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Creve Coeur To Honor Legacy Of Black Doctor Whom City Officials Pushed Out Decades Ago

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Chad Davis
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Creve Coeur plans to create a monument honoring Dr. H. Phillip Venable at the park. The Black ophthalmologist was forced to sell his land in the early 1960s after city officials acquired the land through eminent domain.

Creve Coeur officials plan to create a monument to honor Dr. H. Phillip Venable, a Black doctor forced to sell his property more than a half-century ago.

City officials will soon seek artists to design a monument for Dr. H. Phillip Venable Memorial Park. It would aim to highlight the late doctor’s legacy and acknowledge how the city discriminated against him.

“We want visitors of the park to be able to learn about Dr. Venable, learn about the past transgressions that happened, learn about how the city is acknowledging that and making amends to do this project as a whole,” said Jason Valvero, Creve Coeur’s director of recreation. “We want people who come away from the park to learn about it, to be educated and have a better understanding of what took place many many years ago.”

Creve Coeur officials used eminent domain to take land from Venable and his wife, Katie, in the late 1950s to build a park. The Venables fought the issue in court but lost in 1960 and had to sell the land. The park was named in 1961 for John Beirne, the mayor who compelled the sale.

City officials passed a resolution in 2019 apologizing for past actions and renaming the park to honor Venable. The next year, the city created the Venable Park Task Force to decide how to continue to honor him.

Valvero said the task force, which includes members of the Venable family, will ask Creve Coeur City Council members Monday for money to consider hiring a consultant for the project.

He hopes the artist will speak with task force members, county council members and people associated with Dr. Venable to build a monument or sculpture.

Valvero said that the task force is open to various designs but that it should be a standout feature of the park. Other task force members and members of the Venable family want a memorial to capture his legacy as an ophthalmologist at Homer G. Phillips Hospital, a historically Black hospital in St. Louis, said Creve Coeur City Council President Heather Silverman, who chairs the task force.

“It’s really important to them and at least to me to make sure that whatever memorial is created isn’t just about this event in his life,” Silverman said. “He did quite a bit in terms of moving things forward in terms of medical care for the Black community as well as the medical profession for the community in general.”

Silverman said the council is seeking city funding and donations from other organizations.

Task Force member Jodi Miller said it’s important to acknowledge the harm that the city caused to Venable’s family.

“The memorial is lovely, and the name of the park being changed is lovely, too, and it has to be more than that,” Miller said. “The family, they lost out on some generational wealth. So the story needs to be the big picture of what happened.”

Creve Coeur officials will hold a rededication ceremony for the park Sept. 17-18.

Follow Chad on Twitter: @iamcdavis

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