Municipal Park,1800 Oak Street
Planning for Municipal Park began in 1934-35 by the City of Carthage with the assistance of landscape architects Hare & Hare of Kansas City, Missouri (1). Original plans called for construction of a swimming pool, picnic pavilions, baseball fields, 9 hole golf course, tennis courts and band shell. The field rock and concrete Carl Lewton Stadium at the park was first completed as the park's amphitheater in 1937. Funding for the construction was provided by the Works Project Administration (WPA) that was part of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal Program. The stadium originally held 3,000 spectators. In June 1998, the Helen S. Boylan Foundation provided new playground equipment along with improvements to the skating rink (former dance pavilion) and Kiddieland. The latter is a small children's amusement park operated by the Carthage Kiwanis Club during summer at the eastern edge of the park. A carousel has been added to Kiddieland in recent years. Over the years, the park has hosted its share of community events. In 1937, more than 30,000 people came for a two-day 4th of July celebration and park dedication presided over by former Carthage resident Thomas M. Sayman (2). During World War II, servicemen stationed at Camp Crowder, near Neosho, Missouri, used the park for much needed recreation. The park also sits along former U. S. Highway 66 (also known as Route 66) and provided its facilities for travelers of the "Mother Road."
Backstory and Context
All of the original structures and park features for Municipal Park were courtesy various New Deal programs including the lesser-known National Youth Administration that conducted a training project for young boys to construct flagstone, limestone slab and concrete sidewalks along Oak Street from Baker Boulevard to the park's entrance. These sidewalks served the community until recent years when they were replaced with new concrete sidewalks. The former tennis courts have been converted to additional picnic areas with modern shelters. The Carthage limestone bathhouse at the outdoor pool, was constructed of local limestone.
The original golf course has been expanded throughout the years, just like the park itself. (By 1960, the park had grown to more than 200 acres.) In 1968, Ralph Johnson, Frank Ford Jr., Harry M. Cornell Jr., and James Smallwood purchased additional acreage to expand the golf course and Rev. Thomas Hardaway of Grace Episcopal Church was the first golfer on the expanded 18 hole course. Many of the park's facilities have benefited from numerous grants throughout the years from the previously mentioned Helen S. Boylan Foundation and from the Kent and Mary Steadley Trust.
Hansford, Michele Newton. Images of America: Carthage, Missouri. Charleston SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2000, (1) pg 91 and (2) pg 90.
"Municipal Park One of Carthage Assets." Carthage Evening Press, November 22, 1938, Payroll Edition, Section, 2, page 1.
Powers Museum Vertical Files: Municipal Park.
Utter, Wade and Hansford, Michele Newton. Images of America: Carthage, Missouri. Charleston SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2013.
Aerial view former Powers Museum exhibit image of historic postcard.
Picnic shelter former Powers Museum exhibit image of historic postcard.
Park pavilion photograph by Michele Hansford.
Park pavilion mural located in downtown Carthage; photograph by Michele Hansford.
Dixon photograph in collection of Powers Museum.
Stadium photograph by Michele Hansford.