Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Benton Park Neighborhood

Benton Park is a south St. Louis neighborhood bound by Gravois to the north, Cherokee to the south, Jefferson to the west and I-55 to the east:
3,965 Benton Park residents were counted in 2000, a 14% decrease from 1990.  56% of Benton Park is white, 40% black, 3% Hispanic/Latino and 1% Asian.  There were 1,755 housing units, 74% occupied:  split 42%/58% owner/rental.  The 2010 Census count indicated a loss of another 433 residents.  Racial shifts occured where 68% are white, 25% black, 3% Hispanic/Latino and 1% Asian.

The neighborhood website is very thorough and impressive.  Here's a brief snippet on the history:
Benton Park, originally known as City Park, was created by ordinance on June 25th, 1866. The park was later renamed in honor of Thomas Hart Benton, a distinguished Missouri senator from 1821 to 1851. Its initial use was that of the City Cemetery which occupied the site from 1842 to 1865. Covering 14 acres, the park grounds were steadily improved by noted horticulturist Edward F. Krausnick, who landscaped the undulating surfaces using rare trees, shrubs and beds of flowers. Utilizing a greenhouse, rustic footbridge and two ponds, the park was used for botanical instruction as well as traditional community activities. City Parks Commissioner Eugene Weigel noted in 1881 that "in general design and in beauty and composition of its varied flower beds, it stands unsurpassed even by its aristocratic rival, Lafayette Park".
And the full story can be found here.

In many ways, this is St. Louis' other Soulard or LaSalle; but it's much more diverse in housing styles and dining options.  First of all, the neighborhood is quite different north and south of Arsenal.  The south side is bordered by Cherokee, so there are lots of shops and smaller homes along antique row.  This area has plenty of rehab opportunities, but for the most part it is still in tact (original homes existing on most of the streets); whereas, north of Arsenal has some more cozy streets, more expensive homes, more diverse architecture and businesses, but there are a lot of empty lots.  There are many, many opportunities for good infill within Benton Park.
The tree lined streets of Benton Park have a cozy feel, most of the homes are tightly bunched and fit together quite well.
There is no shortage of corner stores both in business and ready for new uses:
There are plenty of cool sights and restaurants in Benton Park, here are some of my favorites:

The Stable (has since closed since time of publishing:
The Venice Cafe:
This next one in the style of R. Crumb, no?
Miller Ham, the best smoked ham I've ever had.  We bought a 25 pounder for Easter this year; it may not look like much from the outside, but I highly recommend this place:
Ernesto's Wine Bar:
 Blues City Deli:
Niche serves some of the best food I've ever had; but since time of publishing, this place closed and headed for the wealthy yet generic suburban city of Clayton, MO:
Yemanja Brasil:
 The Filling Station:
If you haven't been to Gus' Pretzels, go today and get some "ends" or a bratwurst "sandwich".  Why these are not sold at Cardinal games, I'll never know.  These things make the city unique.  You can buy Gus' Pretzels from street vendors on corners all over the city.
Benton Park Cafe:
Frazer's Brown Bag:
 Pointer's Market:

Hodak's, a regional favorite:
Bittersweet Bakery, one of, if not the best bakery in town (saddly closed since originally published):

The old Falstaff Brewery:
 
A handful of beautiful churches can be found as in nearly every neighborhood in the city:


Miscellaneous residential properties that help make Benton Park what it is:


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Antique Row that exists along Cherokee is Benton Park has a coffee shop and several other noteworthy places:


The Berlinger Dairy building:

There is a large building on Salena that contains an indoor skate board park among other things:

The Lemp Mansion:
 
 The Map Room, certainly worth checking out:
 
 
There is a lot of rehabbing action underway in BP, and it's true actions (or actsions) speak louder than words and BP is on the rise:

Benton Park has so much going on, and it's not even done yet.  Check it out, it's one of St. Louis' finest and most unique neighborhoods.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine mentioned going to The Map Room. She thought it was a great place. Very unique. She said that she had a great time. I need to get to Cherokee Street again. I love the shops there.

framiko said...

Great post. We're regulars at Gus' Pretzels. IMHO, the salsiccia pretzel there is one of the best sandwiches in the city. (The salsiccia is made at G&W Sausage, which is off S. Kingshighway.)

Adam said...

beautiful, walkable, historic benton park - my old nabe. map room is a. w. e. s. o. m. e. the park itself one of the loveliest in the city. fond memories of walking the dog there every morning... and cherokee is the city's next big thing (again) in my opinion.

another great profile mark! these should be used to advertise the city.

Rebecca Dohrman said...

My husband and I and our young son are moving into Benton Park in a month. We'll live near Salena and Pestalozzi and I was thrilled to see your take on this neighborhood. We can't wait to try out some of the places you mentioned that we haven't yet been to. Thanks for an interesting post!

Anonymous said...

Benton Park should get as much attention as Soulard does. It has just as many cool places to check out. It has the same tall tree, brick vibe. It has a beautiful park. I never understood why it doesn't have the same regional draw and name recognition as Soulard.

InsomniaCafe said...

Small correction: The first photo you labeled as Lemp Mansion, is actualyl its next door neighbor, the stunning Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion, home to the yummy Cafe DeMenil and one of the best intact historical mansions in the city: http://www.demenil.org/

Linda Gilliam said...

I used to go to Mount Pleasant Elementary from Kindergarten to 4th grade, I went by the old school tonight for the first time in 50 something years, what a memory rush!