Brief History of Claverach Park (established 1921)
The United States government sold property to Dr. John Kennedy in 1835, and then in 1854, Benjamin Thomas purchased the land. The farm stayed in the Thomas/Boland family for nearly 70 years and would be known as Claverach Farm, Welsh for cloverleaf. Subsequent land purchases expanded the farm’s footprint to 230 acres roughly between present-day Wydown Blvd., Clayton Road, Big Bend Blvd., and Hanley Road. On the rural homestead, hay, alfalfa, rye, and oats were grown for commercial sale; for personal use, there was poultry, an orchard, and a vegetable garden. In 1921, Catherine Boland (the daughter of Benjamin Thomas) sold the farm for development to the Moorlands Land Company.
Claverach Park (named Moorlands Park initially) was planned by Prussian-born surveyor and city-planner Julius Pitzman, who co-designed the original plan for Forest Park and is also known for his design of the first private neighborhood in the United States (Benton Place) and other private neighborhoods in St. Louis (e.g. Compton Heights, now-lost Vandeventer Place in Grand Center, Portland Place, Westmoreland Place, Washington Terrace, Parkview Place, Claverach Park and Wydown Forest).
In his Claverach Park design, Pitzman avoided the rigid regularity of urban streets and instead designed Claverach as a parklike setting… 88 acres of rolling land with curvilinear streets (to achieve privacy & visual interest) lined by stately trees, one centrally located neighborhood park, and 9 pocket parks. To accommodate the waning of horse-drawn carriages and the popularity of automobiles, Pitzman dispensed with rear alleys and incorporated front driveways. After 60 years as a private neighborhood, in 1983, residents voted to approve a 3-year tax to partially pay for new roads, sidewalks, granite curbs, and streetlights and turn the streets (and ongoing maintenance) to the City of Clayton. The long-overdue prohibition of anyone not “wholly Caucasian” from owning property was formally removed from the indentures in 1998.
The neighborhood of 210 houses retains an intact collection of architect-designed dwellings reflecting popular period revival styles with Tudor, Jacobean, Dutch Colonial, Georgian, French and Spanish influences. Claverach Park (including all properties constructed prior to 1966) was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2015.
In 1921, Catharine Boland, through her Claverach Realty and Investment Company, sold nearly all the remaining once 230 acre Claverach estate to the Moorland Land Company to develop into subdivisions. The Claverach estate consisted of the home, farm and outbuildings located between present day Wydown Boulevard on the north, subdivisions of Forest Ridge, and Southmoor, and Oak Knoll Park on the east, Clayton Road on the south and Hanley Road on the west. Catharine had earlier sold large lots facing Hanley Road. In the 1921 sale, she reserved 3 acres around her home (present day Crestwood Circle) where she continued to live out her life until 1923 when she died.
Catharine was raised and lived her life on Claverach. Her father and mother, Benjamin Franklin Thomas and Jane Julia Chambers Thomas moved out from the City of St. Louis to Claverach when she was 5 years old, in 1854. Eight years later, Jane died, and Catherine undertook the duties of helping her father raise her two younger brothers, John and Benjamin, then ages 15 and 12. Catharine’s older sister Julia had already joined the Catholic order of the Religious of the Sacred Heart and lived outside of St. Louis. In 1872, Catharine at age 23 met and soon thereafter married John L. Boland. They lived in the home at Claverach together with Benjamin Thomas and Catharine’s brothers, John and Benjamin. John owned and worked at a book and office supply business located near the Mississippi riverfront, 7 ½ miles east on Clayton Road, traveled by horse and buggy each day.
In 1885, John Boland purchased adjacent acres along Clayton Road of 45 acres to the southwest, and 35 acres to the southeast to enlarge Claverach to approximately 231 acres. The farm produced hay, alfalfa, rye, and oats and contained its own orchard and vegetable garden and poultry for household use. Trees remained around the home on the hilltop where present day Crestwood Circle is located, and scattered in some of the ravines on the farm.
The original home on the property was built for Dr. John Kennedy and his wife, Jane Kidd Kennedy and their four children in 1835, shortly after they purchased 150 acres from Robert Wash out of his 204 acre tract. Their south facing brick home consisted of three separate structures, typical of French American style of the time and constructed from clay found on the property. The first structure consisted of two stories with a center doorway entrance into a large center hall, with bedrooms on both sides. Upstairs additional smaller bedrooms were located. Directly behind the first structure and connected by a brick walkway was a detached one story dining room and in the third building close beyond the dining room building was a two story brick building having a kitchen on the first level and slave, later servant’s, quarters upstairs.
After Catharine’s father, Benjamin Thomas died in 1886, John and Catharine Boland and their family which had expanded to five children made plans for an addition to the home. In 1890, a large 3 story Queen Anne style house was constructed and attached onto the south side of the original home. Claverach could accommodate many people and remained an active farm and gathering spot for the Thomas and Boland families. In 1905, John Boland died at Claverach. Afterwards, Catharine continued to operate the farm and estate with the help of her sons.
Following the 1904 World’s Fair in nearby Forest Park, residential development continued westward from the City of St. Louis and onto the borders of Claverach. The subdivisions of Brentmoor, Forest Ridge, Southmoor, were platted and in the process of having fine homes constructed when Catharine decided to sell Claverach to the Moorland Land Company in 1921. In 1922, Julius Pitzman designed and platted Moorlands Park (later to be renamed Claverach Park in 1929). His design created the green spaces, and streets in Claverach that are still enjoyed today. Each of the homes in Claverach are architecturally designed and constructed with either stone, brick or cement exterior to meet the restrictions in the platted indentures. Construction began as soon as the subdivision streets were built out in 1924 and by 1940 only a few lots of the 209 lots remained open. A few of the original homes have been replaced by newer homes.
(1). A detailed history written by resident Eric Jeger in the 1960s is available via this link History by Eric Jager (~1960’s)
If you are interested in viewing early photographs or reading more about the history of Claverach and the surrounding area, you may find that information in the book entitled “From New Madrid to Claverach, how an earthquake spawned a St. Louis Suburb” by James W. Sherby, published 2009, Virginia Publishing Co., St. Louis, Missouri, available in the St. Louis County Library, local bookstores and from the author (who is a resident of Claverach Park).