Rootwad Park is an abandoned site that features the last commissioned works of Bob Cassilly. He was an American sculptor, entrepreneur, and creative director based in St. Louis, Missouri. His abandoned Rootwad Park sits right in the middle of industrial buildings (the Laclede Power Station and Cotton Belt Freight Depot) that once were open and productive in the city.
Bob Cassilly and his wife, Cecelia Davidson, restored over 36 dilapidated Victorian era buildings around St. Louis. They also transformed a largely worthless, abandoned shoe factory right off of Washington Avenue into the now iconic City Museum.
Together, the couple also ran a restaurant in Lafayette Square, but would later sell the business and move to Hawaii, where Cassilly carved wooden figures.
Cassilly reportedly grew tired of Hawaii, returned to his native St. Louis, and earned a master’s degree in art at his alma mater, Fontbonne. There, he met sculptor Gail Soliwoda, whose works include the limestone monument at the Myron and Sonya Glassberg Family Conservation Area. Cassilly divorced Davidson and married Soliwoda.
Cassilly and Soliwoda became business partners. In 1993, they bought a 250,000-square-foot (23,000 m2) complex, which included the International Shoe Building, offices and a 10-story warehouse, for 69 cents per square foot. They renovated the site and opened it in 1997 as the City Museum, helping to spark a renovation boom in downtown St. Louis.
In 2009 determined to find a better use for the roof than a dog park and chicken roost, Bob Cassilly and the crew added fountains and giant slides to reunite visitors with the Big Eli Ferris Wheel, the Bus, and the Praying Mantis. The rooftop is open seasonally and access is free to City Museum season pass holders.
Rootwad Park was Cassilly’s last commissioned work. The small park featured Cassilly’s signature quirky style, the focal point being a large turtle appearing to eat an even large snake. The area is the start of the RiverTrail, which goes all the way up to the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge. The Laclede Power Co. building, which has been vacant since the 1970’s sits directly behind the Rootwad Park. A faded sign on the door suggests that there were plans to renovate it into a welcome center and office building, but not much has happened since 2009.
On September 26, 2011, Cassilly died at Cementland. A police investigation found that he died of injuries after the bulldozer he was driving flipped down a hill. Cassilly’s family contested the results of the investigation and hired an independent doctor to review the evidence. He concluded that Cassilly was beaten to death. The park remains unfinished and closed to this day.
Photos of Rootwad Park
How To Get To The Rootwad Park
To start with the sculpture park, known as Rootwad Park, walk north through the Arch grounds toward the Eads Bridge. Walk up 1st Street, under the bridge, and through Laclede’s Landing. Turn right on Ashley Street and follow the signs to the Mississippi Greenway. From here, you’ll start to see some Rootwad Park art along the tall concrete walls.
Rootwad Park (Park) is located in City of Saint Louis, Missouri, United States. Address of Rootwad Park is 001 O’Fallon St, St. Louis, MO 63102, USA.