Krug Park is considered St. Joseph’s oldest park and is located at the northern end of the Parkway in Saint Joseph, Missouri. Krug Park is a large city park with Italian Renaissance structures, extensive landscaping, and exquisite flowerbeds. The park’s 163 acres feature an amphitheater, a lagoon, rose gardens, picnic areas, an Italian castle, scenic walking trails, and various playgrounds. The Park also boasts a North American native animal exhibit consisting of buffalo, deer, and longhorn cattle. Krug Park becomes a holiday park during the holiday season with a festive light show.
The park is located in the National Historic District of the St. Joseph Park and Parkway System. It was also listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. It was developed in 1918 by internationally known landscape architect George Burnap with St. Joseph being one of the first cities in the United States to develop a comprehensive parkway plan. Popular for hiking and biking activities, the completed system connects principal parks and recreation facilities, providing a “green belt” throughout the city.
While other areas were previously used for public use, Krug Park was the first public outing area under the jurisdiction of the board of park commissioners, which received public expenditure. On February 26, 1890, Henry Krug donated 10 acres to the City to be used exclusively as a park, on the conditions “that no intoxicating liquors shall ever be kept, sold or disposed of in or upon said premises…nor shall any gambling or gambling devices be permitted.” In addition, the City was to keep the park in good condition, under police control, and spend annually at least $2,000.00 under the direction of the park commissioners.
Unfortunately, early plans and blueprints of Krug Park are not available, but from hearsay, it appears that the City quickly spent more than the required $2,000.00 per year. Krug Park became the “clearinghouse” for everything that the public seemed to want, as St. Joseph’s only developed public space. Park Superintendent Rudolph G. Rau was especially fond of flower beds and formally designed floral displays, and Krug Park featured many such tremendous floral exhibits. The park housed a zoo, greenhouses, botanical gardens, gazebos, the Robidoux cabin, a fountain, and a lily pond.
Krug Park was officially open to the public on May 6, 1902. The impressive stone gateway was nearing completion at that time. The conservatory, which had been constructed before 1900, was a trendy spot for park visitors during this period. Alligators were kept in the pond in front of the conservatory, and several other exotic animals were housed around the park. Old war cannons were moved to the park, and so was the “Robidoux cabin.” It is said that a reporter in need of a story saw an old cabin being demolished and claimed that it belonged to the town’s founder, Joseph Robidoux. Hence, the cabin was moved to Krug Park and maintained for many years.
The more dramatic history of the park consisted of a grisly murder. In July 1913, 19-year-old Madeline Rowbotham was murdered at the entrance of Krug Park. Her ex-boyfriend, Thomas Harris, slit her throat with a razor. After cutting her throat, the razor broke as he attempted to slash his own throat, and he was restrained. Harris was convicted of murder and served 29 years of a life sentence. He was paroled in 1942 and died in St. Joseph in 1954.