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Lafayette Square garden tour showcases historic St. Louis neighborhood

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Sharon Stockmann
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A very good boy enjoys a Lafayette Square patio. In the historic district, residents find ways to create inviting outdoor spaces even on small lots.

If you think a small lot means a lousy yard, you’ve clearly never been to the Lafayette Square Garden Tour. The annual springtime event brings visitors to the historic neighborhood in the city’s central core, demonstrating how beautiful even small city lots — and the homes around them — can be.

This spring, the garden tour is paired with the return of the antique fair in Lafayette Park, as well as an 1860s baseball game, trolley rides and an evening concert by the Jeremiah Johnson Band.

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Danny Wicentowski
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St. Louis Public Radio
Sharon Stockmann and her husband bought an abandoned shell in Lafayette Square for $2,000 and painstakingly turned it into their family home.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, Lafayette Square resident Sharon Stockmann explained that the tours date back to 1969, a time when adventurous pioneers were purchasing long-abandoned homes and beginning the laborious process of restoring them to their former glory. Stockmann’s husband, Dick, bought an abandoned shell of a Victorian in 1974 for $2,000 — then the price, she joked, of a brand-new Chevy Nova.

The couple moved in after a year and a half of intensive labor, but the house remained a major project.

Learn about Lafayette Square and its home and garden tours on St. Louis on the Air

“We worked at it every weekend for seven years and in 1981, we were on the house tour for the first time,” she said. “In that time we had two children — so, living under construction all that time with two small kids. But we were supported by all of our neighbors who were doing the same thing.”

In 2017, with their children long grown, the couple downsized to a smaller, brand-new house — but even then, they chose to stay in the neighborhood. They aren’t alone in that. “We counted it up the other night, my husband and I,” Stockmann said. “We know of 30 households who have been there as long as we have.”

And those longtime residents poured their sweat equity into the neighborhood.

Said Stockmann: “It was essential to be part of the neighborhood association. It was not really a choice of like, ‘Oh, I'll be on this committee or that committee.’ It's like, ‘We're going to do it all. Everybody's got to do everything.’”

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Danny Wicentowski
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St. Louis Public Radio
Jill Peckinpaugh is the chair of fundraising for the Lafayette Square Neighborhood Association.

Jill Peckinpaugh is now the chair of fundraising for the Lafayette Square Neighborhood Association. She promised a wide variety of gardens on display on this year’s tour.

Peckinpaugh noted that the tours are a major fundraiser for the nonprofit.

“The holiday tour and the garden tour have been bringing in money for the restoration of Lafayette Square,” she said. “It goes into new historic signs, repairing [old ones], security. There's a lot of things that a lot of people don't think of that take care of a national historic area.”

They also serve as an advertisement for the neighborhood. “It will bring and cheer people that love gardens or are even thinking of maybe moving to the city that might think, ‘Oh, I really want a creative space.’ This will show you how to do it.”

Related Event
What: The Square in Bloom Garden Tour & Antique Fair
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 4
Where: 2023 Lafayette Ave., St. Louis, MO 63104

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Emily Woodbury, Kayla Drake, Danny Wicentowski and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Sarah Fenske served as host of St. Louis on the Air from July 2019 until June 2022. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.

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