An early municipal use in the Benton Park area was that of the City Cemetery which occupied the site which later became Benton Park. A ten acre area was laid out there for cemetery purposes in 1840, but only one acre of it was fenced at that time. The cemetery continued to be used until 1865 when the bodies were removed to the Quarantine burial grounds on Arsenal Island.
Benton Park, originally known as the City Park, was created by ordinance on June 25, 1866. Its original area of 17 acres has been reduced to 14 1/3 acres by widenings of its perimeter streets. The park lake caused a problem in its initial years because the water tended to leak into the nearby English cave. This was later corrected by draining the lake and filling its crevices with concrete. The park was attractively landscaped and featured a rustic bridge.
Near the southern entrance to the park is a monument to Colonel Friedrich K. F. 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.
Benton Park has been extensively relandscaped in recent years with funds from sale of city properties in the nearby Cherokee rehabilitation area. A large playground with modern equipment has been provided and a park shelter building has been erected overlooking the lake. In former years, boating was a popular summer pastime on the lake.
Image - Drawing of Benton Park in the 1870's
Image - Monument to Colonel Friedrich K.F. Hecker Erected in Benton Park in 1882