Monday, August 29, 2016

Taking a Trip to LOVELY SUNDAY's Real Creve Coeur Lake

by Logan Peaslee, MCT marketing and development assistant

Although mentioned frequently throughout Tennessee Williams' A LOVELY SUNDAY FOR CREVE COEUR and even used as the title, Creve Coeur is never actually seen by audience members; the play's action takes place entirely in the home of its protagonist Dorothea. But the destination’s history, current status, and name itself are too interesting to leave offstage.

Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Creve Coeur Lake, which is the largest natural lake in Missouri (320 acres!), has a history of hosting boating events. In the 1880s, the lake hosted the Mississippi Valley Regatta and the Creve Coeur Regatta. Perhaps most interestingly, the rowing competition for the 1904 Summer Olympics was held at Creve Coeur Lake, with the United States earning five gold medals for rowing that year. By the 1930s, when Williams' play takes place, the lake had become a popular picnic spot for residents of St. Louis. In A LOVELY SUNDAY FOR CREVE COEUR, several of the characters are preparing for one such picnic.

Creve Coeur’s interesting history did not end with the 1904 Summer Olympics. As recently as June of 2015, the park found itself in the news. A rising in the Missouri River pushed Creve Coeur Lake out of its banks and flooded the entire park. With the picnic areas, trails, and parking lots completely under water, there was likely little prospect of a lovely Sunday at Creve Coeur. Fortunately, the park's facilities had been designed to withstand flooding after a similarly large flood two decades prior (the Great Flood of 1993) destroyed the park’s amenities, and the park has since recovered

The name of the lake and park is French, and it means “broken heart” or "heartbreak." Legend has it that a Native American princess fell in love with a French fur trapper when the area was being settled. When her love was not returned, she jumped from a ledge overlooking the lake. From then on, the French settlers referred to the lake as broken heart lake, Creve Coeur Lake. 

Boating is a part of Creve Coeur Lake's history
as well as its present. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
Since A LOVELY SUNDAY FOR CREVE COEUR explores the concept of heartbreak, it is fitting that Tennessee Williams included this particular lake in his play. The meaning of “creve coeur” also raises an evocative question: why a location never even visited in the play is worthy of the title.

In 1945, Creve Coeur Lake and the area surrounding it became a county park. Visiting the park today, you can return to the lake’s boating roots and sail, as well as canoe, kayak, and paddleboard. The park has Missouri’s first and only treetop adventure course. At fifty feet in the air, the course offers zip lines, swings, and an obstacle course. For those who prefer dry land and who are afraid of heights, Creve Coeur Park has gorgeous hiking and biking trails. Aside from the many exciting activities mentioned, the park remains a popular picnic spot. So if you’re ever in the St. Louis area and want to have a LOVELY SUNDAY afternoon, head to Creve Coeur Park!


Barr, Diana. “Missouri Declares State of Emergency Amid Flooding.” St. Louis Business Journal. St. Louis Business Journal, 19 June 2015. Web. 24 Aug. 2016.

“Contests at the Oars.” Archives. The New York Times, n.d. Web. 24 Aug. 2016.

“Creve Coeur.” St. Louis County. St. Louis County Government, n.d. Web. 24 Aug. 2016.

“Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park.” St. Louis Audubon Society. Wild Bird Center of South County, n.d. Web. 24 Aug. 2016.

Dalton, Gloria. “History.” The Heart of Community and Commerce. City of Creve Coeur, n.d. Web. 24 Aug. 2016

“History of Creve Coeur.” St. Louis County. St. Louis County Government, n.d. Web. 24 Aug. 2016.

“Sporting Affairs.” Archives. Chicago Tribune, n.d. Web. 24 Aug. 2016.

Sullivan, James. Spalding’s Official Athletic Almanac for 1905. New York, NY: The American Publishing Company, 1905. 

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