France claimed all lands west and south of the Mississippi River through the explorations of Joliet and Marquette (1673), and LaSalle (1682). France lost the Seven Years War with Europe and the French and Indian War with America in 1764. The Treaty of Fontainebleau gave Spain lands west of Mississippi, which the French had ceded to England.
Spanish troops and workers under Captain Francisco Rui, a Spanish colonial commander, entered Louisiana in 1767 to construct two forts at the confluence between the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. Because of flooding and swamps, the proposed sites were not suitable. So, a temporary fort was constructed called “Don Carlos el Senor Principe De Asturias”, after King’s eldest child. Spanish Governor Zenon Trudeau, a Spanish Governor, is believed to have lived at Spanish Lake with troops from the fort. Hazekiah Leard was a landowner in the area around the lake and fort.
The City of St. Louis was attacked by Indians in 1780. Fort San Carlos was then moved to the City. The Louisiana Territory was purchased by the United States from France for $15 million in 1803. William Henry Harrison assumed official control. The area was originally built as a trading post by the Indians. Bellefontaine Road was the road that connected the City with the fort and the farming area. Charles DeLassus’s brother, Jacques St. Vrain was granted the land east of the lake to which he kept his cattle.
A private clubhouse was built in the City for fishermen in the late 19th century. Spanish Lake was home to between 8,000 and 11,000 fishermen in 1911.
Spanish Pond was purchased by William Heckman in 1928 for Eldorado subdivision. At that time, the roads were still made of stone. For promotional purposes, Spanish Pond was renamed Spanish Pond.
The lake was privately owned until 1969 Bond Issue funds were used to purchase it for $1.2million, $600,000.000 federal L&WCF, and $600,000.000 County funds. This made the park a Land & Water Park. It is now subject to all Section 6(f). In April 1971, the park was opened and officially dedicated in October 1971. In 1982, the Department completed a dredging operation that removed approximately 200,000 cubic yards sediment from the lake.
In 1986, the park was expanded to include 14 acres. The Manny Broadway Shelter was constructed using 1986 Bond Issue funds. A new maintenance building was also built. The lake was dredged once more in the 1990s. It is now managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation, as part of the Community Assistance Program. The Cardinal Care program built “Spirit Field”, an accessible baseball field in the upper portion of the park.
White-Flight, Old Spanish Lake and The Beginnings of Suburbia
Spanish Lake wasn’t incorporated as a municipality like many other unimportant municipalities in St. Louis County. From its beginnings as a military base and retreat, it had become a vibrant farming community. Morton provides us with some amazing photographs, old footage, and interviews that illustrate this story.
All that changed in 1950s. Developers bought up farmland to build Spanish Lake. This was due to a combination of the suburban-housing boom and the GI Bill. It was only a short drive from downtown and close to the rivers. Spanish Lake is also located in the highly-rated Hazelwood Schools District. This made it a popular destination for whites moving to North St. Louis.
The film did not mention that the Desegregation of City Schools was what accelerated the flight to suburbs. Blacks moved in after whites fled North City neighborhoods. This process began in 1950 and continues today in North County.
Spanish Lake Schools
Spanish Lake is served in large part by the Hazelwood school district, which covers most of North St. Louis County. Hazelwood East High school, Hazelwood Central High school, and Hazelwood West High schools are the three high schools in the district. There are also six middle schools, 20 elementary schools, and two early childhood education centers. Spanish Lake is home to many of the schools in the district. These schools include Hazelwood East High school, Hazelwood East Middle and Middle Schools, Hazelwood Southeast Middle Middle School, Twillman Elementary, Arrowpoint Elementary, Larimore Elementary, Twillman Elementary, Arrowpoint Elementary, Hazelwood Southeast Middle, Hazelwood Southeast Middle, Hazelwood Southeast Middle, Twillman Elementary, Arrowpoint Elementary, Larimore Elementary, and Twillman Elementary. The student’s home address determines which school he or she attends. Spanish Lake residents also have the option to attend Trinity Catholic High School, which is a private coed high school.
Spanish Lake Parks and Recreation
Spanish Lake is a great place to enjoy recreation. There are several parks in St. Louis County, including Spanish Lake Park and Larimore Park. The three parks offer Spanish Lake residents and all of St. Louis County more than 570 acres of parkland. There are 3 fishing lakes, tennis courts and picnic sites. They also have trails for biking, horseback riding, mountain biking and other activities. The Spanish Lake also includes Columbia Bottom Conservation Area. Columbia Bottom Conservation Area covers 4,318 acres and is located at the confluence between the Mississippi River & the Missouri River. It offers opportunities for fishing, boating and hunting as well as educational programs.
Spanish Lake – Historic Parks
Two of Spanish Lake County Parks are historical in nature. One of them, Fort Bellefontaine Park, was the site of the first United States Military Post west of the Mississippi River. Fort Belle Fontaine, which was initially built on the Missouri River’s bottom lands, was constructed in 1805. There was a stop by Lewis and Clark on their return trip with the famed Corps of Discovery Expedition in 1806. The Fort began to decline rapidly, and was eventually destroyed by flooding and moisture. General Daniel Bissell, who took command of Fort in 1810, was granted permission to rebuild Fort on higher ground. The Fort is located on the bluffs overlooking the river. Moving to higher ground meant that the Powder House, a historical landmark in the park was also moved. The Powder House, a structure made of stone, is the last remaining fortification. Fort Bellefontaine was an important part of the War of 1812 against Britain. However, even higher ground, the log structures of Fort Bellefontaine began to deteriorate quickly. Jefferson Barracks replaced them in 1826, and then the fort was abandoned in 1828. Archeological research has been able discover stone foundations for several of the structures at the fort. Fort Bellefontaine Park also has the “Grand Staircase” as well as other stonework, which was built by the WPA in 1936. This staircase was constructed to allow access to the Missouri River, which had become a popular picnic area for residents of Missouri Hills Boys Home. It is now the Missouri Hills Campus of Missouri Division of Youth Services.
Spanish Lake Park is the second historic park. Spanish Pond was the original name of the large lake within the park. Spanish troops used to live nearby in 1760 and would fish in the “pond”. The area was originally called Spanish Pond, but it was renamed to Spanish Lake in 1928 to promote Eldorado Park.
Spanish Lake Historic Landmarks
In Spanish Lake, there are many historic St. Louis County Landmarks. Wilson Larimore built the Wilson Larimore House in 1858. It was originally located on 2,000 acres. Many awards were given to the Larimore farm for being the most productive in the region because it used new farming technologies of the day, such as steam engine-powered mechanical farming equipment. The Larimore House Plantation is the home. It’s a brick Italianate that looks more like a city residence than a farm house. It has a cupola and 14 fireplaces with Italian marble. There is also a curving staircase. The Larimore House is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.