As the Live Oak Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) is making plans for the recently-purchased acres south and east of the Museum (ACL Freight Depot), I am reminded of previous work done in and close to that area for the community over the years. We’ll look at some of them over the next couple of weeks.

Early on, the citizens and government of Live Oak recognized the need for recreation for the community. On Aug. 4, 1879, a year after the Town of Live Oak was incorporated, the Town Council discussed park facilities. The mayor was instructed to correspond with the local railroads for the use of the “Y” as a park. Presumably the “Y” was on the west side of Ohio Avenue, about where the old Huffman and Gilmore building, Cowlicks and Curls, and John’s Feed & Supply are located, at which location a north-south running railroad merged into the east-west running one, making an inverted “Y” or triangle shape. Subsequent Council minutes are silent as to the success of the endeavor. An 1885 insurance map shows that the property was vacant of buildings for the most part, lending credence to the possibility that the mayor was successful in his correspondence with the railroads. Either way, by 1912 several commercial structures had encroached upon the “Y,” limiting its usefulness as a park.

In September 1915, the Suwannee Democrat noted work done in the park east of the Union Passenger Depot that is now the satellite campus for North Florida College. At the time, the building was located south of the ACL Freight Depot before being moved to the north side in the 1980s. The newspaper article made it appear that the City had done much work around the area:

“Water has been installed in the park east of the Union depot and now the civic committee of the Woman’s Club will go ahead with plans for planting flowers, shrubs, palms, etc. The park will be planted with Italian rye, which makes a beautiful winter lawn and grows well here. A walk will be run around the whole park and one through the center. In the center of the park will be a large circular bed of flowers with a walk on both sides. The land department of the L. O. P. & G. Railroad will contribute $25 (about $700 in 2019, EM) in plants and shrubs.”

It does not appear that the park east of the Union Depot remained as such for long, as several oil companies moved into the area over the ensuing years. June 12, 1918, minutes of the City Council discuss work on three streets leading to a park in the back of the Suwannee Hotel, which was being used as a children’s playground. A committee was appointed to look after the work.

In May 1919, the Suwannee Democrat noted that the city fathers had begun grading Wilbur Street to the “school house” (this would have been where the First Baptist Church’s Family Ministry Building is today). Steps were also being taken at the same time to acquire property for a public park in the same area. The park was apparently acquired, as City Council minutes from 1925 speak about the park near the school house. It is probable that the location was the same property now used as parking for Langford Stadium.

By March 1925, the City Council was discussing the construction of sidewalks in the City park and around the municipal bathing pool (by the water tower on Duval Street), with plans authorized for a bath house. By June of the same year, the Council was also hearing from a committee appointed to investigate the purchase of further recreational lands; they recommended that the City of Live Oak should instead beautify and improve the parks already owned rather than purchase more land for the same purpose. When the Fiscal Year 1925-1926 budget was adopted in October 1925, the City set aside $1,000 (about $15,000 in 2019 dollars) for improving the “park near School house.”

More on downtown parks in Live Oak next week!

Eric Musgrove can be reached at ericm@suwgov.org or 386-362-0564.

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