The fence around Lafayette Park is an iconic symbol of the neighborhood: the fleur-de-lis of the spear points is in the Lafayette Square logo. Now part of that fence is on its way to Alabama.
Although the iron may appear sturdy, it is not.
"The only thing holding the fence together is the rust and the paint,” said Keith Houghton, an engineer who lives in the Lafayette Square neighborhood in south St. Louis. Bolts are missing; the fence sags or dips in places; some spear points are bent.
Restoration work done in the 1970s was inconsistent. And the part that originally supported the fence — a structural girder, not an ornamental skirt — was omitted.
Now, thanks to funding from the Near Southside Improvement Corporation, the fence will be taken in sections to Robinson Iron in Alexander City, Ala. The first 15 feet of the 4,100 foot-long fence was carefully loaded into specially constructed crates on a truck Wednesday — but not without some difficulty. The three men who came to get it couldn’t lift it onto a dolly and had to find a lift. And the last portion did not come away from its post easily.
According to Houghton, who has worked with foundries for 30 years, Robinson Iron will strip the sections, cast new posts and work from original drawings to create parts that are missing. This first installment will take a lot longer per section than the rest as the forms for such things as the posts and girders must be created.
According to Wardwell Buckner, president of the Lafayette Park Conservancy, this part of the project will cost approximately $63,000. The price tag for entire fence will be well above $1 million. In addition to the fence, 14 gates are broken or missing. Those are being reworked by Perpetua Iron in St. Louis. The Conservancy has been the driving force behind the project.
The Near Southside Improvement Corporation was created through tax increment financing, so those who shop in Lafayette Square help pay off the financing for this project. Fundraising is also ongoing.