Construction underway on new library, Grant’s View, at Gravois and Musick

Beckwith remains chairman of Library Board of Trustees

By Gloria Lloyd

Construction is underway on the new Tesson Ferry Library — which will not only have a new location, but a new name.

The new library will be called Grant’s View, since its glass wall will overlook Grant’s Farm across the street. The location at the intersection of Gravois and Musick roads is set to open in a year, when the current Tesson Ferry Library, which opened in 1958 on Lin Ferry Drive in Green Park near its namesake road, will close.

Although the new library’s neighboring subdivisions are called Grant’s View, the library’s new name has nothing to do with the subdivisions and was inspired only by its view of President Ulysses S. Grant’s historic former home, St. Louis County Library Executive Director Kristen Sorth told the Call.

McBride Berra, a collaboration of developers McBride & Son and J.H. Berra, is currently building two subdivisions under the Grant’s View name on adjacent property to the new library, the Manors at Grant’s View and the Enclave at Grant’s View. The library paid McBride Berra $2.9 million for the 4.2 acres that will house the Grant’s View Branch, property that McBride Berra had acquired a year earlier as part of a 67-acre tract it bought for $6.25 million.

Emails acquired by the Call through a public-records request show that Sorth asked McBride & Son CEO John Eilermann Jr. Aug. 7 if the library could name the branch Grant’s View, and Eilermann gave her permission, also offering the library use of McBride’s Grant’s View logo.

“We would be proud to share the name,” Eilermann wrote.

The Library Board of Trustees voted unanimously Aug. 18 to approve Sorth’s suggestion that the library name the new branch Grant’s View. Library officials had been using the placeholder name South County Regional Branch instead of Tesson Ferry, but Sorth told the Call that name was too long to serve as the library’s permanent moniker.

“Did we consider other names?” board member Stephen Sachs asked. “I like this one, by the way.”

“We like this one, too,” Sorth replied. “We talked about other names, but it just seemed like this one fit.”

At the same meeting, board members also unanimously re-elected themselves to the same positions they have held for the past few years. Board President Lynn Beckwith of Florissant, Vice President Edith Cunnane of Creve Coeur, and Secretary Chingling Tai of Creve Coeur were all re-elected, with additional votes for each by the other two board members, Elena Garcia Kenyon of Hazelwood and Sachs of Ladue. All five members were appointed by County Executive Charlie Dooley.

When the library finalized the property purchase in February, documents related to the new property became public, including the list of closer sites to Tesson Ferry that the library looked at buying — new information that spurred local officials to hold meetings against the library and encourage hundreds of residents to email Dooley to urge him to step in to save the Tesson Ferry Library, or build a new library at its same location. In a review of the move, Dooley concluded that local residents who opposed the move were misinformed.

Although the library’s $2.9 million purchase price was affirmed through a real-estate appraisal conducted by appraiser J. Lawrence von Trapp months after the library agreed to buy the property, some residents who object to the library’s new location have also objected to the purchase price, believing that the library overpaid for the property.

Commissioning the real-estate assessment after a land purchase violates the library’s own real-estate purchasing policy, which mandates that an appraisal be conducted before the land is purchased.

“I can slowly drive down Gravois Road and steal a glance if I want to see a buffalo. I can ride the choo-choo train at Grant’s Farm if I want to see the buffalo,” Green Park Ward 1 Alderman Carol Hamilton told the County Council. “I guess at the end of the day, you can say that everyone that voted for Proposition L (that funded the library) got buffaloed.”

Since the Grant’s View Branch is the keystone first construction of the library’s $108 million, 10-year facilities Proposition L master plan meant to replace aging facilities and infrastructure after a long drought with no major replacement of branches in the library system, the library has not named any new branches since the late 1990s, Sorth said.

The library does have an official naming policy, but it primarily relates to how to name a branch after a person who made a major donation to pay for it, rather than naming a new library from scratch. It often names libraries after regional features, such as Tesson Ferry and Cliff Cave.