Henry Wright Park
Henry Wright park is located in the 6400 block of Alamo Avenue in the DeMun Neighborhood in the eastern portion of the City of Clayton. Tucked between residences this 1/8 acre oasis contains shade gardens on either side of a flagstone path. The sunny, inner circle has benches surrounded by flowering shrubs and brightly colored flowers that are changed seasonally.
Nestled between two brownstone buildings in the 6400 block of Alamo Avenue is Henry Wright Park, a pocket retreat for Hi-Pointe residents. Formerly known as Alamo Park, the park was created from an empty lot that once featured a 4-unit building similar to many others on the street.
Henry Wright was a fierce advocate of open outdoor space as essential to individual and community life. Born in Lawrence, Kansas in 1878, he studied and worked as a landscape architect in Kansas City. He got his big break at the age of 23 when a friend and colleague assigned him to work on the design layout for the Louisiana Purchase Expedition in St. Louis. After the close of the 1904 World’s Fair, Wright worked on a number of Forest Park restoration projects, including the park landscape and the World’s Fair Pavilion on Government Hill. He was involved in the 1907 Civic League Plan for St. Louis, advocating for the creation of riverside parks and drives and a greenway system to connect city parks, a plan still worthy, yet not fully implemented, more than 100 years later.
Wright earned national recognition for his 1910 design of two exclusive subdivisions in Clayton. Brentmoor Park and Brentmoor, both located near the intersection of Big Bend (then Pennsylvania Avenue) and Wydown, which were based on the Garden City concept gaining popularity in England at that time. Eager to implement his design principles in middle-class communities, Wright’s set out to create mini towns that would feature a mixture of residence styles in a park-like atmosphere, and thus serve residents though all stages of their lives.
In 1917 Wright platted the land for Hi-Pointe, a subdivision built on land once owned by Peter Chouteau in the original Gratoit League Square. Hi-Pointe, and the adjoining DeMun area in which Wright had influence, illustrates what would become known as Wright’s “New Town” philosophy and planning features. The neighborhood faced inward, away from the congestion and noise of major thoroughfares. Access from busy streets was limited, and streets were curved to deliberately slow and quiet automobile traffic. There were alleys for cars and service vehicles, and sidewalks to get to the shops, parks, and the school, all located within the self-sufficient community. To ensure land was used efficiently, structures were placed on small lots and people shared central green spaces. Considering the unique topography of the highest point in St. Louis, large multi-story buildings were placed at the bottom of the hill, and short ones at the top, creating a visually appealing landscape and equal access to sunlight and air circulation. Finally, Wright encouraged the use of many traditional architectural styles and a limited variety of materials, so that structures were both consistent and unique.
Wright is credited with design or impact in many other Clayton subdivisions, including Forest Ridge, Southmoor, Country Club Place, and Wydown Forest. He served as a trustee of Hi-Pointe for many years before leaving St. Louis in 1923 for New York, where he designed three more historically significant neighborhoods for which he is better known. The Hi-Pointe/DeMun neighborhood was listed to the National Register in 2005.
Early in 2007, residents of the area requested that the name of Alamo Park be changed to honor Henry Wright. The name change was proposed and passed by the Clayton Board of Aldermen on May 8, 2007. Shortly afterward, the park was updated to include a bronze relief plaque honoring Henry Wright, new benches and park signage, and more garden plants and flowers. The park was rededicated on October 6, 2007.