Longtime residents of St. Louis County who regularly drive down Lindbergh in the southern part of Kirkwood may not even realize that there is a historic community tucked behind the Kirkwood Commons shopping center. Meacham Park was annexed into Kirkwood in 1991, but its history dates back to 1892 when Elzey Meacham came to town and bought 150 acres of farmland in the area now bounded by Big Bend, Kirkwood Road and I-44. He divided the area into small parcels and sold them at an affordable price to people of modest means, many of them African American.
Meacham Park continued as a modest but proud community with many families living there for generations. But the municipality had trouble providing services such as sewers and street maintenance which led to its annexation by Kirkwood.
A collaboration by several local organization is currently attempting to document the history of the Meacham Park community. Webster Arts, Springboard and the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis are partnering with Nipher Middle School and the Meacham Park Neighborhood Improvement Association to collect oral histories that will be turned into a professional stage performance and visual art.
Seventh graders in the Nipher Middle School journalism class will conduct oral histories with up to 60 people who lived in Meacham Park or have memories of Meacham Park, especially those between the 1970’s and today.
“The Meacham Park history has been very well documented through the 1970’s, but for the last 40 years, there is no documentation of the history,” said Jeane Vogel, executive director of Webster Arts. “And what we are hoping to do is by incorporating the middle school students and the journalism students in collecting the oral histories, and creating stage performances and art, we can add to the historical record.”
Once those oral histories are completed, they will be turned into a professional stage performance by the Repertory Theatre and visual art.
“What we want to do is find writers, whether they are poets, creating monologues, creating choral readings and visual artists that will take this source material of these interviews and create pieces that will either represent or evoke the feelings in these,” said Marsha Coplon, education director of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. The oral histories will also be put into a book incorporating some of the visual art.
Anyone who has a personal story or history to share is encouraged to contact the Meacham Park Stories project. Interviews will be conducted in March and April and will require about an hour of time.
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