Backstory and Context
Bullitt Park is a municipal park in Big Stone Gap, central to the lives and athletic activities of residents since the 1890s. In its early years the park was the center of athletic tournaments, such as races and horse shows, inspiring John Fox Jr. to write his book A Knight of the Cumberland, which effectively depicted these types of tournaments. The park was created due to the work of Major Joshua Frye Bullit, who organized a movement to purchase land for the park from private owners, and is named in his honor.
Bullitt was an extremely influential figure in Big Stone Gap since his arrival in 1887, working as a lawyer, serving a term as mayor, and founding the Volunteer Police Guard. He served as the guard’s first captain, again inspiring John Fox Jr., who would include Bullitt as a character in his novel The Trail of the Lonesome Pine. Additionally, Bullitt organized for the park to be part of the fairways for the Mountain Gold Club, making it the first golf course in Southwestern Virginia. In 1915, the park became the site of the first airplane flight in Southwestern Virginia as William S. Luckey, the winner of the New York Times Aerial Derby of 1913, flew over gathered crowds in his bamboo plane. Further, in 1922, the park served as a base for Cumberland Airways Inc., owned by Johnnie Wood and Bill Wren.
In 1935, over $25,000 in federal funds from Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, specifically from the Works Progress Administration, were used to help improve the park and build the concrete stadium, as well as new sidewalks and roads throughout Big Stone Gap. On November 9, 1935 the park and stadium were dedicated. The park was named for Major Joshua Frye Bullitt and the stadium was named for Horace E. Fox, another major contributor to the history of Big Stone Gap.
Throughout the rest of the twentieth century, Bullitt Park was a hub of activity in Big Stone Gap. Football games were hosted at the H. E. Fox stadium, and political rallies and picnics were often hosted in the park. In the 1960s, bleachers and a fence were added to the park, and in the summer of 1973 a playground was built in the park. Recently, in 2015, an updated playground and treehouses were added to the park.
“Big Stone Gap’s Streets.” The Post, October 24, 1935. Accessed April 26, 2020. https://www.newspapers.com/image/584091596/?terms=Bullitt%2BPark.
“Bleechers for Bullitt Park to be Purchased.” The Post, October 6, 1961. Accessed April 26, 2020. https://www.newspapers.com/image/585620007/?terms=%22Bullitt%2BPark%22
“Celebration at Big Stone Gap on July 2nd and July 3rd, 1915.” The Post, June 9, 1915. Accessed April 26, 2020. https://www.newspapers.com/image/71188802/?terms=Luckey
“Gap’s Park is Named for Major Bullitt.” The Post, October 17, 1935. Accessed April 26, 2020. https://www.newspapers.com/image/584091453/?terms=%22Joshua%2BFrye%2BBullitt%22
“Stadium Park will be Dedicated Sat.” The Post, November 7, 1935. Accessed April 26, 2020. https://www.newspapers.com/image/584091746/?terms=(Bullitt%2BPark)
Stewart, E. E. “The Gap…………” The Post, July 20, 1972. Accessed April 26, 2020. https://www.newspapers.com/image/584577542/?terms=%22Bullitt%2BPark%22
The Post, June 21, 1973. Accessed April 26, 2020. https://www.newspapers.com/image/585300853/?terms=Bullitt