Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Oakwood Park – Part 1

Willis Leiter’s Real Photo Postcard of Oakwood Park
A  colorized, retouched version of Leiter’s composition
Oakwood Park had been in the news again last month (here), so it’s a good time for this post. It’s an article that ran in the Lorain Daily News back on August 31, 1939 that provides a nice capsule history of the park.



The giant oaks that strive to reach the heights of the smoke stacks of the National Tube Co. in South Lorain are responsible for the name of Oakwood Park. The 70 acres of beautiful trees that form this park, drew their sustenance as saplings from swamp lands about them.

Johnson and Moxham, the two men most concerned with the establishment of the steel mills in Lorain, helped to dedicate this piece of land to the city of Lorain for a park in 1894 through the Sheffield Land Company.

Twenty years later, late in 1914 or early in 1915, Thomas A. Peebles, 1965 East 32nd st., then a member of city council, overheard a conversation that indicated there was a mortgage about to be foreclosed that would deprive Lorain of her gift park. His fellow councilmen called him “crazy”, he says today, when he told them what he had heard. The park had been given to the city. There couldn’t be a mortgage. But when C. E. VanDeusen, 1128 5th Street, then the city prosecutor, received a notice of the foreclosure from the Federal District Court, council took immediate action.

Money was transferred from the established park fund which had been raised from a previous bond issue and the blanket mortgage of some $15,000 was paid off. This released the park and gave the city the entire allotment east of what is now Grove ave. This action of the city fathers netted Lorain a pretty return on her investment when these lots were sold. A block of land off Palm Ave. was dedicated to the Board of Education, and the ownership of the park was legally settled.

The park had developed according to the amount of labor and money spent on it by the city through the service department through 1933 and the Park Commission since 1934.

In the early years one man was hired each summer to clear out the underbrush and to keep the outside edges mowed. Later the bandstand was built, some filling in was done, ball diamonds and tennis courts built, and picnic tables were set up.

The park commission with PWA and WPA assistance had hauled in 25,000 yards of dirt to fill in low spots; has built 12 miles of cinder roads; put in 2 1/4 miles of drains and sewers; laid 1 mile of side walk; rebuilt two tennis courts and made two new ones; constructed 4 additional softball diamonds and has made an ice pond and built a shelter house.

When the 36th st. water main was laid this past year, George Crehore, park superintendent, had the dirt hauled in on the back of the park to form a knoll which was to be shaped a bit, planted, and generally made to improve the landscape. However, a young publis approbation, the beauty spot is a grand toboggan.

At the present time a lagoon and island is being constructed by 42 NYA boys under Park Commission supervision in the north east corner of the park.

Appropriate planting and colored lights will add to the beauty of the park. The park has always been a place for huge outdoor mass meetings as well as organization picnic. Nationality groups, church groups and family groups use the park of for their larger outdoor gatherings when the weather permits.

The city-wide development of a recreation program for children and adults by the WPA Recreation workers has greatly increased the use of the park as a play spot.

In tomorrow's Part 2 of this series, I point the spotty lens of my Canon Power Shot A480 at the park (or at least what’s left of it) today.

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