The idea to establish a public park system in the City of Saint Charles was conceived on July 2, 1914. This occurred when a group of citizens petitioned the City Council to place a bond referendum before the voters, in the amount of $90,000 to acquire a public park. The land in question was a 42 acre track commonly known as the “Saint Charles County Fair Grounds,” which had been put up for sale. The official name for this property was the “Saint Charles County Driving Park and Fair Association”, so named in 1890 when stock certificates were sold for $10.00 each. From 1875 until that time the land was privately owned and called Mittleberger Park. During these periods the property was used as a track and fairgrounds for the racing of horses, dogs, bicycles and other exhibitions.
It could be said that the park system was born on September 26, 1914, with the passage of the bond issue. The citizen vote was 1,090 for and 16 against thus beginning the publicly owned system of parks. The land was acquired on December 2, 1914 at a cost $78,920. On December 7, 1914, Charles G. Kansteiner – City Clerk, petitioned the City Council to name this property “Blanchette Park”, in honor of Louis Blanchette; the Founder of Les Petite Cotes (City of the Little Hills) later to become City of Saint Charles. His suggestion was endorsed and by motion of the Council, “Blanchette Park” was named.
During its infancy, administration of park development and management of Blanchette Park was one of the direct responsibilities of the City Council. Because of the progressive nature of Saint Charles numerous problems were encountered throughout the City. To resolve those associated with the park, the City Council decided that an “Administrative” Park Board should be established to manage the park system, via an ordinance modeled on State Statue language.
On October 9, 1922 the first Park Board was appointed. The ordinance mandated the organization and powers of this Board of Directors. It indicated that nine members be appointed by the Mayor and that they should adopt such by-laws, and rules & regulations as necessary to govern the Saint Charles Parks consistent with provisions of the ordinance. The Board had per statute exclusive control of all money(s) collected for the parks and were charged with the complete responsibility to manage the park system. On October 16, 1922 such a Board convened, subsequent to their appointment by Mayor Frank May. The first Park Board consisted of the following members: Henry Thoelke – President, R. M. Thompson – Secretary, Elmer Bruns, George Nichel, Joe Ehrhard, Sam Redden, William Hafer, Phil Rupp, and William Sparrenbury. These individuals contributed much in the time and talent during the infancy of the City of Saint Charles Park System.
During the ensuing early years, Blanchette park development continued with many facilities being updated or added. These included improvements to the grandstand and roadways, a new playground area, tennis courts, horseshoe courts and a new band stand to name a few.
In August of 1923 the idea for a public swimming hole was conceived. Subsequently, a feasibility investigation was pursued looking into the costs, location and potential funding sources. Such a pool didn’t become a reality until 1937.
Stepping back a few years it seems appropriate to elaborate on the history of the Saint Charles County War Memorial. On May 6, 1919, the State of Missouri General Assembly enacted a law that would provide a $1,000 grant to any county who added $250 toward construction of a World War I Memorial for veterans who perished during that conflict.
On Labor Day, 1919 the Saint Charles – Loyal Order of Moose sponsored a picnic in Blanchette Park which netted $2,006.43. These funds plus a $700 contribution from the American Legion Post 312 and the $1,000 grant (plus accumulated interest), coupled with $17,500 from the park fund allowed for the construction of Memorial Hall. On June 22, 1929, this facility was dedicated with a bronze tablet bearing the name of those from Saint Charles County who lost their lives during the “War To End All Wars”.
Along with all these improvements came the citizens who have used the facilities since the humble beginnings of the Saint Charles Public Park System. During these early years Blanchette Park was used for everything from tourist camping, Municipal Band performances and routine outdoor dances on the American Legion dance floor, to tennis tournaments, fairs, church & school picnics, with a multitude of other recreational activities in between. Because of this usage, it was and is quite clear that the decision to purchase the old county fair grounds for a public park was well made!