By Suzanne Vanderhoef
If you’ve ever been to Forest Park, chances are you’ve seen the large gazebo-like structure on the island in front of the Muny. Heck, you may have even stopped and posed for a picture in front of it. But did you ever stop to wonder just what it is and why it’s there?
Its official name is “The Nathan Frank Bandstand.”
The bandstand was built in 1876 – the same year Forest Park opened– and was used as a venue for musicians to hold public concerts. It was renovated for the 1904 World’s Fair and remained in use for several years after.
However, the original bandstand was made of wood and in the early part of the 1900s it began to fall into disrepair. It closed in 1911 for repairs but was destroyed not long after by a storm and fire.
The site then stood empty…that is until 1924, when a man by the name of Nathan Frank came along.
“Nathan Frank was a prominent St. Louisan,” explained John O’Gorman, Forest Park Forever, Sr. VP of Development & Community Issues. “He was an attorney. He was a businessman. He was also the first Jewish member of Congress from Missouri. And, he was one of the people who helped bring the World’s Fair to St. Louis in 1904.”
In addition, Nathan Frank was one of the earliest supporters of Forest Park and one of its earliest benefactors, donating $50,000 to build the bandstand we see today.
This new bandstand is slightly less ornate than the original, it is made of marble rather than wood to cut down the chances of future fires.
And, while it is no longer used by musicians, it remains to this day one of the jewels of Forest Park.