Overview – A Walk in the Park

Before You Begin Your Work

Inspired by Edward Joy’s Old Orchard Park of 1889 to the east and Lilburn McNair’s Tuxedo Park of 1890 to the north, a group of prominent Webster Groves businessmen established the Webster Real Estate Company in 1891. The next year they purchased the Payne Tract, north of Lockwood and west of Bompart. Several of them had already built large Queen Anne houses on speculation to attract other successful businessmen and their families to Webster Groves. Now they intended to subdivide this 160-acre tract and promote it as an exclusive residential neighborhood called Webster Park.

Those visionary developers included businessmen James B. Case, Lucien R. Blackmer, J.S. Kendrick, Charles M. Skinner, Charles A. Baker, J. Philip Helfenstein, Jr., Richard Ghiselin, and M.W. Warren; attorneys H.L. Wilson, B.F. Webster and J.P Dawson; and James F. Allen, a court stenographer.

Webster Real Estate Company hired Elias Long, a landscape architect from Buffalo, New York, to lay out the streets and parks following the natural contours of the land, cutting down the orchards and woods and planting the trees that have become an asset throughout the park. The Webster Real Estate Company laid out 210 large lots and created deed restrictions: no commercial buildings could be built within the park and each house had to be at least two stories and cost a minimum of $3,000. Before the inception of zoning in the 1920s, deed restrictions were a way of protecting the character and property values of a neighborhood. The real estate company built a small frame Queen Anne station at Oakwood Avenue and Glen Road and gave it to the Missouri Pacific Railroad to attract commuters to the new subdivision.

IN 1892, the Webster Real Estate Company published a 32-page booklet called “Webster, Queen of the Suburbs’” promoting the advantages of raising a family in the wholesome atmosphere of the country. Three Queen Anne houses were built in the Park that first year. In 1893 Justin Kendrick and Charles Skinner each built a large Shingle Style Queen Anne house on Hawthorne. They were the architectural and social focal points of the Park until the Kendric house burned to the ground in the 1930s and the Skinner home was torn down in the 1940s.

By 1897, thwarted by a slow economy, only seven houses had been built in the Park. The Webster Real Estate Company built two houses to prime the pump, an American Foursquare at 215 Rosemont Avenue and a Queen Anne at 46 Glen Road. Development continued when Hannah Jarvis introduced the Scottish game of golf to Webster Park in 1903. The rolling hills and grassy fields of the undeveloped lots were ideal for a golf course. Residents laid out a nine-hole golf course and made arrangements with the Missouri Pacific Railroad to use the Webster Park Station for a locker room. They named their nine holes the Algonquin Golf Club. After the first year someone built a house in the middle of the golf course, so Webster Park resident Arthur Deacon loaned the club the money to purchase Samuel Jackson’s farm on Berry Road for a new golf course.

After the turn of the century, Webster Park entered its boom years. 46 houses were built between 1904 and 1910; 27 houses were built between 1910 and 1920; and 73 houses were built during the 1920s. Residents of the Park were businessmen and professionals who commuted into St. Louis. Many children who grew up in the Park returned to raise their own families there.

The architecture of Webster Park represents fine examples of a variety of styles. The oldest houses in the Park are large, elaborate Queen Anne Houses. They are followed by Shingle Style, American Foursquare, Tudor Revival, Colonial Revival, Craftsman and Spanish Colonial.Revival houses, many designed y the prominent St. Louis architects of the turn of the century. In 1936 Charles Eames, nationally known for creating the Eames chair, designed an International Style house on Mason Avenue. Other modern, architect-designed houses filled in the few remaining empty lots in the Park in the 1950s.

The architecture of the three institutions in and around Webster Park - Holy Redeemer Catholic Church and School, Eden Theological Seminary and the Webster Groves Public Library - complement the residential architecture. At the center of the Collegiate Gothic campus of Eden Seminary, designed in 1924 by Tom Barnett, stands a replica of the Magdalen Tower at Oxford University in England.

Webster Park has been the home of many notable personalities, including Forest Donnell, governor of Missouri from 1941 to 1945 and U.S. Senator from 1945 to 1951; and comedienne Phyllis Diller, who began her career in Gaslight Square in the 1960s. But the Park’s greatest gift is its treasure of fine architecture, a cultural heritage for all of Webster Groves.

Sites on the Historical Webster Walk have been selected for their architectural or historical value, and they are identified on this website by the names of the people or businesses that originally occupied them. Distinguished sites have been awarded bronze medallions which are embedded in the sidewalks in front of those sites.