ALTON — Wednesday was Day 3 of Marquette Catholic High School seniors’ week of community service, with an energetic crew rolling bright white paint on the bandstand-gazebo at Riverview Park.
“We are painting the perimeter of the gazebo and the trim on the top,” said Jon Jones, who teaches humanities, composition and freshman English at Marquette. “We’ll be back tomorrow. These are all good kids; they feel happy they are doing something good.”
As the group packed up their paint, rollers, extensions and drop cloths high above the Mississippi River at about 1:15 p.m., senior Adam Hammond, 18, said he was glad to help beautify the city park. Riverview Park is located on top of the bluffs by Riverview Drive and Belleview Avenue, in between Summit and Bluff streets, in the Christian Hill district.
“I feel good, it’s nice,” Hammond said. “You can definitely tell we painted it. It looks a lot nicer.” He also said the park grounds look much better after the students raked up tree branches, twigs and leaves this week.
“It makes us feel good, this is historical,” said senior Danielle Walsh, 17, of the gazebo, making the project even more significant to her. “It’s been fun, and I’m thankful for good weather.” When the students raked Monday, it was chilly and rainy.
The city built the bandstand in 1914, and the first concert was held there on July 10, 1914, despite its lighting and roof not being completed, according to an article in The Alton Evening Telegraph. The article said some 2,000 people came to the inaugural concert, by the White Hussars. It says the boards on the hexagonal-shaped ceiling were designed to serve as a “sounding board to throw the sound waves.” Among pieces on the play list was two compositions by Altonians: “The Battle,” by W.D. Armstrong, and “The Aviator” march by Dr. A. Don Stocker.
The park, which Altonians referred to as the “outdoor bedroom,” was a popular spot for families and others of all income levels at which to sleep during hot summer nights before air conditioning became more common, a 1934 Telegraph article says. Wife of H.M. Schweppe, who was on the city park board, and her mother, Mrs. Crocker, had purchased the land for the park and held it until the city could buy it from them at cost.
Thursday, the young painters will return with bigger, fluffier rollers to make the paint application easier on the gazebo’s rough stucco walls, Jones said. He said the painters got a late start because they had to wait for the Public Works Department to power wash the structure, then they had to let it dry before applying the paint.
The city worker later hosed down the exterior of the small, nearby restroom building in event the crew has time to paint that structure Thursday, as well.
Bucket Brigade, a Pride Inc. program that solicits volunteers to paint one-story homes of people who are unable to do so themselves — and cannot afford to pay to have it done — provided the paint. Bucket Brigade also donated paint for some of the 86 Marquette seniors to coat six homes in Alton and Godfrey this week.
The seniors are logging a week of community service in lieu of taking a mission trip, where they would have worked on projects helping others in another state. Jones said on Friday, they will have a spiritual retreat and talk about their community service, among other topics.
The city has been improving Riverview Park in recent months, including clearing out overgrowth that blocked the view across the river to Missouri; adding an overlook with a round concrete patio and star pattern in the middle; wrought-iron fencing and wall; and walking paths compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
For that work, Alton is using a $404,382 National Scenic Byway Program grant that the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration approved in 2012.
Funding for painting the bandstand-gazebo, where people hold weddings and Alton Municipal Band performs, was withheld at the state level, though. Bob Barnhart, Alton director of public works, said recently the city will try to do as much work as it can in-house for the remainder of planned, Riverview Park improvements.
Former Gov. Pat Quinn had announced in May 2013 that Alton was getting a $148,600 Open Space Land Acquisition and Development grant that the city would use to repair restrooms, do electrical work, and replace the roof and floor at the gazebo-bandstand.
Now that work is the city’s responsibility, with some help from Marquette students.