We’ll continue a review of parks in downtown Live Oak today.
By January 1927, the City had recently sold property to the School Board, and the City Council decided to use the proceeds in the construction of a park on adjoining property. I am assuming that the property sold by the City was either the soon-to-be constructed high school usually known as the Metcalfe School, the current Langford Stadium, or in their immediate vicinity.
In December 1947, Seward Fleet appeared before the City Council on behalf of the School Athletic Association. He asked that the County lease the City Park (also called the City Play Ground Area) as found in Block K of the Original Town of Live Oak to the School Board for 99 years, for the purpose of enlarging and improving athletic and playground facilities. The recommendation was taken under advisement. The next month, the City Council agreed to hold a public hearing to discuss the matter, which would include closing off a portion of Church Street to make additional room so that “all age groups may have equal opportunities for recreation under proper supervisions.” The February 1948 hearing led to the writing of the necessary ordinance and agreement for final passage at the next meeting.
In June 1950, the School Board petitioned the City Council to deed them the land known as the City Park located on the entirety of Blocks K and L in the City of Live Oak. The City unanimously approved the request, and it remains today as the parking for Langford Stadium.
In May 1954, Mayor J. Marvin Phillips recommended playground areas in all sections of Live Oak for small children. The City Council agreed to locate suitable vacant lots that the Street Department could mow and clean up for children.
Despite the continued attempts at improving recreation in Live Oak, by 1955, additional recreational space was needed. The City of Live Oak and Suwannee County looked to part of the old H. F. Dexter property on the north side of Duval Street that had often served as the City Fairgrounds in previous years. Purchasing the old Dexter mansion and surrounding acreage in April 1955, the original intent had been to renovate the old but large home for recreational and playground use. However, the structure’s condition after some 60 years meant that renovations would not be affordable and instead it was torn down. A brick building was constructed in its place and remains today as part of John Hale Park.
In the mid-1980s, the original plan for Heritage Square (situated east of Ohio Avenue and encompassing the Old Live Oak City Hall, the Passenger Depot, the Freight Depot/Museum, and surrounding areas) also included park space and even an amphitheater. Other than renovations to the historic buildings, those expansive plans lay dormant for decades until the City CRA began their efforts to revitalize the unused portions a few years ago. Now, hopefully, some of the plans that have popped up over the last century or more will once again come to fruition and beautify this historic part of Live Oak and Suwannee County.
Different history next week!
Eric Musgrove can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 386-362-0564.