On May 27, 1896, a great cyclone roared through St. Louis, cutting a wide swath across the city. The path is marked in yellow.The cyclone just missed Tower Grove Park but hit the edge of the Botanical Gardens. Forest Park was outside the storm’s path. Unfortunately, Lafayette Park was devastated. Hardly a tree was spared.
All the pavilions in the park were destroyed with the exception of the Summer Cottage. Of all the structures in Lafayette Park, this one, the weakest, alone remains.It was soon demolished and replaced by a pavilion with iron columns and a red tile roof.
The ornate dome of the new bandstand was plucked off its columns and crashed to the ground. Only the base survived. The bandstand was soon rebuilt.
The cyclone destroyed the rustic bridges over the Grotto, leaving just the lower portion of the bridge.
Lafayette Park never regained its status as the city’s most popular and beautiful park. Even before the cyclone, wealthy residents were moving to the Central West End. Plans for the 1904 World’s Fair were underway, and Forest Park became the jewel of the St. Louis Park system.
After the storm, many attractions were repaired or replaced. Ornate iron bridges soon replaced the damaged wooden ones. This photo of the new bridge shows the damage to the trees of the park.