Benton Park


The Benton Park area began to build up soon after the Civil War and by 1875 it is shown to be a semi-urbanized district in the Compton and Dry atlas. At that time the area was notable for the many sink holes and underground caverns which honeycombed the vicinity. By the 1890's most of these had disappeared in the march of progress as the area was graded and filled for construction of dwellings.

In 1875, the area was characterized by small and medium sized single family dwellings similar to those found in the Soulard area. Rowhouses, however, were not as numerous as in the older area. These dwellings were built on solid ground between the sink holes and away from the rough topography near them. Most of the large houses in the area were in the eastern part near the Lemp Brewery.

The best known of these, now known as the Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion, is a beautiful example of Greek Revival architecture. It began as a smaller brick house built by a French fur trader, Henri Chatillon, in the 1840's. In 1856 it was acquired by Doctor Nicholas N. DeMenil, who enlarged it to its present size and added columned porticoes on its east and west sides. Its design was said to have been inspired by the Henri Chouteau mansion, which then stood on Clark Avenue near Twelfth Street. After nearly becoming a victim of highway construction for Inter state 55, the house has been beautifully restored and is now a showplace of South St. Louis.

The 1875 atlas also reveals a Civil War landmark that was still evident at that time. This was the old earthen walled Fort Number Three, which was built in a cruciform shape above the surrounding landscape. It was located to the north of the present intersection of Salena and Lynch Streets and was part of a defense system built by the Union Army around the perimeter of St. Louis.

Image - The Chatillon-DeMenil mansion