Written by Don Ratzlaff Wednesday, 03 October 2012 13:29
Characterized as an “old-fashioned community event” by its organizers, the Peabody Historical Society, the activities included a fire department competition between Peabody and Walton, antique cars, a flower show, quilt display, a “Stump the Antique Panel Booth” and pony rides on the old horse-racing track.
Other attractions included an Olympic Gold “rub doctor,” apple cider made with antique press and ice cream from an old 5-gallon freezer.
In the evening, a program of cowboy music included Bennie Holtsclaw, Lindsey Marshall, Shane Marler, Chance English, Mike Flavin and Virgil Lewis.
The city received word in January that its expansive park in the southwest of town had been accepted for the National Register.
The process to acceptance began in 2010, when Kansas Historical Society Researchers came to town to consider the octagonal-shaped Floral Hall—known locally as the roundhouse—within the park for state recognition, according to Marilyn Jones of the local historical society.
“The state people were so impressed with the entire park that they suggested expanding the nomination, and pointed out the great old race track and the various stonework additions made in the 1930s,” Jones said.
Extensive research by Sarah Martin and Amanda Laughlin uncovered more facts about the park.
The park gained notoriety in 1885 when it hosted the state fair of 1885. Local newspaper articles from that time tell of Roman chariot races that occurred each day of the fair using two chariots, each drawn by four large and powerful horses, all abreast. According to the report, one chariot was driven by a woman and the other by a man.
The Peabody Historical Society newsletter reported the town hosted thousands of people during the 1885 fair. Harry Hamilton and Co. from Emporia ran a large dining hall that fed some 5,000 people daily. The Santa Fe Railroad offered special fares to and from Peabody.
The once well-known half-mile horse racetrack was actually the first feature of the park to be built. It remains the park’s primary organizing feature today in the form of a gravel road. The track’s width has shrunk during the life of the park.
Newspapers indicate that baseball was played in the park as early as 1907. But the combination baseball and football field was enhanced when the New Deal era brought renewal to the park.
The Works Progress Administration constructed the athletic fields in 1938, including the stone seating area that is still used by Warrior football fans today. The city of Peabody provided the materials and WPA supplied the labor.