Sometimes the research for a historical essay seems linear enough, but then heads off at unanticipated angles. I set about simply finding some background on the little-remembered first superintendent of Lafayette Park, and learned that real lives seldom follow a linear narrative.
Edward C. Krausnick (1820 – 1889) was born in what is now Germany. He was the son of an identically named court landscaper for the gardens of Sanssouci, Frederick the Great’s summer home near Potsdam.
That Edward the younger inherited a green thumb is undeniable. In the Annual Report of the St. Louis Agricultural and Mechanical Association for 1858, he was awarded 1st prizes for round hand bouquets, hardy perennial flowers, greenhouse plants both in and out of bloom, and six of the seven blue ribbons for potted ornamental plants.
In late 1851, St Louis passed an ordinance dedicating Lafayette Square as its first city park. In 1856, land surrounding the park first went on sale to the public. New property owners and to a lesser degree the city began funding development of the park grounds. To coordinate things, a superintendent was needed. He would be granted a lease on the park and allowed to build a cottage for himself, so that he “could police the place at all hours and collect a small admission fee.” (1)
A superintendent’s cottage is plainly visible on the 1875 Compton and Dry map of St Louis. It sat approximately where the playground area is today.
The City Directory for 1854 listed Krausnick as proprietor of a seed store at 76 Market Street. Edward was named first city park commissioner by the mayor in 1856. By 1859, he was comfortably ensconced in Lafayette Park, and served as its first park superintendent until 1864, when another German native, Maximilian Kern (1825-1916) was hired to replace him. I learned a little of what may have caused the shuffle at the top from the Post-Dispatch of April 28, 1878. It reads;
“During the years 1859, 1860, 1861 and 1863 the park was used as a beer garden by two men named Krauswick (sp) and Good. The grounds were first leased by Krauswick, then by Good, and then by Krauswick again.” According to Ernst Kargau, writing in 1893, Krausnick was allowed by the citizens committee to sell refreshments from a glass-covered building that had been used as a greenhouse, and which stood in the middle of the park. This was known as the Winter Garden. “In the winters of 1859-60 and 1860-61, Sunday afternoon concerts were given by Waldauer and also by Vogel’s band.” (2)
From the Missouri Daily Republican Jan. 1, 1859:
Saturday, Jan 1, 1859
Sunday, Jan 2nd, 1859
NEW WINTER GARDEN LAFAYETTE PARK
Orchestra of Wood’s Theater, with Mr. Vogel, Leader. All the best of refreshments on hand except distilled liquors and beer. Omnibuses will leave the corner of Fourth & Market after two o’clock for the Park. Admission 15 cents.
– EDWARD C. KRAUSNICK, Supt.
Things were not smooth between the Lafayette Park trustees and Krausnick. In March of 1860, The Daily Missouri Republican listed a US Marshal’s sale of Krausnick’s lease and personal goods to satisfy a promissory note of not more than $10,000. Two years later, a trustee sale was posted in the same paper, offering at auction the two acres leased to Krausnick, the 100’x40’ winter garden, two 100’x14’ greenhouses, 20,000 ornamental house plants, one large canvas tent 80’x140’, 140 tables, 160 benches, 2 brown horses, a steam boiler with steam power pumps, one complete gas works and all other properties. ( This, to satisfy unpaid notes to the park trustees. He somehow managed to get himself straightened out on these counts, as he was still on site when finally removed in 1864.
Troubles by this time had spread into the conduct of park visitors. Again from the Post-Dispatch in 1878, “The park became a rendezvous for improper characters and the city was finally forced to cancel the agreement with Krauswick on the pretext that he was selling liquors when it was stipulated he was to sell beer only.” Three years later, it was deemed necessary to install a police station in the Park. It was expanded in 1870, and the building serves as our Park House today.
Maximilian Kern, in his new role as park superintendent, promptly proceeded to lay out the graded roadways, graceful topography, bridge, grottos and original bandstand of Lafayette Park. Studding the grounds were new plantings of trees and plants among formations of rock brought in from southern Missouri. He remained superintendent until 1869, moving on to create the layouts of Forest Park, Westmoreland and Portland Places, and Compton Heights Reservoir for good measure.
On a later, but somewhat parallel track, Krausnick became perhaps the Maximillian Kern of Benton Park. That 19 acre tract had formerly served as the St Louis Commons cemetery from 1842-1865.
As depicted in the records of the time, Edward’s transitions were not easy. In 1871, he lost a position as clerk and treasurer for a township in St Louis County. The township wrote that Krausnick was “grossly negligent in the mode of his disbursements. His neglect of duty has cost the public more than his commissions amount to.” (4) He settled the financial claims against him for $3806.96.
Searching city directories reveals that the Krausnick family became fairly nomadic, perhaps indicating further issues. In 1876, he was listed as a civil engineer at 1611 Rosati, and as “park keeper” in 1879. By 1880, with occupation given as “police”, he resided at 1309 Linn, and in 1885 at 1319 St Ange. In 1888, Edward, again listed as “engineer”, lived at 1108 Dillon.
Beginning in 1878, Krausnick was contracted by the city to re-contour and add many new trees and plants to Benton Park. Commissioner Eugene Weigel proclaimed in 1881 that “in general design and in the beauty and composition of its varied flowerbeds, it stands unsurpassed even by its aristocratic rival, Lafayette Park.” (5) In the 1883 Mayors Message to the Municipal Assembly, John Krum states; “under the efficient supervision of Edward C. Krausnick, it has become a perfect gem, and is now visited by people from all parts of the city”.(6)
What seems plain enough is that Krausnick and Kern were two talented gentlemen. They traveled in much the same local horticultural circles, and yet I can find no specific intersection where they might have corresponded or even conversed. Kern ended up well known, and even lionized in Lafayette Square, with the park boathouse renamed the Kern Pavilion in his honor. Krausnick is lesser known until you hit Arsenal Street and see his landscaping legacy before you. Perhaps his checkered past cost him more historical merit.
Can’t tell you much more about Edward C. Krausnick. He was married to Pauline (Koehler) Krausnick and they raised seven children. Not bad for a guy who once lived in a cottage in the park! Edward passed on in 1889.
Pauline stayed in the area, and died in her home on Longfellow a decade after Edward. Their
son Edward C. Krausnick (at least the third), became president of the Tennessee Brewing Company, overlooking the Mississippi River from Memphis. He was the great-grandson of Casper Kohler, the father of Pauline, and founder of the brewery. In 1903 the brewery was turning out 250,000 barrels. It stayed in operation until 1954, and was the home of Goldcrest 51 beer – very popular in the South. Perhaps Edward III was fortunate to have a second family legacy to claim. German Americans seem to have performed park management well sometimes, and beer brewing well remarkably often.
Thanks to research sources, including:
(1) Lafayette Square by John Albury Bryan 2nd Edition; Landmarks Association; 1969.
(2) St Louis Post-Dispatch; April 28, 1878
(3) Daily Missouri Republican; March 5, 1860, April 16, 1862, April 18,1862
(4) Missouri Republican; April 27, 1871
(5) NextStL; Groth Guide To Benton Park; Groth, Mark; January 21, 2011. https://nextstl.com/2011/01/benton-park/
(6) Mayor’s Message To The Municipal Assembly; City of St Louis; Ungar And Co; 1883
Report Of The Board Of Improvement Of Lafayette Park St Louis; St Louis Public Library; 1874
The Valley Farmer, Volume 11; Colman and Byram; 1859
Encyclopedia Of The History Of St Louis; Volume 3; Hyde and Conard
Annual Report Of St Louis Agricultural And Mechanical Association; 1858
St Louis City Directories, and Gould City Directories; MO Department Of State Digital Heritage; http://cdm.sos.mo.gov/cdm/