They Called Him “Mad”

Eccentric at the least. From the accounts I’ve heard and read — he needed some serious psychological intervention. But when it’s the King — well, it makes it all rather difficult for friends to force the issue.

While his overall decorating taste at this site was a little gaudy for my personal taste — he commissioned some beautiful individual items.

A golden sculpture in a pool outside the main entrance. It gives a peaceful view and centers the formal garden. It’s easy to imagine well dressed men and women strolling along the edges in conversation. On a fine day, it might even be a good venue to discuss affairs of state or impress a foreigner to accept your point of view.

But Ludwig II of Bavaria didn’t stop at peaceful or discreet. No, he preferred to put on a show. So the engineers obliged him.


Graceful Drop

During the years, I’ve had my share of trips and falls. Most have done little harm to the body. The ego suffered more. But even the ones where I get back on my feet a moment later and brush off the bits of grass, sand, gravel, or whatever surface I collided with could never be called graceful.

No — klutz comes more  to mind.

It’s not the same with water. Unlike humans (or most animals) when it drops from one level to another, the results can be soothing rather than alarming. In a few cases, it can also be impressive and powerful.

Relaxing view on a sunny day.


Decorating for a Party

I always find something new-to-me, perhaps overlooked on an earlier visit, when visiting the large, public garden in my city. After all, the people in charge understand how to use the color, shape, and texture of plants to good effect.

And they sprinkle in a few inanimate objects to keep it interesting.

These are difficult to miss. They’ve taken over a large fountain in a prominent place.

Party Animals
Party Animals

The elephants and their friends scattered over the acreage are getting ready to romp and glow for a Lantern Festival beginning later this month.

Hmmmm. Will they re-direct the fountain plumbing? How many elephant trunks spraying water are needed to cool off on a hot day?



Cool Sighting

It’s summer in the city. In the country too, but today we’re talking urban.

Within downtown St. Louis a narrow strip of green runs in a thin, almost continuous line, from the riverfront. It continues for nearly twenty blocks, broken once for the Civil Courts and again for an office building.

Portions show neglect with grass trampled to bare earth. Other portions, adopted by civic minded citizens in recent years, show care with plantings, new benches, and landscaping features.

Are you seeking a place to rest, relax, and refresh yourself – body and soul? May I recommend this small, pleasant waterfall in the heart of the city. Can you think of a finer place to sit back with a cool drink?

Urban Waterfall
Urban Waterfall

Sunshine Splash

Metropolitan areas have citizens of all ages, sizes, and varities.

Individuals will be the first to come to mind. And then you have public entities like suburbs and villages long ago absorbed into the urban net. Religious organizations contribute architecture to the skyline and art to interior spaces. Educational institutions plan and build and plant to add beauty to their campus.

Not to be forgotten are good corporate citizens. You’ve seen them. The ones that landscape their grounds beyond the minimum zoning codes and participate in the life of the community.

Today’s fountain is located at a hospital campus. Geography and zoning may have prompted the formation of the pond while good citizenship and a sense of beauty polished it off.

Corporate Splash

Follow the Tracks

We left our little jaunt through the fountains of St. Louis in the cooling spray in front of Union Station. We’re going to board an invisible train and go west for our next stop.

Founded in 1853 as the first planned suburb west of the Mississippi river, Kirkwood, MO has roots in the railroad tracks. Railway engineer James Pugh Kirkwood did such a fine job of locating, surveying and building the rail line through the community that they named the town in his honor.

The railroad still runs numerous freight trains on the tracks and Amtrak pauses at the historic train station. So stay alert and listen up when driving through.

Our point of interest today is on the Plaza. Across the tracks and within site of the train station it’s a new development in the heart of this small city. Across the street is City Hall. Fronting the plaza are several restaurants below housing with a multistory garage behind to ease the parking situation.

The official name is Unity. Installed in 2006 it’s already witnessed joy and sorrow.  Let’s toast that it will assist in keeping the Kirkwood Community in Unity.

Unity’s Cup Runneth Over

A Grand Meeting

Great! Grand! Majestic!

When a river from the Great American West merges with the widening river from the north it’s an event. And a location with difficult access.

So inventive minds — of the same caliber that placed the City of St. Louis on a bluff to avoid a portion of the spring floods — celebrate the union of these two great rivers where the residents have opportunity to enjoy.

Imagine a wedding party. The Mississippi groom, riding on a huge catfish, welcomes his Missouri bride floating on a shell. Attendents for both trail behind on river creatures of various shapes and sizes. Now freeze it in time and bronze and place the entire ensemble in a large rectangular pool.

The official name is Meeting of the Waters.

Find it my walking due west from CityGarden. Pause at the Civil Courts, Police Memorial and Firefighters Mounument. Divert your steps to walk the Veterans Memorial and find a bench in a shady place for a drink of water. There it is! Across the street from Union Station.

Not your average Bride

Cooling Patio

Running Man pointed us west. We find ourselves walking down steps beside water cascading down to form a soothing backdrop for an ampitheater at the western end of Kiener Plaza.

A sliver of green space between the next two cross streets offers a escape from the cubicle for a brown bag lunch.

But I’m in search of water and I find it in CityGarden. Children play in a wading pool fed from water falling over a wall. Between outdoor sculpture pieces and little circles of flowers I hear laughter.

Water spurts toddler high and splashes in rythmn while children and adults run over the smooth surface. Races. Tag. Neither one has ever been as cool and refreshing – or wet – as on this little patch of Gateway Mall.

Cool Patio

Run, Run, Run

Run as fast as you can.  Run as long as you can.

You won’t catch him.

Well, maybe. Running Man, a public sculpture by William Zorach actually stays centered in his fountain pool. You’ll find him downtown in the eastern half of a two block area known as Kiener Plaza.

He’s a good citizen. Depending upon the occasion he runs between water naturally white or tinted red, pink, or blue for various charitable causes.

With a nice wide walkway and inviting benches surrounding him he encourages busy residents to take a break. And he’s kind to photographers. No matter the time of day you can find one portion of his circle with the correct light. And on my most recent visit, a Saturday, he furnished a pleasant splash background to a wedding party.

How do I find him?

Glad you asked. Remember the Arch standing guard over the St. Louis Riverfront? Walk west – the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial grounds (that’s a mouthful, no wonder we say Arch), extends and merges with the Gateway Mall. A finger of public space, mostly green that pokes into the city more than twenty blocks. You’ll find our runner just west of the Old Courthouse following the settlers with their new supplies.

Running Man headed West

Adopted City

Quick!  Name three things about St. Louis —

Got them?

How many named the Arch? Beer? Baseball?

Oh, come on — you missed baseball – the most recent World Series Champions? Are you from Texas?

One item I’m guessing you did not mention was fountains. The big city on the other side of Missouri claims the nickname “City of Fountains”. But we have our share in the metro area that holds down the east side of the state. What better way to celebrate the rivers in the area? My goodness – they empty into the Mississippi right and left – Illinois, Missouri, Meremac plus smaller streams and creeks.

Join me as I visit some of the fountains in my adopted city.

We’re starting at the downtown riverfront, looking east to Illinois on a recent Labor Day Weekend.

A sight to cool the tourist.