Delano Park

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History

Named for Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s mother this beautifully restored park was donated to the city of Albany in 1887, as part of  a  master plan to reconstitute the city after the lingering ravages of the Civil War.  The original layout of the park went from Somerville Road to Second Avenue.  In the 1930’s a bridge was moved from Ferry Street to accentuate the beauty of the park. President Roosevelt was present for the dedication of the park

On September 24, 2000, a pioneering organization was founded by volunteers with a premise that believed "Delano Park is a legacy for everyone."  Friends of Delano Park was formed with a mission to preserve, improve, promote and maintain historic Delano Park in partnership with the City of Decatur. More than 200 trees have been planted. Many of Delano Park's major landscapes, historic stone structures, walkways, Rose Garden, signage, and facilities for children have been restored.  

Friends of Delano Park's commitment to a beautifully restored and preserved Delano Park is possible due to an unprecedented investment of over $2,000,000 in the park - $951,658 of which was raised from private sources, individuals, corporations and foundations and $1,062,500 from grants.  Park use has soared over the past ten years.  Indeed, the transformation of Delano Park has been remarkable, but the hard work is not over.  With the budgetary and economic challenges the City faces, the next ten years must be about preserving and maintaining the historic park the community has restored and built.

Like other legacy parks across America, Delano Park has been subject to periods of   decline and development over its 123 year history.  As part of the first great period of park development in the 19th century, Decatur's "City Park" was laid out in 1887 to provide health and refreshment to a planned community called New Decatur.  The  noted architect, Nathan Franklin Barrett was hired to transform the sleepy little village  of Decatur into their vision of a "Chicago of the South."  In just one year, 41  new industries were established, 500 new houses and buildings were erected, and the population increased from 1,200 to 5,000. 

The focus of this land development was a large organic expanse of open green space which would be used as a "central park" for the next 43 years.  When the Great Depression hit in the 1930s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt used landscape and park projects to provide relief and hope for America.  The second great period of park building occurred during this ten year period when the CWA and WPA work teams focused much of their attention on our "City Park" building the Rose Garden, bathhouse, wading pool, bandstand, and the stone armory, now known as Fort Decatur Recreation Center. 

On December 13, 1933, The Decatur Daily newspaper announced a contest with a $5 grand prize to "suggest a name for the park."  On January 16, 1934, the winning entry was selected from over 300 names - Delano Park - because the judges wanted to honor President Roosevelt for "having made possible the development of park properties in Decatur."

After World War II, the populations in cities across the nation began to shift out from the city centers. Big back yards and organized recreational facilities in suburbia began to make the country's legacy parks decline in prominence.  This gradual change did not affect Delano Park severely until the late 1960s.  Shrinking city budgets of the 1970s and 1980s created a period of decline and deferred maintenance in America's parks.  The consequential decline at Delano Park had stark by the late 1990s.  The tree canopy was aging and in serious need of maintenance, the landscape was trampled and compacted, the Rose Garden was empty and eroded, the playground was inaccessible, and graffiti was covering the historic stone structures.  But every pendulum eventually swings back and the effort to revive the old park slowly gained momentum when a few volunteers came together to form a fledgling, not-for-profit Friends of Delano Park in a partnership with the City of Decatur.

 

As we enter our second decade of service, Friends of Delano Park is at a critical moment in its history.  Faced with the immense challenges of the economy and our city's budgetary crisis, Friends of Delano Park needs its supporters now more than ever to ensure that Delano Park does not fall victim to the ups and downs of the economic climate, and that it remains clean, healthy, safe and beautiful. 

 

Fortunately, Friends of Delano Park had the foresight to establish a conservancy fund in 2006 and in the spring of 2010 launched the Campaign for the Delano Park Conservancy to help secure the future of the park. We must never forget the deteriorated state of Delano Park just ten years ago, and the efforts and sacrifices of so many to revive its beautiful legacy.


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