Rice Park Revitalization
A World Class Park in the Heart of Downtown St. Paul
Rice Park has served as the first city public square, the centerpiece of downtown Saint Paul since its designation in 1849. Today the park is alive, hosting daily visitors, weddings and annual festivals making it a four season destination which has provided more visitors to Rice Park than ever before.
The revitalization of Rice Park was completed in June 2019. The re-designed park complements the focused investment in downtown Saint Paul, providing a welcoming space for all members of the community to enjoy the heart of the city.
After COVID related delays, the “final glow” of the redesign is now in place – an animated light installation by artist Jeff Bartlett titled LightWave.
LightWave is a decorative garland of LED light strands mounted in metal panels, encircling the perimeter of the fountain’s inner and outer concrete bench. The design provides an interplay of light, programmed in a color-changing display, with the intent of a dynamic, engaging feature to draw visitors to the park’s center. The installation also provides a safe, outdoor space by further illuminating the park and the fountain. “The ideas behind LightWave originated decades ago,” said Jeff Bartlett, “as I first imagined using light-art to enliven the Rice Park Fountain, especially during months when it has no water. The metalwork design incorporates images from water and plant life, central components of the RIce Park landscape, and draws upon historical influences notably Art Nouveau. I offer LightWave as a labor of love, to help further beautify this lovely area of downtown Saint Paul.”
Private funds in the amount of were raised by the Saint Paul Parks Conservancy, Saint Paul Garden Club, and the Rice Park Association raised $1.2 million for Rice Park Revitalization to augment public funding. With the redesign complete, the three nonprofit partners manage the Rice Park Maintenance Fund, contract horticultural services and steward the park along with Saint Paul Parks and Recreation.
Rice Park has been the center of Saint Paul civic life since 1849. Consider a gift to the Rice Park Endowment to assure its stays the crown jewel of downtown for generations to come.
Rice Park Improvements
The redesign adds more green space for family gatherings and public events, electrical upgrades with additional lighting and trees for shade in the fountain plaza. A new irrigation system was added to ensure adequate moisture for the green space, trees and garden areas, resulting in a healthier, more colorful and beautiful Rice Park.
The historic fountain was kept in place with the addition of artistic, seasonal light features. The plaza received new permeable paving, signature tables and chairs plus a new east-west pathway from Market and Washington Streets better connects the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts and The Saint Paul Hotel. The location of the stage and open lawn areas provide an area for concerts, dramatizations and other artistic expressions, while enhancements to the electrical power adds to the event capabilities in the park.
More gardens were added giving the park constant color and interest throughout the year. Safety bump outs were added at all four corners, and a seat wall was reconstructed at the bus stop.
Rice Park History
Since 1849, nine years before Minnesota was admitted into the United States of America, Rice Park has served as the centerpiece of downtown Saint Paul. Rice Park was named after Minnesota Senator Henry M. Rice who, with Saint Paul banker John Irvine, donated the land in the downtown district. In 1860, the city planted shade trees and in the early 1870s a bandstand and fountain were added. Rice Park served as the focal point for the first Saint Paul Winter Carnival in 1886.
Men read newspapers on benches in Rice Park in this undated photo, sometime between 1914 and 1917. Construction of the Latimer Central Library can be seen in the background. (Pioneer Press file photo)
The Saint Paul Garden Club
City of Saint Paul Parks & Recreation
Rice Park Association