Benton Park Neighborhood
The Benton Park neighborhood gets its name from the large city park located there. The neighborhood is located in South St Louis City with Gravois Ave to the north, Cherokee Street to the south, Jefferson Ave to the west and Interstate 55 to the east. Other important streets for the neighborhood are Utah, Arsenal, Pestalozzi, Sidney and Lemp.
The park known as Benton Park, and named after the US Senator, Thomas Benton, was originally 10 acres that had been laid out in 1842 as the City Cemetery. It was heavily used during the Cholera Epidemic of 1849. In 1865, all the bodies where exhumed and moved to Arsenal Island, also called "Quarantine Island." By city ordinance in 1866, the acreage, enlarged to 17 acres, became a city park. It is St. Louis' second oldest park. Amenities that Benton Park provides for the neighborhood are a one acre stocked fishing lake, a picnic pavilion, a playground and two tennis courts. Also within the park is a monument to Friedrich Hecker. Friedrich Hecker was a German lawyer and became an outspoken German revolution leader during the revolt in Germany between 1848-1849. When he came to America in 1849 he was greeted in the New York harbor as a hero. He settled near what is now Belleville Illinois. Later during the Civil War, he joined the US Military and helped Colonel Nathanial Lyon at the Camp Jackson Affair and defended the US Arsenal in St Louis from being seized by the Confederacy. Today in the St. Louis area, Friedrich Hecker is still remembered. The German American Heritage Society of St. Louis gives its "Friedrich Hecker Freedom Award" each year to honor an individual in St. Louis who has worked towards increasing the understanding and cooperation between the United States and Germany.
Three other St. Louis City parks can be found in the Benton Park Neighborhood. One of them is Cherokee Park which features amenities that include almost 9 acres of parkland, the Cherokee Center that has a workout room, indoor swimming pool, gymnasium and more; athletic fields for baseball, softball and soccer, and a playground. Carnegie Park is a smaller park in the neighborhood with 2 acres of parkland and a playground. Fremont Park is the fourth park in the neighborhood and has 2 acres of parkland, a playground and a ball field.
The Benton Park Neighborhood Association plays host to many annual events in the neighborhood. One of those events is the bike race on the closing day of the Gateway Cup Bike Race, the Benton Park Classic Criterium. The Gateway Cup is a bike race that is held in four St. Louis neighborhoods over four days of the Labor Day weekend. Another event is the 5K Run/Walk/Stroll & Kids Fun Run held in May which is then followed by a family friendly festival. Several events happen in the summer from concerts and picnics to a National Night Out Party. The fall brings the Benton Park Art and Harvest Festival with such activities as a VW Bus Show, a Chalk Art Festival, and of course food and music.
The St. Louis Public School District serves the residents of the Benton Park Neighborhood, eventhough the district does not have a school within the neighborhoods boundaries.
The area of Benton Park was platted as early as the 1850's but did not experience much growth until after the Civil War. Small and medium sized residential homes were numerous in the neighborhood. The National Register of Historic Places has designated the neighborhood as the Benton Park Neighborhood Historic District. This District also includes part of the Marine Villa Neighborhood which is north of Broadway. It is also recognized as a Historic District by the City of St. Louis. Several National Register and Historic landmarks can be found in the Benton Park Historic District. The historic Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion is one of them and was built in 1848 by Henri Chatillon as a two room brick farmhouse. Nicolas N. DeMenil purchased it and expanded it in 1861 to its present size. Today, the Mansion is a period museum that holds several special events throughout the year and can also be toured. Another National Register of Historic Places listing is the Schollmeyer Building that is located at the corner of Arsenal Street and Illinois, across the street from the Park. This Queen Ann styled brick commercial building was built in 1889 by Christian Schollmeyer and has three storefronts on the first floor and four apartments on the second and third floors. The building stayed in the Schollmeyer family until the mid 1930's. Although not officially designated, the Lemp Mansion is historic, non-the-less. The Lemp Mansion was built in 1868 and purchased by William J. Lemp, founder of Lemp Brewery, in 1876. The Lemp Mansion was the Lemp family home as well as the brewery offices. Today it features a restaurant and rooms for overnight guests.
The Cherokee-Lemp Historic District runs along Cherokee Street, the southern boundary for the Benton Park Neighborhood, and is filled with fabulous antique shops and restaurants. The Cherokee-Lemp Historic District is located less than 2 miles from the Gateway Arch and covers two urban streets-Cherokee and DeMenil Place-about a mile in total length. Called a "Street Museum", this historic district is home to the Lemp Mansion, the Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion, and Cherokee Street Antique Row