By Anna Wallace, former Village Historian
On the 1860 map of the Village, the first after incorporation, the area between Main Street and Vernon Street, now “the park”, was “Common Hall”. Possibly developed in a way similar to the old New England villages where the public buildings surrounded the village square, in that in 1827 the Methodist Episcopal Church was built on the southwest corner of the Common in 1841 the Universalist Church was erected on Main Street at the end of the Common, and in 1843 the Academy was built across from the Methodist Church.
At the southeast end of the Common, District #1 school was built in 1846 with the third addition in 1898. Across the corner the Vernon Hotel was erected by 1874, becoming the Grove House by 1886 and burning in 1899. In 1889 the Presbyterian Church was built at the east end of the Common on Vernon Street. The new Methodist Church was built on its site in 1899.
Trees on either side of the park were planted between 1878-1884.
The coming of the trolley in 1908 created a furor as the route was planned to come down Liberty Street (presently the east end of Park Avenue), go across the park and out Church Street. After litigation, the tracks did go through the park. Possibly to appease those people opposed, the whole street was named Park Avenue. It officially became a street in 1915. Curbing was laid in the early 1920s. Park Avenue was repaved and newly curbed in the summer of 2003 and remnants of the old trolley tracks were removed.
The original buildings in the park burned: The hotel in 1896, the church and school in 1910 and the Common became a park. $1000 was received from the estate of Truman Jennings, Mayor of the Village (1907-1910) for a fountain to be placed in the park. The next year, a $500 memorial was donated by the wife of R. S. Hawkins, Village Clerk from 1907-1910, to beautify the park.
In 1930 a pond was put in near the southeast end of Park Avenue to surround the memorial fountain, and the addition of shrubbery and benches created a small park that became a popular spot for the citizenry to relax and “watch the world go by”. The fountain statue chosen for the pond was Berge’s “Duck Mother”.
The park was abused and in 1950 the bronze statue was removed and placed in the Village Public Works Garage. About 30 years later, the head of the Department found it and cleaned it. It now graces the hallway as one enters the Village Board room. Because of a complaint about the small nude statue where “everyone could see it,” for several years it was draped with a beige crocheted shawl. It now stands as it was intended.
The area of the fountain pond now blossoms with flowering bulbs in the spring and impatiens in the summer.