Name: Visitation Park
Visitation Park is one of the city´s smaller historic districts. It takes in the area immediately surrounding Visitation Park, Windemere Place (one of St. Louis´ handsome private streets), and a section of Union Avenue often described as perhaps one of the grandest street scapes in the city. The Visitation Park area, like the rest of the Central West End, was settled late in the City´s history. As late as 1877, it was uncultivated pasture land owned by Dr. J. Sheppard Cabanne, running from Union Avenue on the east to DeHodiamont on the west and containing approximately 75 acres. About this time, the property was subdivided and became known as Cabanne Place.
Dr. Cabanne was a descendant of an early St. Louis French family which had received the property as a land grant from the King of Spain in 1799. The property that is now Windemere Place was also a farm. It was owned by Thomas Wright and his family. Their home still stands at the corner of Clemens and Belt Avenue.
In 1891, Wright purchased the tract of land on Union Avenue running westward 2,000 feet. During the next several years, he put considerable money and effort into improving the property. On June 1, 1895, he set forth his conditions for the conveyance of that parcel of land now known as Windemere Place. This conveyance was recorded in Book 1271 on June 3, 1895. Wright had decided that Windemere Place was to be a private place, a St. Louis invention in which deed restrictions were placed on the property requiring that present and future owners be guided by controls on lot size, land use, and occasionally even architecture. Also included were restrictions requiring upkeep of the streets and public open spaces (which did not belong to the City). These restrictions were to ensure that the property would remain the exclusive haven of good taste that Mr. Wright envisioned.
The 1904 St. Louis World´s Fair spurred the developed of the Central West End as the last of a series of St. Louis neighborhoods designed to be comfortable havens for the city´s finest people. Windemere Place was one of these. Among the notable St. Louis citizens living there over the years were Judge O´Neill Ryan, attorney A. 0. Wilson, American Bar Association President Jacob M. Lashley, Director of the St. Louis Art Museum Mr. Charles Nagel and President of the St. Louis branch of the N.A.A.C.P. Mr. Sidney Redmond.
The homes constructed in Windemere Place befitted its citizens. Twenty-nine houses were located on the street´s 31 lots. These buildings include almost every imaginable style as they were constructed at a time when a variety of revival styles generated by the Beaux Arts movement were popular.
One interesting feature of the area´s past is that Windemere Place was involved in a court case to settle the constitutional question produced by the Jones-Munger Law. The Jones-Munger Law claimed that property sold on private streets for tax purposes destroyed the deed restrictions normally running with the land. In 1938, the Supreme Court ruled in Shlafly v. Baumann that deed restrictions continue to remain in force, a victory for private streets.
In 1940, Windemere Place residents were again in the courts, this time to defend the zoning of the place solely for residential purposes. Again they were successful, as they were in 1953 when it was again challenged.
Today Windemere Place remains as it always has, a fine private street surrounded by exceptional houses.
Visitation Park demonstrates an architectural richness that cannot be replaced today. It also shows how a neighborhood can integrate gracefully and retain its quality and sense of identity.
site was made possible by: the City of St. Louis Planning and Urban Design Agency and