Thursday, June 27, 2013

Benton Park in St. Louis, Mo

Benton Park, St. Louis and Why It Is One of the Best Loved Neighborhoods

Not to be confused with Benton Place, the affluent private street in Lafayette Square where some of the most notable St. Louis families [once] lived, Benton Park is a posh neighborhood in eastern St. Louis, named after the first U.S. Senator who represented Missouri, Thomas Hart Benton. Its boundaries are Cherokee Street to its south, Gravois Avenue on the north, I-55 to the east, and Jefferson Avenue is on the west.

Historically, Benton Park was a mecca for breweries thanks to the system of caves under the neighborhood that beer-makers use for “lagering”, a style of German beer making that requires the ale to be stored in a dark, cool place. Lemp Brewery is the most famous of the breweries in Benton Park; established in 1840, the brewery compound consisted of 27 buildings on almost 14 acres of land. It was founded and built by Johann Adam Lemp who migrated to the U.S. from Germany in 1836 when he moved to the St. Louis area to open a mercantile store, until he realized that his lager was selling better than anything else in his store. During prohibition, Lemp Brewery shut down and in 1920, the factory was sold to other beer makers and closed its doors. The building still stands in the neighborhood today in homage to the community’s history.

Named after Thomas Hart Benton—a celebrated Missouri senator of the mid-1800s—Benton Park owes its beautiful architecture to the influx of German immigrants who came for the caves and the lager-making. Many of the old homes and buildings left over from this era showcase St. Louis’s best ornamental detailing and styles of the Romanesque, Queen Anne, and Classic Revival. The 1970s brought rehabilitation and revitalization to the neighborhood, as with other nearby communities like Soulard, that saw a more urban lifestyle and setting than more industrialized areas. The 80s and 90s saw better housing units built and more urban renewal, and today Benton Park still retains its past but is updated for the large population of artists who call the neighborhood home.

Benton Park has many wonderful activities, events, and other tourist attractions to take advantage of when visiting the neighborhood. The Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion is a Greek Revival mansion that was built in 1848 and one of the last glimpses into the rich past of the historic neighborhood’s architecture legacy. It offers tours (closed every January) and provides a window into the past of two French families who lived in Benton Park when the city was still young.

Cherokee Antique Row is another of Benton Park’s attractions; it’s a beautiful tree-lined street with more than 40 antique dealers selling everything from art to quilts to pottery, all of it antique. Just minutes from downtown Benton Park, this street is a huge draw for tourists, especially on the weekends.

Another of Benton Park’s stunning attractions is Falstaff Brew House, located at Gravois and Highway 55, and is listed on the National Historic Register and another example of St. Louis’s architecture from a by-gone era. Other attractions and events include the Murder Mystery Dinner Theater at the famous (and reportedly haunted) Lemp Mansion, the abandoned Lemp Brewery, a farmer’s market in summer, Gus’s Pretzels which has been open since 1920, and several parks to enjoy (Benton, Cherokee, Carnegie, and Fremont).

The Helderle Team 2013 © All Rights Reserved

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