Stone World

Refurbishing a city treasure with Brazilian granite

March 10, 2004


Set deep in the heart in the community of St. Louis, MO, is Forest Park, which has a history dating back to the late 1800s. The 1,370-acre site, which is owned and maintained by the City of St. Louis, is one of 105 city parks under the jurisdiction of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry. Being home to many cultural institutions and attractions, including the St. Louis Zoo, St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis Science Center, Missouri Historical Society, two golf courses and number of sports fields, the park is tremendously valued by its residents. As a result, substantial funds were raised so that infrastructure improvements could be made, and a restoration of various facilities and architectural elements could be completed. This included incorporating natural stone into the refurbishing of the Grand Basin, which is the heart of the park and one of the prominent landmarks on the grounds.

“Forest Park is one of the largest urban parks in the U.S.,” said Project Landscape Architect Jim Fetterman of The HOK Planning Group in St. Louis, MO. “It also was the site of the 1904 World's Fair and World's Olympics, which is a little-known fact. There was a need to create a master plan for the restoration of Forest Park, and it was done in 1995. A variety of projects were tackled within the park. We were very fortunate to have been involved in the restoration of the Grand Basin and Post Dispatch Lake.”

A total of 500 tons of New Caledonia granite with a flamed finish -- supplied by Global Granite & Marble of St. Louis, MO -- was utilized for paving and steps around the basin. The material was quarried in Brazil by Gramil Granitos E Marmores Itapemirim Ltda. of Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

“We definitely wanted a durable material like granite for the steps leading to the boat landings,” said Fetterman. “We knew they would take a lot of abuse. We also wanted a permanent material compatible with the cast concrete basin wall and cast stone, which was used for balusters and landings -- that's what the budget could afford.”

The original design of the Grand Basin is the work of Cass Gilbert. “He practiced in the early 20th century and was the architect for the Art Museum,” explained Fetterman. “It's one of two remaining buildings from the 1904 World's Fair. Gilbert was invited back in 1916 to create a Beaux Arts plan for the basin.”

Due to years of neglect, lack of funds and day-to-day use of the approximate 12 million visitors that the park receives annually, the basin had deteriorated and was in desperate need of repair.

According to the landscape architect, both the city and Forest Park Forever -- a non-profit organization -- raised approximately $90 million through bond issues and donations

for the park's entire restoration.

The work on the Grand Basin took approximately two years of con-struction and was finished in late fall of 2003. All of the restoration projects within Forest Park are expected to be completed this year -- in time for the 100th anniversary of the 1904 World's Fair and the bicentennial celebration of the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

End box

Forest Park
Grand Basin
St. Louis, MO

Original Architect: Cass Gilbert
Restoration Architect: The HOK
Planning Group, St. Louis, MO
Stone Quarrier: Gramil Granitos E
Marmores Itapemirim Ltda., Rio
De Janeiro, Brazil
Stone Supplier: Global Granite &
Marble, St. Louis, MO
Stone Installer: Leonard Masonry, St.
Louis, MO