Established in 1876, and named for the vast amount of virgin timber on the site, this 1,293-acre park is one of the country’s largest urban parks. Originally surrounded by farmland and a 40-minute carriage ride from downtown, today it is in the heart of the city. The original plan was by park superintendent and landscape gardener Maximilian G. Kern in conjunction with engineer Julius Pitzman. It became the site of the 1904 World’s Fair – the Louisiana Purchase Exposition; its myriad exhibition palaces included the Palace of Fine Arts by Cass Gilbert (today the St. Louis Art Museum). After the fair, the space reverted to naturalistic parkland under the guidance of landscape architect George Kessler.
Today it accommodates active sports and houses some of the city’s most important cultural institutions (in addition to the Art Museum), the St. Louis Zoo, the Science Center and The Muni Opera. The Jewel Box, a Works Progress Administration era Art Deco conservatory, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000 and renovated in 2002. A new master plan was implemented in 2004 at a cost of nearly $100 million, half privately funded. It represents the collaboration of the public, the City of St. Louis, and Forest Park Forever and balances use, the health of the natural ecosystems, and historic character without loss of green space. As part of that work, Oehme, van Sweden developed the landscape of the River des Peres and Pagoda Circle.