairground Park