There was a time when walking in Soulard meant walking a dirt path, stepping over a few bricks, then another patch of dirt, and more bricks in a herringbone pattern. There was a time when it was safer to walk in the street rather than on the sidewalk.

There was a time when walking in Soulard was very quiet. There were no trees, no birds, no squirrels, no butterflies, no shade, no rustling wind through the leaves.

That time was the early 1980’s when the restoration of Soulard was just beginning, with new energy and rebirth. The Soulard Restoration Group and the Beautification Committee initiated changes for the environment and found ways to make Soulard more inviting and attractive.

Longtime resident John Durnell plants a tree as part of the “I Leaf Soulard” program

Longtime resident John Durnell plants a tree as part of the “I Leaf Soulard” program

Since there were few trees, the Beautification Committee initiated a neighborhood tree planting project and filled empty tree wells with popular Bradford pear trees (because they were fast growing and visually attractive in the spring). This effort was called “I Leaf Soulard.” Within a few years, those trees enhanced the streetscape and birds returned, along with their chirping and singing.

A volunteer cleans Soulard’s brick sidewalks

A volunteer cleans Soulard’s brick sidewalks

The Beautification Committee next worked to clean and plant in public green spaces, such as the Farmers Market Plaza and Pontiac Square Park (which once featured an old basketball court and chainlink fence where the plantings now are). Alley cleanup was a major task and, with the help of Brightside St. Louis’ blitz day, truckloads of trash were removed. Corner street pots featuring flowering plants also became popular and, to this day, remain a colorful addition throughout Soulard – thanks to a hardworking crew of volunteers and homeowners who plant the 60+ pots each spring.

Brightside St. Louis holds a class in their demonstration space at the corner of 9th and Soulard

Brightside St. Louis holds a class in their demonstration space at the corner of 9th and Soulard

For several years, the vacant lot at 9th and Soulard became the demonstration space for Brightside St. Louis, planted and maintained by the SRG Beautification Committee. Educational workshops were held during the summer months and attended by individuals from across the city.

Volunteers Beth Bennett and Julie Dinkelmann plant a pot

Volunteers Beth Bennett and Julie Dinkelmann plant a pot

A Mother’s Day walking garden tour was started to showcase gems of patios and gardens hidden behind the brick facades of Soulard homes. This tour was popular and attracted outside individuals to the neighborhood. A new version of that walking tour, now called “Art in the Garden”, was established in 2013. It takes place each June and, in addition to patios and gardens, showcases local musicians as well as artists, creating custom works of art inspired by the urban nature around them.

While Soulard’s architecture has remained much the same (a point of historical pride), the greenery around it has changed. Thirty years of work – by the SRG Beautification Committee, as well as businesses and residents – has made Soulard a more beautiful and colorful place to live. Efforts continue. Thanks to grants by MSD Project Clear, a rain garden is being created in the triangle at 9th and Sidney. Additional trees are going into Aboussie Park. Plus, new planter pots and Cassilly benches were recently installed in Pontiac Park, and there are additional improvements in the works - including new playground equipment, a power station, two new trash containers and additional sidewalk.

If you would like to join the Beautification Committee or help with future projects, reach out to beautification@soulard.org.



School and corporate groups often lend a hand beautifying Pontiac Park at the guidance of Beautification Chair Richard Eaton, back left

School and corporate groups often lend a hand beautifying Pontiac Park at the guidance of Beautification Chair Richard Eaton, back left

Beautification Committee members have fun while adding new mulch to Pontiac Park

Beautification Committee members have fun while adding new mulch to Pontiac Park

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