Rice Park is one of the oldest, if not the oldest park in St. Paul, and I have long thought of Rice Park as the heart of St. Paul. Before it was made into a public square in 1849 it was used as an open space to dry laundry and graze animals. Shade trees were planted in 1860, and it got a fountain and bandstand in the 1870s. I love the story of how a pair of squirrels were given to the park by the chief of police in Memphis, Tennessee!
It has always felt like a European town square to me, with a touch of gentrified elegance. I can easily picture horse drawn carriages circling the park and newly engaged couples sitting on benches in the square, as was reported by the St. Paul Globe in 1903.
It sits high above the Mississippi River flood plain, and over a period of about 100 years important buildings were built surrounding it… the Federal Customs House (now Landmark Center), Central Public Library, St. Paul Hotel, and more recently the Ordway Music Center. These buildings give the park square a permanence, and create a gathering space for both daily events and special celebrations.
Since 1886, it has been one of the centers of the annual Saint Paul Winter Carnival, which takes place this year January 23 – February 2, 2020. The park is turned into an ice sculpture garden during the celebration, and was the site of ice palaces in the early days.
Now Peanuts characters are permanent residents, honoring the the birthplace of their creator, Charles Schulz.
Sharlene Hensrud, RE/MAX Results – firstname.lastname@example.org