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"History of Eau Claire County Wisconsin, 1914, Past and Present"

Chapter  27

City Parks

By Miss A. E. Kidder

(-as transcribed from pages 438 - 440 )

Eau Claire has four hundred and fifty acres of land set aside for the use of its citizens for purposes of recreation and the enjoyment of natural beauty.  Most of these parks are due to the generosity of early settlers who, acquiring wealth in the lumber business, did not fail to consider the needs of their own town in the distribution of their abundance.  Putnam Park, in the southern part of the city, and east of an abrupt bend of the Chippewa to the westward, consists of two hundred acres, including a line of thickly wooded hills whose top spreads out into a wide stretch of well tilled farms.  Its use is free to all; it can be reached by trolley from any part of the city, and once within its sylvan depths you can hardly believe yourself so near a bustling world of labor.  On either side of a well kept drive is a forest containing over thirty varieties of trees and twenty species of ferns.  Four kinds of oak, elms, willow, beech, white and yellow birch, iron wood, basswood, a grove of tamarack or black larch, many varieties of fir are at home here, and other trees only to be fully appreciated by the true forester.  Among the rich profusion of ferns is one rarely seen in this country, the Regalis Esmondi or Royal Fern, named, it is said, for one King Esmond, who hid from enemies in a thicket of this species, but was killed there.  The Cinnamon fern and the Walking fern are also found here, and several orchids, the Habenaria, Arethusa, Indian Pipe, masses of Celandine, Cypripedium, Spectabilo, Eleeampane, Sarsaparilla, Thoroughwort and Ginseng.  Along the lower drive and under it are springs of pure soft water issued from the sand rock, and so abundant is this supply that within one-half a mile the gathered volume therefrom would supply a city of one hundred thousand people.  Many years ago the owner of this land, the Hon. Henry C. Putnam, stocked the streams with ten thousand brook trout and took measures to preserve the park and drives in unspoiled beauty, "a bit of nature," close to the city.  The upper drive on top of the bluff is over three miles in extent, the lower one two and one-half.  The birds of this latitude are entirely at home in these woods, and may be studied at close range.  The mourning dove, the cat bird with its uncanny change of note from delicious music to fretful complaint, the scarlet tanager - a bit of flittering flame, the warbling vireo, thrushes, blue birds, cedar birds in social crowds, grosbeaks, all and more are in this forest.  This park was given in memory of Henry C. Putnam by his children, Mrs. E. B. Hinckley, of Chicago, and Mr. E. B. Putnam, of Eau Claire, who promised to carry out his wishes and plans began during his long and active life in Eau Claire.

Carson Park is a beautiful island comprising one hundred and thirty-five acres in the center of Half Moon lake, stands twenty-five feet above the water and is covered with a fine grove of native trees.  It formerly belonged to the Daniel Shaw Lumber company, early founders of the village, but was lately purchased and given to the city by the five surviving children of the late William Carson as a memorial to their father, a pioneer lumberman of the Chippewa Valley, and a man of unusual enterprise, sagacity and liberality.  The lake is much used for boating, and the park will be one of the finest in the country.

Mt. Tom Park, twenty-five acres in extent, encircles a beautiful mound one hundred feet in height in the northern part of the city, with a winding road to the pavilions at the summit, from which is had a fine view of the Eau Claire river and the golf grounds of the Country Club.  This park was a donation from William J. Starr, J. T. Barber, W. K. Coffin and other stockholders of the Starr Lumber Company, the Northwestern Lumber Company and the Eau Claire National bank.

Gleason Park, also in the northern part of the city, is near Mt. Tom and of the same height, topped with a rock eighteen feet square and twenty feet high, which is a noticeable landmark.  This park of twenty-five acres was deeded to the city by the Gleason Brothers of Rock Ledge, Florida, as a memorial to their father, Gov. Charles R. Gleason, of Florida, formerly a pioneer of Eau Claire.

Wilson Park, near the postoffice, was given to the city as "Court House Square" at an early period by the Eau Claire Lumber Company.  When the new court house was erected on the west side on grounds donated by Hon. O. H. Ingram, the temporary buildings were removed and the place called Wilson Park, in honor of an esteemed early citizen whose energy did much to lay the foundation of prosperity in the young city.

Randall Park, five acres in the center of the west side, was deeded to the city in August, 1856, by Adin Randall, a pioneer who gave liberally of his lands, labor and interests toward the development of the little village, but who died at the early age of thirty-seven years, too soon to witness the rapid movement in the course of the race, but not before the town might be sure of victory.

Boyd Park, given to the city in 1914 by Robert K. Boyd and his wife, is another five-acre plat in the upper portion of the Second ward, which will become a garden and a resting place, as also University Park near it, and on the way to a golf links of the Country Club grounds.  All these smaller parks are near the business center, and will be welcome oases to weary toilers on their way to and from labor.

Owen Park, or Riverside, is on the west bank of the Chippewa between Grand avenue and the bend in the river westward. It contains fifty acres of land, is graded and set out with many fine trees, and, being near the center of the city, will become a popular resort.  It was the gift of John S. Owen, one of Eau Claire's most loyal citizens, and is the latest addition to the chain which, with our well shaded streets and wide boulevards, will form a suitable and harmonious environment for a prosperous city like this one.

One of the finest collections of orchids in the northwest is owned in this city.  It was accumulated by an early citizen of refined tastes and thorough culture, Mr. F. W. Woodward, and since his decease has been owned and sustained by Dr. J. V. R. Lyman, under the assiduous care of the same gardener who was employed in its inception by Mr. Woodward.  There are several hundred of these wonderful patrician plants, titled princes brought from Brazilian forests, Columbian peaks or Indian jungles, but quite at home in the new environment.  The Cattleyas, Sobralias, Stantispea, Peristeria Aelata, Dendrobium are all yielding their wealth of tropic beauty and perfume to the skilled ministrations of the gardeners.  A visit to this rare collection is well worth a long journey.

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