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Old Parks College, Cahokia, Illinois

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Update: The property is now owned by the City of Cahokia, Illinois, not Saint Louis University.

A reader sent me some fascinating shots of the now-abandoned Parks College in Cahokia. All photos courtesy of www.neweyedea.com. Thanks again for providing an example of relatively new ruins.

Update: A reader provided additional photographs of Parks College in March of 2018.

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58 Comments

  1. The old campus was owned by St. Louis University who donated it to the village of Cahokia when they merged campuses in 1996

  2. My father worked for Parks until the closing of the college in ’96. I had so many good memories of going on campus to visit him for lunch when I was little. I lived in Cahokia until 2007 and SLU had tried to sell if for about 10 years before handing it over to the village. It really makes me sad to see it like this. I’ve wanted to go over and take pics for a while, but was worried about how often the city watches the property.

    • When we took pictures there was a cop sitting in the parking lot. There are no ‘no trespassing’ signs but he asked us not to go inside for safety reasons. We walked around for awhile then he came back to find us and offered to take us in one building (in the pictures) after asking if we were media and what the pictures were for.

      The nearby fitness center reports parked cars to the police…

      One building has been bought and converted to a grill or pizza parlor or something. You could probably park there.

      Because the buildings are stripped of valuables the police said they usually only find former students walking around.

      If you do walk around the outside of the buildings just keep an eye out for poison oak and some very large spiders. Ick.

    • MAY 2017

      The Village is currently in process of restoring the Complex…to its original Historical Aviation value . The ground were originally not just a school… it served as a maint. Depot for most of the famous flers of the 20’s…30’s & 40’s

      The Village is looking to change the complex ito a series of Aviation & military museums… Along with creating a vocational train Facilty…serving adults & High school students…

      IF you believe you would be interested in becoming involved in this project? Then please contact my office… Deputy Clerk Debbie Duncan 618-337-9500

  3. Cool photos. For what it’s worth, Parks still does flight and maintenance training in Cahokia and those students have to commute across the river. That said, the new facility in Midtown is much nicer, although it is being outgrown despite being about twenty years old. (Odd note: McDonnell Douglas Hall where Parks College is currently housed has two separated basements. Supposedly it straddles a large sewer line.)

          • Holy mackerel, Gerry, I never expected anyone to actually reply to my comment, so I didn’t go back and look until just now. Are they still having St Pat’s?

          • Sold the 66 van to a co-worker in 74 and bought a brand new 74 Dodge van (green as well). Oddly enough, when I retired that one in 88, for some strange reason, I decided to keep it and I put it in storage. Now that I’m semi-retired, I’ve started restoring it in my spare time. I expect to have it running in a couple of weeks, though the body work (rust) won’t be done this year.

  4. As a student, I worked at the library. Seeing the door to that building was a real flashback. The dorms have been overtaken by the Ivy. And I can’t believe stooges is still there.

  5. I graduated from here in 1975. Had not seen the place again until 2006 when I stopped on a drive to Colorado from Pennsylvania. I had a lot of good memories of my four years here. I lived in both Mercury Hall and later in Halloran Hall. I still remember Prof Harold Wood and his always mentioning how he was personally acquainted with Grover Loening. I spent many idle hours in the library in the evenings. We even had a radio station in the building just across from Mercury Hall. It had an FCC license and call letters: WPKS. I ran the board many evenings, dragging my record collection over to play over the air to fellow students who might be listening.

    It is so sad to see what the place is like now. All we have left of fellow students and teachers and the mess hall and the library and the chapel are the memories now. Eventually what is left will all be gone, much like all of life I guess.

    • We once had one of or guys bust into the studio, all excited, saying’ “I was picking it (the station) up on the other side of Dupo!!!!”
      It IS heartbreaking to see the place now. I sneak up there once in a while, and last visit, looks like there’s been a fire in Mercury Hall, with the tin shed next to south hanger burned to ground.
      Got photos from ’07 to now, but don’t know how to post them here.

  6. I graduated in 1971 with a BS in aerospace Engineering. Proud to say that as a result of the education I received at Parks College I have had a very successful career in engineering (now retired). In 2004 I was in St. Louis and visited the Cahokia campus. The school grounds appeared run down, smaller than I remembered, but brought back memories. The local police watched as I walked around the school. I can’t believe it’s been so long. I think about the old school now and then…great memories!!!

    • Does anyone know who I could contact about getting permission to use the property for a quick photoshoot? I’m from out of state looking for a unique place for a model shoot this coming April around St. Louis.

  7. My father graduated from Parks in the early 50’s. Went on to be a naval aviator and was killed flying a F4 Navy fighter jet in ’64. Would appreciate knowing where I could access some pictures of the campus back during his time at school so I can show my aging mother. I have vague recollections of the campus from my early childhood. I seem to remember tall trees and low brick buildings. Thanks.

  8. I remember Mr Carter (…you cannot win …but you might come even…) and
    Mr Dowland (?)…. also Joe Rezetco …. he taught me how to fly….great memories from 1980’s….. I got my BS in Aircraft maintenance…..

  9. This was my first home when I first came to America in 1982. Breaks my heart to see the buildings abandoned. Happened on this site by happenstance. Thanks for taking time to share the photos and your thoughts.

    • Hello… We…village… are currently involved in restoring the grounds & buildings.

      With museums…organizations…such as Homeless Veterans

  10. My Mother learned to fly on a J-2 (or J-3) Cub at Parks in the late ’30s.
    It took her years to save for the lessons, having been infatuated with flying after meeting Amelia Earhart on one of the latter’s early visits to St. Louis.
    Then I came along and then the War – and those events put paid to “Mom In The Air.”

    • Do you have any photos from her times at Parks? There is currently an effort in bring the grounds back to life….museums..diner…special organizations such as quarters for homeless veterans. The History is extremely important

      • Sorry – no photos at all. Props to those involved in the project!

  11. To all CAHOKIA PARKS AIR COLLEGE ALUM….. you might want to call the village seat…. Deputy Clerk Debbie Duncan..618-337-9500. There is a great push to put the campus back to use. Restore the historical landmark. Application has been submitted to put the grounds & buildings on the National registry.
    a museum may be moving into the Kitty Hawk.
    Home for the Homeless Veterans…

    IF you have that historical connection…and interested in knowing more..or would offer support (God knows they need a lot of it)…please call…

  12. Wow, just toured the old campus on 8/20 and was heart-sick to see it in such ruins. Unfortunately, according to Debbie Duncan on 8/23, there is no longer a movement to restore the place. The one bright spot is a restaurant, Stingers, that is utilizing one of the buildings, and according to her, because Stinger’s bought the parcel the building was on, the would-be developer dropped the plans for the restoration. As a 1982 grad from the Aviation Science PPO program, it would have been awesome to see it restored and made a historic site as it should be. Another interesting note is that Hangar 2 at the downtown airport (formerly Bi-State Parks) where we flew from when I was in flight training, now houses the Greater St.Louis Air & Space Museum. They have an AWESOME collection, and our docent Tom Ahillen, was excellent showing us all the very interesting artifacts. They are, however, looking at moving to another facility on the airport due to the deteriorating condition of the building. It would be a shame to see that building go as it was around during the time of Lindberg, and rumor has it he was in that building, if nothing else than to use the restroom (which is still 1920’s original) during a time that he was running airmail. I am currently the director of the Piper Memorial Airport in Lock Haven, PA and a volunteer/member of the Piper Aviation Museum which was established to preserve the history of Piper Aircraft when it was headquartered here from 1937-1984. It is important to support the preservation of our Aviation history, and I certainly hope someone will take a hard look at trying to do something with the old Parks campus and Hangar 2 building at the airport.

  13. Can any former Parks students tell me what “Cahokia #13” might have referred back in the late 40s or very early 50s? My dad attended Parks (and I’m glad he died without knowing the current condition of his alma mater), and among his belongings (he was quite the pack rat) is an old slide rule labeled with his name followed by “Cahokia #13”. I had figured Cahokia to be a residence hall, but since the town is Cahokia, now I’m not sure so sure…. Unless there was only one residence hall on the Cahokia campus??? Thanks in advance….

    • There were several residence halls at Parks, Cahokia Hall was one of them. Cahokia #13 probably referred to Room 13 in Cahokia Hall. I lived in Mercury Hall but prior to that, for about a week, I lived in Aviation Hall, until I could move to the air conditioned Mercury Hall (Sept 1962).

  14. I attended Parks in 1958/59 and had to leave for personal reasons I lived in the basement that was called ” blood alley”. It was supposedly named because British pilots who trained there during WW2 knew their lifetime was short. Had some great friends , but lost track of them.

    • When I attended Parks (62 – 65), the term Blood Alley was still slightly in use and it was the lower level of Parks Hall but it referred to drunken type shenanigans that resulted in a few physical type of accidents usually caused by members of one of the fraternities that largely occupied the dorm. (Don’t remember the name of the frat.)

      • Hi Rich! We were at Parks at the same time (’62-’66 , took me a bit longer to graduate!?!? 🙂 When I arrived, I was assigned, along with 3 others, to a room on the 3rd floor of Parks Hall. Lived there for the first year and a half, when there was a small fire in the building. They re-opened South Hall, which had been unused for some time,and moved several of us there while while the fire damage was being repaired.
        When I was living in Parks Hall, the term “Blood Alley” was very much in use, and the same debate over the origin of the name was going on as well.
        Blood Alley was not so much a ‘basement’, but the first level of the 3 story building, the floor of which was about 3 or 4 feet below ground level.
        At one end of Blood Alley was the mail room, and tt the other was Father Higgins’ (Higgie), the resident Jesuit Priest, office and residence…. Yes, very good memories!

    • I lived in ‘Blood Alley’ in 1957/58, (6 semesters} and moved over to Aviation Hall in 1959. My room was right next to the mail room and Carl Forsberg was my only room mate all of the that time. We always associated the term with the fact that Parks always filled those rooms with the incoming freshman and in those days the attrition rate for freshman was significant, in fact the first two students I met when I arrived flunked out shortly afterwards!

  15. I worked in the library during the late 80’s where I laminated hundreds of old photos from the 20’s through the 70’s. I hope they are still preserved somewhere. Dr. Monfort and Dr. Manor made quite an impression as well. Great times shared with Dan, Jill, Mick, Sam, Guy, Steve, and of course Slick.

  16. Is there somewhere or does anyone have a map of the campus when it was active, I would love to have a copy. A group I’m with is going to be doing a photoshoot there, with the city permission of course. And I though a campus map would be useful, heck if you have layouts of the building too that would be helpful. Thanks in advance.

  17. Hi, I entered my first year at Parks College back in September, 1980. It was a magical time and a huge part of my teenage life, so many great memories. I enrolled in their PPO program, my flight instructors name was Marty Culbertson, he was the funniest guy and knew everything about flying. I remember soloing on October 7th, of that year. I did one touch and go and then the full stop to pick-up my flight instructor who was all smiles, I just remember my back being soaking wet and feeling on top of the world, what a day to remember. The whole time I was at Parks I resided in Halloran Hall (D-block), this was the best place to stay since every Wednesday was hump night in this dormitory which meant the beer was flowing and the modern 80’s rock music was playing. Long story short, after becoming a pilot at Parks I went on to fly a twin engine corporate jet, Cessna’s Citation. This plane had a little more zip than the Cessna 152’s we were trained in over at Bi-State Parks airport. In conclusion, SLU definitely could have maintained their property and when the city of Cahokia gained control they should have picked up the ball. It’s up to the state of Illinois now, lets keep our fingers crossed and hope they may provide some badly needed restoration funding for this worthy historical landmark.

  18. Fascinating history posted here on Parks College. I read through these posts to see if I could find anything on a deHavilland Beaver owned by Parks College from 1973 to I believe, 1995 when they closed. Through my quick research here, it looks like Parks had at least two Beavers. A photo of one (N211PC) is on the Wikipedia site for Parks College. The other would have been N90508 (now N8134G) which I own and keep in Gig Harbor, WA. This aircraft spent over 20 years flying in Alaska after it left Parks until I purchased it in November of 2016. I am looking for any photos or stories of my airplane (N90508) while it was owned by Parks College for those 22 years. Your help will be greatly appreciated. You can email me directly at jay@perrycook.com. One “small world” fact that I just discovered in this research this morning is that N211PC (now N437CH) happens to be the airplane that I share a hangar with in Gig Harbor! Maybe these aircraft really do have souls and yearn to be reunited with old friends.

  19. I attended from 1968 to the spring of 1970, Their was a very large athletic field out behind Mercury Hall. I was told that it was a flight training field in WW2. It was later the training ground for the North American Soccer league (NASL) St.Louis Stars. Some of the training apparatus was still there in 68. Across the street was a WWll barracks that was converted into a great gym for basketball and the AFROTC program. We had a protest sit-in in 1969 at STLU admin building when we lost SACS accreditation because we did not have enough research materials in the library. We needed something to do that day.

  20. I graduated from Parks in the Summer of 1965 – an amazing education – I was one of the fortunate few who was a Co-Op Student with McDonnell Aircraft Co. at the time. There were a few of us – Bob Civey, Steve Soltis, Jim Gidulas, Vic James, Leo Carocella, Joe Schwin, and a few others – we were watched over and given various jobs that continued our educations in the real sense. Wow! was I ever lucky. I distinctly remember my first day at Parks and meeting a wonderful woman – Meta Wecker. We had great Professors, George, Andres, Bondie, Ball, Rhodes, Treffiny, and many more. I also remember the great Fathers – Sanderson, Hart, Higgins to name a few. Who was the Professor who taught us Physics (he worked on the Manhattan Project – PhD type named Dr. Dahm???? What wonderful memories – a few years ago, my wife Vicki and I stopped by and saw what is left of our old School!

  21. Graduated from Parks College in 1991 with a bachelors in Aircraft Maintenance Engineering. Heart breaking to see the institution in this sorry state. Miss great teachers – McLean, Guja etc. God knows where they all are today ?

  22. I first entered Aero Engg at Parks in July 1944. It was on the quarter system.
    I lived in Parks Hall. Very hot in the shops learning welding, doping(painting fabric), riveting (taking salt tablets with every trip to the water fountain), etc.
    Classes in aerodynamics, strength of materials, design, etc. Nights studying
    till about 1 a.m., but always with ’40s records playing either 33 or 45 rpm.
    Made window swamp coolers from desk fan and wet shop towels. Often listened to local radio of Cardinals vs Brooklyn Dodgers. Played on Parks
    tennis team. Coming in from practice in April ’45 heard of Roosevelt’s death
    through open dorm window. Left to join the Navy……Back in January ’46 to
    graduate in Sept ’48.(year around classes). Almost NO AE jobs after the war.
    so my Prof Reagan suggested Iowa State to become instructor while getting
    MSAE. Good idea! Oh! I lived in Cahokia Hall the second time around. We had to do a thesis to graduate in AE. Mine was on bonded plywood aircraft struct-
    ures (a la Brit. Mosquito fighter). Lots of library research,writing, typing in the shade (summer 1948) out on the grass with Falstaff or Slippery Richard or Pabst at my side. Still have my original Cornwell tool box and handtools. Also
    still have my original pilot license and A&E licenses from CAB. (now A&P and
    FAA), My E license hands-on test for Inspector was partial teardown of P&W
    R4360 corncob 28 cylinder. Very bloody hands from the many sheetmetal air
    deflectors. So many stories of going to Parks and so many lifelong friends. Not
    many left.
    Thanks for the memories. Jim Rowe
    Parks 1948 AE

  23. Attended Parks from 61 to 64 with an AME degree. Great education and had a wonderful life now retired and recall the best times at Ronnies with the Brothers of Zigma and we still get together every few years for a reunion. Best was it only cost 4,800 dollars for all three years now it is 60k for one year.

  24. My father (David H. McFadden) attended Parks in 1929-1931 (?). A friend who attended at the same time was Vincent Pon. Do you have any record of them?

  25. Bill kohrs AME 1956 attended 1953 1956 best years of my life fingers don’t workanymore Im 88 but still hanging in there anybody from 56?

  26. Reading these comments bring tears of happiness. What a great place. Arrived Sept. 74 graduated May 77. PPO. Still in touch with several. You all know SLU almost shut the aviation program down in 2006 right? Quite a battle but got the Dean and his assistant fired. Was back in 2007 and laughed as a couple wives grabbed stuff from their husband’s rooms in Merc. Think of Harold Wood often. Thank Ben Able often for his weather knowledge imparted. Still tell Bondi’s three high lift devices joke “slots, slats and sluts” joke. You know his daughter, Susan, was the best alumni relations person Parks ever had. NASA connection remains but not as strong as it once was. We have a Parks grad’s airplane hanging in the National Air and Space museum in DC. Go Gerry. Attorneys have taken most of the fun out of what we once enjoyed; The Pub, Patricia Steven’s finest, Barnes’ nurses, cruises on the Admiral formation spins, toilet paper cutting and flower bombing cows. The Ranch, collasials and Hustler wall paper what a history. Last year was my 40th and it passed without a peep. If you are not tied into the alumni association, please give them a chance. We all really need a reunion.

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