Historical Mystery Could Be Revealed During Greene Square Park Renovations
CEDAR RAPIDS – A mystery buried in Greene Square Park could be uncovered when renovation of the city’s oldest park begins.
Cedar Rapids historian Mark Stoffer Hunter, a member of Save CR Heritage, said a time capsule was placed somewhere in the park to mark the nation’s Bicentennial.
“No one knows where it is,” said Stoffer Hunter, who attended the ceremony in 1976 as a student in the Cedar Rapids summer Czech School program.
He remembers the metal container being buried in the middle of the park in downtown Cedar Rapids, but no one marked the precise location.
Stoffer Hunter, who attended a public forum on Greene Square Park design plans on Thursday, Feb, 28, asked that project managers be careful when renovations begin.
“There might be some occasional treasures hidden in the park,” he said, during the forum at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. He also asked that the park retain its historical markers.
One of those was placed in honor of Judge George Greene, a founder of Cedar Rapids for whom the park is named.
Bradd Brown, a principal at OPN Architects who is working on the plan’s design, said the markers will be kept in the park.
Greene Square Park has been a central gathering spot in Cedar Rapids for more than a century.
Landscaping the two acres of the park, formerly a sandy hill, was developed in conjunction with the opening of Union Station in downtown Cedar Rapids in 1897. The landmark depot was demolished in 1961 to make way for a parking ramp.
Stoffer Hunter said the park was the city’s showcase that gave visitors their first impression of Cedar Rapids when they stepped off the train.
The then-new limestone Washington High School building had opened in 1891 where the city’s new library is now under construction and the former library – now the art museum – opened in 1905, all in the same square block of Cedar Rapids. Churches were also prominent on the block.
A fountain with electric lights was one of the park’s early amenities, but it was removed by the 1920s and replaced by a pavilion, Stoffer Hunter said.
Mel Andringa, co-founder of Legion Arts, said unlike its early years, the park is no longer used by “ladies walking around with parasols.”
Cyclists, families, runners and downtown workers on their lunch breaks now use the park, so the new design should reflect those purposes, he said.
The park also has been the site of Legion Arts’ Landfall Festival of World Music, downtown farmers markets, parades, Uptown Friday Nights, political rallies and more in its history.
“This park is unique because everyone considers it the community’s park,” Stoffer Hunter said, unlike others that “belong” to certain neighborhoods. “It’s everyone’s park.”
For more information on the renovation plans for Greene Square Park, go here.