Benton Park (park)
Benton Park is a park in the neighborhood of the same name. It is bounded by Jefferson Avenue on the west, Arsonal Street on the north, Illinois Avenue on the East, and Wyoming Street on the south.
During 1836, the City of St. Louis began selling the Common Fields, a large tract of undeveloped pasture land outside the western boundary of the city limits, then at 18th street. Benton Park's site was originally set aside for the City Cemetery at the time of the sale of land. These ten acres were laid out for cemetery purposes in 1842, but only one acre of it was fenced at that time. City Cemetery was heavily utilized for the victims of the 1849 Cholera Epidemic. It ceased to be used as a cemetery in 1865 when the bodies were exhumed and relocated to the quarantine burial grounds on Arsenal Island.
City Park was created by ordinance on June 25th, 1866, with its original area being 17 acres. It was later reduced to 14 1/3 acres by widening of its perimeter streets to its current size. 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 principal attractions such as the artificial lake, a rustic bridge and a greenhouse, 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".
Colonel Hecker Monument
Close to the southern entrance of the park is a granite obelisk monument to the memory of Colonel Friedrich Karl Franz Hecker, who raised a regiment of local German-Americans during the Civil War, serving first under Fremont and later commanding his own brigade in the Union Army. The shaft, designed by architect Ernest C. Janssen, was dedicated in 1882.
The park was later renamed in honor of Thomas Hart Benton, a distinguished Missouri senator from 1821 to 1851.
In its early history it was difficult to maintain a supply of water in this lake because in its initial years, the water tended to leak into the nearby English Cave. This was later corrected by draining the lake and filling its crevices with concrete. Boating on this lake was a popular summer pastime in the late 19th century.
Benton Park Today
In recent years, Benton Park has been completely remodeled and attractively landscaped with the city's neighborhood rehabilitation funds derived from the sale of City property, as part of the Cherokee Pilot Rehabilitation Area. The large playground now has new and modern equipment. An excellent storage and shelter building was erected overlooking the lake.
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