Creve Coeur addresses history of controversial park

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CREVE COEUR, MO - Creve Coeur city leaders opened the floor Wednesday night (Nov. 6) for people to express concern over the history of Beirne Park. The controversy dates back 60 years, but the community members at the meeting said it is time for a change.

In the 1950s, 12 African-American families purchased land in the Spoede Meadows neighborhood of Creve Coeur to build homes. Some white residents were opposed to their new neighbors and sent an attorney to try to force the new families out.

Eleven of the families moved, but Dr. Howard Phillip Venable and his wife Katie were determined to stay. At the time, Venable was a well-known ophthalmologist and university instructor.

Still, the city continued to put pressure on the Venables to leave, and a three-year lawsuit ensued. Ultimately, the Venables lost when the Missouri court of appeals sided with the city.

The park was built, and the Venables' home was turned into the park clubhouse. The park was named after then mayor, John Beirne.

Wednesday, during Creve Coeur's "Coffee with the Mayor" event, a room full of people gathered to voice their support for change.

Joining the meeting by phone were relatives of the Venables who made some recommendations starting with changing the name of Beirne Park to Dr. H. Phillip Venable Memorial Park. They also asked the city of Creve Coeur to make a $250,000 donation to Washington University School of Ophthalmology in Venable's name, establish the Dr. H. Phillip Venable Annual Diversity Day, create a fund or land bank to make it easier for racial minorities to build homes in Creve Coeur, and build a museum dedicated to diversity in Venable's name.

Beirne's son spoke at the meeting and said he does not oppose changing the park's name.

City council members will meet on Tuesday (Nov. 12) to discuss possible next steps.

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