Oak Knoll Trees

David Friedman Collection
Copyright©2004 Miriam Friedman Morris

History of Oak Knoll Park

In the early 19th century, an Englishman named Mr. Kennedy obtained a government grant of 300 acres which was located on land now bordered by Clayton Rd., Hanley Rd., Big Bend, and Wydown. He built a two-story brick house, a farm, a dairy and many other buildings, including the largest barn in the county, a little village of houses for tools, carriages and wagons, log houses for the chickens and brick houses for the hired hands. He also planted 20 acres of apple orchards and elaborate vegetable and flower gardens.

Benjamin F. Thomas, a lawyer in St. Louis, bought the Kennedy farm in the 1850’s and lived there with his wife, who was the granddaughter of pioneer John Mullanphy, and his younger children. When his two sons came of age, Thomas deeded the northeast corner to Benjamin Franklin Thomas and southeast to John Richard Thomas. The southeast corner is now the site of Oak Knoll Park.

Thomas sold the rest of the farm to his son-in-law, John Boland, who named it "Claverach" which means clover field and includes today’s Claverach Park, the Moorlands, Southmoor and Forest Ridge.

Charles M. Rice, a lawyer, built the first house on Oak Knoll property in 1914. His house was designed by the St. Louis firm of LaBeaume and Klein. The building permit put the cost at $30,000. In 1921, Alvin D. Goldman, president of Lessor-Goldman Cotton Co., obtained a building permit for $60,000 for the second house on Oak Knoll. This house, designed by the firm of Jamieson & Spearl of St. Louis, complemented the Rice home in scale and style. It was no coincidence that the Goldmans built next to the Rice's. Mrs. Charles Rice was the former May Goldman, Alvin Goldman’s sister.

The relatives of the Rice and Goldman families lived at 1 and 2 Oak Knoll Park until 1958, following A. D. Goldman’s death. The families considered an offer to rezone the 21 acres of Oak Knoll Park as a site for about 10 houses, but Roy Jordan, then chairman of the Clayton City Planning Commission, intervened and convinced them to make it a park.

The city of Clayton bought the land for $300,000 and made the houses available for the Museum of Science and Natural History Museum. The museum and its dinosaurs occupied Oak Knoll Park from 1962 through 1985 before moving to Oakland Avenue as the St. Louis Science Center.

The city of Clayton searched for new tenants to lease these buildings with the provision that the occupants renovate them. In 1990, the Clayton Child Care Center finished its work and moved to 1 Oak Knoll Park. Five years later, after extensive restoration to the mansion at 2 Oak Knoll Park, the St. Louis Artists’ Guild moved into its new elegant home.

We gratefully acknowledge Robert Duffy, Krista Grueninger, and Norman Mack for their research and assistance.