I have no idea when it happened. It has been a while since I took a drive down Gist towards Lindbergh Blvd. ln May, Freebourne was still a park and a large family picnic was underway. I had thought about coming back later in the week to take pictures of the park where I had many great memories. So the next time I came back, another large picnic was being had, this time from a church outing. As I don’t want to interrupt a get-together, my camera and I left again for yet another day. This scenario happened repeatedly until I was completely drawn back to the burned houses for more artsy photographic explorations. Needless to say, I put the remaining attractions on Gist on the back list, assuming they would be there for a long time. I assume too much.
From the few new weeds grown on the dirt mound that was once the Robertson Fire Station, I would place the destruction around the end of May or early June. I can also venture to guess that is also when they decided to close down Freebourne as well.
For a while, I fantasized about purchasing the Firestation to turn it into an art studio. I honestly did not think the airport would go for that since it is directly across from the runway, but the tall, open interior space and upper apartment area would have made the most amazing studio and gallery. It used to be nestled right in with the large homes of Gist, and of course next to the park. It was still in operation as a firehouse during almost the entire buyout, closing down sometime late in 2006. Despite being openly visible to the new runway, the station had been heavily vandalized throughout 2007 and 2008.
The park was a place of many memories. I went to day-camp for 6 weeks in the summertime at Freebourne from the time I was 9 until I was 12. There was a giant bush with arching branches that created a wonderful lil hut where I would spend time playing. The playground portion of the park was on a steep hillside. Swinging from those swings, I would imagine jumping off and flying down the hill to my death. A concrete tunnel was once there, but I believe it was taken out sometime ago when parks everywhere converted to the boring plastic nightmares they are now. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful and large park with lots of forestry and wide open fields too. New developments do not reserve this kind of vast green space for parks anymore, and its sad to see such a useful space go to nothing. O’Connor Park is the last park near the Carrollton Subdivision that has not been divided (Oak Valley Park on Natural Bridge is barely in existence) or completely sold to the City of St. Louis. Oddly enough, you have to go through the streets of Carrollton to get to O’Connor Park, unlike Freebourne which was just to the outside. It puzzles me why they took Freebourne and not O’Connor too; O’Connor is an OK park, but its not nearly as large or picturesque as Freebourne and not nearly as accessible. It does have its nice spots, including a fantastic tree by the roller hockey rink and in general is rather (obviously) quiet. Overall, however, it doesn’t have very many trees at all and overlooks an unsightly industrial park. Rumor has it that O’Connor will remain in Bridgeton’s hands.