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New City School

Traffic Calming Project on Waterman deserves a closer look

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Urban Gardens  Waterman/Lake Special Business District Traffic Calming Project Tom Brackman Tom Brachman New City School First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation

Though I’ve traveled the 5000-5200 blocks of Waterman countless times, I never thought to ask who was behind the copious plantings that beautify the two blocks from Kingshighway to Union. That stretch of Waterman is home to an eclectic mix of uses, including institutions (Central Reform Congregation, First Unitarian Church and New City School), as well as condominiums, apartment buildings, and single family homes. All are enhanced by an equally eclectic mix of plantings that bloom from February through mid-October.

Waterman is also home to the CWE Farm, which provided the inspiration for long-time resident Tom Brackman, below left, to begin beautifying the street 6 years ago after the awarding of a Federal grant for a Traffic Calming Project he applied for on behalf of the Waterman/Lake Special Business District. Speeding had been an issue for years, but after the installation of the circle close to Kingshighway, above, planters mid-block, and another planter in the center of the street close to Union, drivers were forced to slow down.

Those planters, as well as the infrastructure supporting them, were also paid for by the grant, with additional support from the City of St. Louis and the Waterman/Lake SBD which contributed matching funds.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Urban Gardens  Waterman/Lake Special Business District Traffic Calming Project Tom Brackman Tom Brachman New City School First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation

Brackman, a retired lawyer who owns seven properties on the street, volunteers his services. Lisa Wells, right, one of Brackman’s tenants and his partner in this effort, is hired by the Waterman/Lake SBD to plant, maintain, and water the plant materials. “It’s extremely rewarding and therapeutic work,” she said.

Brackman credits his late partner, a Missouri Botanical Garden employee, for teaching him about plant materials and nurturing his love of gardening.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Urban Gardens  Waterman/Lake Special Business District Traffic Calming Project Tom Brackman Tom Brachman New City School First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation

The photos above and below show one of two matching planters mid-block. The late Bob Cassilly’s designs are incorporated into the base of the planters. Cassilly’s signature design is also used on the planters that can be found in the medians on Forest Park Parkway and 5100-5200 Delmar.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Urban Gardens  Waterman/Lake Special Business District Traffic Calming Project Tom Brackman Tom Brachman New City School First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Urban Gardens  Waterman/Lake Special Business District Traffic Calming Project Tom Brackman Tom Brachman New City School First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation

Brackman has donated many of the plants, but when he and Wells need more he said they look for bargains. “Everything we buy is cheap,” he said, “in the range of 25 cents — we look for plants that are on sale.”

They are also careful to choose durable plants that need less water, and they increase their yield by dividing many of them, such as hostas, daisies, and snow-on-the-mountain.

A couple of years ago Operation Brightside donated 10,000 daffodil bulbs, which Brackman and Wells dig up after the spring bloom and store Brackman’s basement to be planted again in the fall.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Urban Gardens  Waterman/Lake Special Business District Traffic Calming Project Tom Brackman Tom Brachman New City School First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation

Large urns at the busy corner of Kingshighway and Waterman contain a mixture of plants including sun-loving cannas and caladiums.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Urban Gardens  Waterman/Lake Special Business District Traffic Calming Project Tom Brackman Tom Brachman New City School First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation

When 28th Ward Alderwoman Heather Navarro donated a tree to be planted in a tree well in front of the CWE Farm, Brackman was inspired to paint the fire hydrant next to it, above left. Next he painted the hydrant at Lake and Waterman to assist in making that intersection a “plaza area.”

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Urban Gardens  Waterman/Lake Special Business District Traffic Calming Project Tom Brackman Tom Brachman New City School First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation

Brackman and Wells were also given the okay by the Oxford Condominium board to plant and maintain several daylily beds at Waterman and Union, above.

“Whenever Lisa or I are working on the gardens, neighbors and passers-by tell us how much they like the plantings and thank us for beautifying the street. That makes the work very gratifying,” Brackman said. “And it has changed the whole mentality of people driving along the street, now they seem to enjoy the view instead of speeding through.” He estimates that cars are traveling 15 mph slower than before the Traffic Calming Project was put in place, a successful outcome for a job beautifully well done.

New City School: The ABCs of creating a community garden

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

Earlier this summer I found CWEnd-based illustrator Maggie Pearson (see 2013 post here) picking juneberries, aka service berries, on Euclid. She was a little sheepish about getting “caught,” as she wasn’t sure that picking berries off city trees was legal (she later found out that it’s ok).

It seems that birds had devoured berries from 15 juneberry trees on New City School’s campus at Lake and Waterman, and Maggie was scrambling to gather enough fruit to make jam for the school’s Farmer’s Market. That’s when I first learned that Maggie and another parent, Julie Lazaroff, had started a community garden at New City School the previous summer.

Their game plan, including information regarding grants they received, may offer a blueprint for others thinking of organizing a community garden at their own children’s school.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

When I followed up with a visit at the end of June, the women said this project had been on their radar for a long time. Maggie was largely responsible the garden’s design—”she has a beautiful aesthetic,” Julie said.  Julie, a dietician and yoga teacher, credits an apprenticeship at EarthDance Organic Farms with adding to her knowledge of soil preparation and plant materials.Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

Last July the “partners in crime,” as Maggie, left, and Julie, right, identify themselves, started work with encouragement from New City’s Head of School Alexis Wright and advice from Matt Lebon of Custom Foodscaping. They removed a tether ball and digging area to make room for the new garden.  The school’s groundskeeper Bill Sprung built the arbor, trellis, and planting beds. A group of 20 volunteers had the garden up and running by the start of the 2018/2019 school year.

The area is designated as additional classroom space for 1st through 6th graders. “We are teaching our kids to be Stewards of the Earth,” said Maggie. “In addition to learning how to grow food, they’re using math skills when they plant seeds, and learning lessons in environmental science as well.”

Last spring, 3rd graders planted radish seeds, then harvested and tasted them 30 days later.  Julie took the radish greens home and made pesto and quiche for the kids to sample. New City is in the process of raising funds for a maker space that would include a kitchen so that the kids can learn to cook what they grow at school.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

Photographs above: Parent volunteers at work in the garden, and snapshots of the Garden Club’s Farmer’s Markets (there were 2 last year). Proceeds from sales are used to purchase seeds and other supplies for the garden.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

The pair was able to secure two grants for their project. A grant from the Whole Kids Foundation (Whole Foods) was used for the garden’s infrastructure, and a second, awarded by Missouri Wild Ones, was used for a pollinator garden which they planted alongside the school, shown above.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

The pollinator garden at work, above.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright   Left above: New City offers outdoor classroom experiences for pre-schoolers as well. Just outside the entry to the 3-to-4 year old classrooms there are a few vegetable beds which are tended by pre-school teachers during the school year, and the garden committee in the summer. Right: Last February there was a “Chicken Arrival Party” for chickens rented from locally-owned The Easy Chicken. Fuego & Ginger (names chosen by the students) were cared for by a different grade each week. The chickens were sent home for r & r this summer, and will return in the fall.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

After all the rain we’ve had this summer, the kale and Swiss chard were flourishing when I visited. Bottom photo left: Felt “smart pots” are filled with herbs for a sensory experience. Bottom right: The committee planted strawberries as “eye candy” for the kids, hardy kiwi, blackberries, and a fig tree.Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright   Grape vines are growing on a new fence built by Julie and Maggie’s husbands at the east edge of the garden.

Over the summer vacation, committee members stop by twice a week to weed and harvest. There are three other community gardens on Waterman between Kingshighway and New City School. The granddaddy of them all is the CWE Farm which was started 10 years ago by Arthur Culbert (and which I have posted about many times). There is also a garden at Central Reform Congregation and at First Unitarian Church.

The organizers of New City’s community garden thank Arthur Culbert for his contribution of advice, plant materials, and herbs he’s brought to their garden.  Most importantly though, Culbert created a citizenship curriculum for New City 4th graders, and the food the students help plant is donated to food pantries at Trinity Episcopal Church and Second Presbyterian Church. His initiative became the catalyst for Central Reform and First Unitarian, some Westminster Place neighbors and now New City to join in the effort to feed those less fortunate in the neighborhood.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

The photo above shows New City’s soccer field with a section of the garden in the foreground.

Julie and Maggie are mindful of the fact that there has to be a plan of succession when their children graduate from New City. They have begun working on a long-term integrated program with Head of School Alexis Wright.

The women are visibly proud of what they have created and excited that the garden has become a learning experience for the parents who volunteer as well.  Many have taken what they’ve learned home to start vegetable gardens of their own. That, plus seeing reluctant eaters at least taste a radish, makes it all worthwhile. “My 5-year-old, Auggie, really disliked salad until we started growing our own lettuce,” Maggie said. “Now he loves it.”

New City School, 5209 Waterman (at Lake).

 

Remembering Peasy Love, a champion of Forest Park

Nicki's Central West End Guide Forest Park Urban Gardens  Robert Duffy Peasy Love New City School Forest Park Forever

Sixty trees alongside Forest Park’s Murphy Lake, at the intersection of Lake Ave. & Lindell Blvd., have been tagged with red ribbons in honor of the late Sara Otto “Peasy” Love, a founder of Forest Park Forever,” the private, non-profit conservancy that partners with the City of St. Louis to restore, maintain, and preserve Forest Park.”

Sue Clancy, an early Forest Park Forever Executive Director and longtime board member, explained the significance of the red ribbons:  “One of Peasy’s favorite Forest Park traditions was the “Trim a Tree” project. She would engage local arborists to donate their time and energy to assist the City and Forest Park Forever with tree trimming…cutting out dead wood and shaping branches. For a small donation, FPF would put a big ribbon with the name of the donor—either your own or someone you wanted to remember—on each trimmed tree on Christmas Eve. Peasy loved Forest Park, especially the trees! She was wonderful and will be sorely missed.”

Read more on Forest Park Forever’s website.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Forest Park Urban Gardens  Robert Duffy Peasy Love New City School Forest Park Forever

Here is more about Peasy’s connection to Forest Park in an excerpt from CWEnder Robert Duffy’s beautiful obituary in December 24th’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Forest Park is a 1371-acre natural and architectural wonderland, home to egrets, turkeys, and foxes as well as major cultural institutions and remnants of the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition and World’s Fair. Its assets include indigenous and exotic flora and fauna and extensive resources for sports and outdoor recreation. Created in the late 19th century, by the 1960s it was falling apart.

Mrs. Love and others recognized this as a huge problem, and banded together to devote time and treasure to the renovation and preservation of the park…”—leading to the establishment of Forest Park Forever.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Forest Park Urban Gardens  Robert Duffy Peasy Love New City School Forest Park Forever

Another enormous contribution to the CWE was the creation of New City School, which Peasy Love, along with other CWEnders founded almost 50 years ago, after the Religious Order of the Sacred Heart closed Barat Hall/City House which was located at Taylor and Maryland Aves.

Years ago, I would occasionally see the Loves riding their horses on bridle trails in Forest Park (long before the creation of Forest Park Forever). At the time this was a common occurrence, since several CWE families kept horses in stables on their properties. (The bridle trails were replaced by the original bike path.)  At the memorial service I learned that the Loves’ stable at one time housed some camels who were being kept—uncomfortably Peasy felt—in trailers downtown, while the circus was in town. She left a note on the trailer door inviting the camels to take up residence in the CWE, and they arrived the next day.

Peasy not only left her mark on the neighborhood and the City of St. Louis, she was extremely generous to many, many people in her quiet, elegant way. She will be dearly missed.