Benton Park is 1 of 108 parks, making up 14.3 acres of the total 2,956 acres of St. Louis park land. Founded in 1866, this is one of our nicest of the mid-sized parks. The park is located between Arsenal, Jefferson, Illinois and Wyoming Streets in the Benton Park Neighborhood:
From the city website:
Benton Park's site was originally set aside for a City cemetery at the time of the sale of land in the old St. Louis Commons in 1836. Benton Park was created by City Ordinance in 1866 after the founding of Bellefontaine and Calvary Cemeteries in North St. Louis made possible this transformation into a well shaded and popular pleasure area.
One of the principal attractions is an artificial lake and rustic bridge. In its early history it was difficult to maintain a supply of water in this lake because of its proximity to "English Cave". The lake was drained and all crevasses which had occasioned leakage were filled with concrete.
In recent years, Benton Park has been completely remodeled and landscaped with the City's neighborhood rehabilitation funds derived from the sale of City property, as part of the Cherokee Pilot Rehabilitation Area.
If you don't know, Benton Park is one of those south city neighborhoods that has seen amazing grassroots rehabs throughout the neighborhood. This trend continues even in these slow markets, as nearly all the homes on the north side of the park are "done"; there was rehab work on one of the remaining board ups on my visit today.
But, other than that one, most are lovingly rehabbed and occupied along Arsenal.
A fountain and small ponds (one stocked with fish) with 2 bridges are the focal point of the park. This reminds me of a mini-Lafayette Park.
This is one of those parks that has a Victorian feel and it complements the neighborhood very well. You can channel the history, imagining what it must have been like before air conditioning when people spent time outside in masse to escape the heat and the parks were a place of solace for many.
Local legend has it that there is access to the vast cave system in this park. I didn't see it, but that's not to say there's no truth to this lore.
Toward the south side of the park, there is a monument to
Here's the story on Hecker:
Hecker, Frederich - A German Revolutionist who came to St. Louis in the forties. Hecker commanded the German, 24th Illinois Infantry ("Hecker Regiment") and the 82nd Illinois Infantry. Hecker resided near Belleville, Illinois but when the war started he joined as a private in a St. Louis Union regiment. At the Battle of Chancellorsville, he severely wounded while carrying the battle flag during a charge on a Confederate position. He was also a leader in the failed German Revolution before coming to America.
The memorial is a shaft of gray stone. On two sides are circular medallions with the dates 1848 (German Revolution) in one, and 1861 (Civil War) in the other. There is a third medallion with a bronze portrait of Hecker, in high relief, set in on the North side. The sculptor was Charles Stubenraugh. On the opposite side is a bronze wreath of oak leaves. On four sides of the base of the shaft, above the medallions, are four torches carved in full relief in the stone, and above these are four stars in high relief. Ernest C. Janssen was the Architect, and the memorial was erected in 1882 before a crowd of 15,000. (source)
You can fish, play tennis or horseshoes.
You can take the kids to the playground.
There appears to be a small project going on near the playground, if anyone knows what this is, send me a note and I'll update this story.
You can take a leisurely stroll along the well maintained walking paths or walk the dogs in the many vast grassy areas.
There is not much I'd change about this park, honestly. It is perfectly designed. Maybe some replacements for the dilapidated benches, of which there are only a couple.
Maybe some continued plantings and small gardens to complement the ones that already exist.
It appears there are people in the neighborhood taking care of Benton Park. In many cases, new playground equipment and upgrades are the result of someone or a dedicated group of people advocating for upgrades in the park. I wouldn't be surprised if that is the case here in Benton Park.
There are new trees planted all over and there are landscaped areas around the perimeter.
This park is laid out so nicely and you can tell there are good stewards in the area taking care of the park and looking out for its future.
Benton Park is one of the gems of our park system.