March 2, 2004
Courthouse Park was always meant to be a source of community pride
For most of us, the Courthouse Park in downtown Perry has been there practically forever. So, we take it for granted, scarcely thinking of the people who made that green oasis a reality and nurtured it through the years.
We know that an editor and environmentalist name of W.T. Little planted the trees that first converted a dusty field into a garden spot not too long after the opening of the Cherokee Outlet on September 16, 1893, but that's about as far as it goes. We also need to remember that platoons of County Commissioners, other county officials and caretakers have helped in perpetuating the park that we know today. They did not have to do that, but they apparently understood that the park was a source of community pride. They also were aware that the people wanted that park to be cared for and improved as the years go by.
The park wasn't always pretty and it certainly was not always something that the citizens of this county could brag on. The courthouse was not always located there. The first Noble County Officials had offices scattered among the upper floors of two-story buildings around the square because the local government had no funds for constructing a building large enough to provide those officials with a building of their own.
Early day documents tell us that the "park" was a windswept and dusty tract for a full year after the opening. The only structures on the grounds during that period were a small frame post office building and the frame land office on the west side and the northwest corner of the grounds. On the Fourth of July in 1894 a baseball game was played on the square between the Perry team and the Ponca Indians. In the spring of 1895 ground was plowed and sowed to alfalfa to keep down the suffocating cloud of dust and sand.
The west acre of the park was reserved by the Federal government. Our post office is now located on the north half of the acre. The south half was deeded to the city and is now the location of Perry Carnegie Library. The courthouse park grounds were designed by a landscape architect. Among the specifications were these: "More than 3,000 feet of cement walks and driveways, all of ample width for the traffic they are designed to bear, winding in and among the shade trees. There is a bandstand for summer night concerts with permanent bleacher seats for listeners." In more recent years a map of the county in flat cement line has been installed flush with the grounds on the south lawn of the park.
The park is watered with the use of an artesian well that makes it unnecessary to tap into the city's reserves. So, even during the most severe summer droughts the park caretakers can keep grass, trees and flower beds well watered.
More details about the early history of the Noble County Courthouse Park will follow soon.