From Water Works to City Park

Friday, March 2, 2018

Norris Park, so named after Senator George Norris, began its life as the Water Works location or more specifically, the location of the first “water tower” built to bring water to the homes and businesses of McCook. Many readers will remember the old water tower that stood on the north side of, as it was known then, City Park, but the story and costs are worthy of mention.

In September of 1883, a scant year after McCook was officially declared a city, W.F. Wallace took out an ad in the McCook Tribune touting “How We Build a New City.” The purpose of the ad was clear, Wallace wanted “artisan, tradesman and speculators” to grab the “rare chances” available in the West and the town of McCook. Boasting of a population of 1,000, the designation of McCook as the stopping point of the C. B. & Q Railroad between the Missouri River and Denver complete with a 15-stall roundhouse on the Denver line, he goes on to speak of “a complete system of water works costing $25,000, is just being complete giving all the facilities the comfort of old cities. Lots will range in price from $150 to $500 for business lots and $50 to $200 for residence lots.” He finishes with the point that places like McCook had seen a 300 percent increase in the value of the same lots in one to five years, thus placing a proverbial carrot in front of possible investors.

The pumping station that supplied this water tower was located on the Republican river basin close to a farm owned by Vance McManigal. The farm had a much-used picnic area called McManigal Grove mentioned in a news piece in 1894 as the location of a large group of ladies who had gathered for a picnic.

To give you an idea of how small the city of McCook was in 1886, and how close to the edge of town the City Park was located, in a news article in the Tribune on June 10, 1886, there was mention of the new sub-division created by Mr. Patrick Egan of Lincoln who owned land close to McCook. This newly minted “Eagan Park” lay two blocks west and 6 blocks north of the City Park and was laid out with 30 city residential lots in a 5 acre parcel and 15 other parcels of 5 acres each “where city ordinances will not reach them and where they can keep cows, calves, pigs, poultry of all kinds and where they can plant large fruit orchards and have truck patches for their own use and for sale in the city.”

While the City Park existed and was much used, the condition was a concern to the city. In March of 1887 the Tribune noted: “Plans for laying out the City Park block have arrived. Work on the same will commence shortly”. In April of the same year in the Tribune the following was printed: “We take occasion to announce the arrival in the city, today, of ex-Governor R. W. Furnas. That the City Park is being surveyed. That the trees for its ornamentation are expected, tomorrow. That the same will be planted, Saturday.” (Further look-ups show that Ex-Governor Furnas donated the first trees to be planted in this location.)

Apparently, as with all public use areas, the City Park became a continuing conversation because 10 years later the Tribune again declared in the April 29, 1898 issue: “The Tribune learns with pleasant anticipation that there is a prospect that the committee of ladies will undertake the work of raising funds and improving the city park.” Once again in 1912 the subject of improvements raised its head when the city created a City Parks Board who began immediately to address the problem of: “the city park lawn is being damaged by those habitually making paths across the lawn, and the practice will be stopped by those in charge.” Nick Snyder was selected to work on the city park, assisted by city prisoners, and: “Mr. Snyder has been given police powers as well, so will be available for such duty in that residential district of this city.”

Soon I want to cover the bandshell and who it was dedicated to honor, something few people know today. The SWNGS library continues open afternoons on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1-4 PM, 110 West C, Suite M-3. Ice or snow conditions will affect that so please check for postings on Facebook for scheduled closings.

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