Benton Park is a neighborhood located in south St. Louis City towards the western portion of the Soulard area. There is a private street located within Lafayette Square that bears the name Benton Place, but it is unrelated to Benton Park. At the time of the 2010 census, the neighborhood’s population was recorded at nearly 3,532 residents. Benton Park’s total land area encompasses no more than 0.48 square miles. The neighborhood is represented by two Aldermen sitting in the seventh and ninth ward.
The area that makes up current-day Benton Park was intially used as the City Cemetery from the 1840s to the early-1860s. It was shortly after this time that it was decided to build a neighborhood on the nearly 17 acres of land the Cemetery once held. Originally known under the name of City Park, the neighborhood was officially created by ordinance in the summer of 1866. Widening of the streets shrank the overall landscape to roughly 14 acres. As the community began more development and landscaping, the name was eventually changed to Benton Park as a tribute to Thomas Hart Benton, a U.S. Senator best known for being the first to represent the people of Missouri.
Through further expansion, Benton Park began to attract many breweries thanks to such close proximation to many underground caves that were ideal for beer storage. You may think that sounds odd … but at a constant 55 degrees, it was the perfect temperature for beer stowing. One such noteworthy brewery within the was the Lemp Brewery as it had a cave, known as English Cave, that was rumored to have run underneath the entire community up to its headquarters in the southern eastern portion of Benton Park.
Although it’s been defunct since 1920, the Lemp Brewery was one of the most prominent beer brewing companies within all of the Midwest since its establishment in 1840. Although the brewery complex’s main central building is, to this day, abandoned … the complex held 27 buildings all together and now leases them to tenants for various industrial, commercial, office space, studios and even holiday parties.
The Benton Park of today closely resembles the neighborhood that began nearly 200 years ago. Its main residential areas consist of two to four family apartments with a few single homes. It’s very similar to its close neighbor of Soulard, but quite different in housing construction and array of dining options.
Residents of Benton Park are served by the St. Louis Public School District.
Originally set aside for a city cemetery, the neighborhood’s most notable park with the same name – Benton Park – was created by City Ordinance in 1866 after the founding of the Bellefontaine and Calvary Cemeteries in north St. Louis. Since the several decades of opening to the public, the park has been completely remodeled and landscaped.
Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center (The Lemp) is a non-profit performance space, community center, all ages music venue and art gallery. The Lemp’s musical acts tend to lean more into experimental and aggressive side of genres, but also include folk, punk and no wave. Poetry and theater performances are also held at the Center.
One of St. Louis’ most popular local food destinations is Gus’s Pretzels, which has been located in the Benton Park area since 1920. A third-generation family business, they hand-make pretzels in an open kitchen near where they are sold with a variety of dips and condiments.