ORGANIZED IN 1915, one of the Womans Club of St. Paul’s initial goals was to create a public park for the enjoyment of St. Paul residents. The spot the ladies chose was owned by the N & W Railway and located near the St. Paul Union Depot (occupied by Home Town Hardware in 2019).
Initial efforts by Womans Club members to persuade railway officials to make the land available were ignored. The ladies weren’t easily brushed off and they didn’t give up. Finally, the park became a reality in 1921. It was, however, a “grace and favor” arrangement. The N & W Railway continued to hold title to the property.
Club members spent $40 from their meager treasury to purchase park benches. They also propagated and transplanted shrubs and trees from their gardens to beautify the grounds. As the town grew, the park became increasingly significant. For example, when the St. Paul Apartments was built on the corner of Russell Street and Fourth Avenue in the early 1920’s, the park provided a grassy area where residents could escape summer’s heat. It was also a gathering place on Saturdays when people from the surrounding area came to St. Paul to do their shopping.
In 1957, Kennedy’s Piggly Wiggly Stores contracted a long-term lease agreement with Norfolk & Western for the park site. A new grocery store building was erected and opened for business in early 1958. The town’s park ceased to be.
Many years would pass before the town would have another park, but it was worth the wait. Today, the A. R. Matthews Park is source of pride for the St. Paul community.
Here are some additional pictures of the original park and those who enjoyed it during its heyday.
THANK YOU to all the “friends of history” who have allowed photos from their family albums to become part of the St. Paul Heritage Collection. Your support and generosity makes these local history articles possible.