Horton Park

Horton Park - A Place for Community Gathering 

*Written by Hannah Texler with input and review from people from all of the institutions mentioned in the text

Horton Park is a small but mighty St. Paul City Park in the Hamline Midway neighborhood. Located between Englewood and Minnehaha Avenues on the west side of Hamline Avenue, it measures just one square city block, but has long been the focus of recreation, education, and many community projects. The park is much used and loved by neighbors, who use the park for walking, picnicking, playing ball and other games, and learning about trees and plants. Students from the Friends School of Minnesota, just across the street, visit the park daily for recess and frequently for other classes including art, physical education, and science.  Students from several other local schools also frequent the park. In addition, it serves as a walking and outdoor sitting destination for residents of the Hamline Hi-Rise Building just across the street. Current partners include the City of St. Paul Department of Parks & Recreation, the Friends School, the Friends of Horton Park, and many local Hamline-Midway residents who volunteer to help with projects.

Brief descriptions of the major community projects in the park follow:  


The Horton Park Mini-Arboretum was established in 1979 following the death of the trees in the park, which were all elms, from Dutch elm disease. The city decided to replace this monoculture of elms with a variety of trees to beautify the park and to educate residents about tree species that they could plant in their own yards.  City Parks Forestry staff, aided by an ongoing partnership with the University of Minnesota Forest Resources Department, added 60 trees to the park in 2012 as part of an Arbor Day celebration. Every Arbor Day since then they have added trees with help from volunteers from the Friends School and the Friends of Horton Park to expand the species diversity. Many trees are labeled, either with plaques in the ground or above-ground signs.  In addition, there is an online map showing locations of trees in the park with a link to the identification of each tree at 


Native Plant Gardens

There are three native plant gardens in the park that provide habitat and food for pollinators and birds, colorful and diverse plantings for visitors to enjoy, and educational kiosks about native plants and plant communities. The gardens were established by the newly formed Friends of Horton Park in 2000 with the support of the St. Paul Department of Parks and Recreation and a consortium of local organizations, including the Hamline Midway Coalition, the Sustainable Resources Center, the St. Paul Neighborhood Energy Consortium, Hamline University, and the Friends School. The Friends of Horton Park replaced old and neglected gardens near the picnic area with a native shade garden and created a new oak savanna garden that encompassed existing bur oak and pin oak trees in the northeast corner of the park. They later created a small native prairie garden around the park sign in the southeast corner of the park. They obtained funding from the St. Paul Garden Club and the Ramsey Soil and Water Conservation District for interpretive signs.  

Over the years, many volunteers have helped to plant and maintain the gardens, including Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Hamline University and Friends School students and teachers, and many others. The annual Arbor Day hands-on work days in the park have become a focused time for maintenance and teaching about the gardens, with active participation from the Friends School and the St. Paul Department of Parks and Recreation. The Friends School also took an active role in obtaining new plants for the gardens in 2019 and 2020, and they redesigned the shade garden to make it more sustainable.   

Notable pollinators have been documented in the oak savanna garden, including an endangered Rusty Patched Bumble Bee and a Polyphemus Moth, proving the value of even these small bits of native habitat.  

Plans are in the works in 2020 for enhancing education about the native plant gardens. The Friends of Horton Park will be adding identification signs for many of the plants and will be developing online descriptions of the gardens and the plant species as well as links to resources about gardening with native plants.  

For more pictures, gardening events, and information:  https://www.facebook.com/hortonparkgardens/


One of the park’s highlights is the colorful murals that cover the low cement walls in the picnic area of the park.  These were created by Friends School middle-school students as a wonderful alternative to the graffiti that kept appearing on the walls and picnic tables.  They worked under the guidance of teacher Melissa Anderson and local muralist Gustavo Lira.  The students decided to paint the side of the cement wall that forms the edge of the native shade garden to look more natural, with flowers and tree roots and other symbols.  Other walls show a mix of flowers, wildlife, and symbols of local history.  Here is a link for more information about the murals:    https://inspirationlab.org/story/5708