The King William Park, bounded by Washington, Turner and King William Streets, appears to have been purposely laid out as a park, but it wasn’t. The city actually bought this triangular piece of land in 1901 from Mrs. Phoebe Groesbeck for payment of delinquent taxes. Although the city designated it as a park shortly thereafter, it was years before landscaping and trees were planted.
The park’s gazebo began its life in the 1890’s near the Commander’s House on the grounds of the United States Arsenal (now H-E-B Headquarters) across the river from Upper Mill Park. In 1954, threatened by demolition, the gazebo was moved to its present location through the efforts of the King William Area Conservation Association, the predecessor of the King William Association. Most everyone was delighted with the new addition to the park; everyone that is, except the neighborhood boys who had been using the park for their baseball field.
Dedication of the gazebo was conducted by the Merry Knights of King William, a club started by neighborhood teenage boys in 1909, but over the years having evolved into a men’s club. One of the founding members, Willard Berman, donated, in the name of the Merry Knights, an impressive solid brass eagle weather vane to mount on top of the gazebo. Werner Beckmann, another Merry Knight, delivered a touching dedicatory oration.
Unfortunately, the brass weather vane disappeared after a short time. Mr. Berman graciously replaced it with a duplicate only to have the second one stolen. The gazebo went without a top decoration for years until some inventive neighbors came up with the clever idea of using a round copper toilet float attached to a rod.
Once installed and looked at from the ground, it appeared for all the world as if it had been especially designed for just such a purpose. It remained the gazebo’s crown until a major restoration in the late 1980’s when the weather vane you see today was installed.
The park is an oasis for many neighbors who like to stop, sit, contemplate, meet with other neighbors or just stroll around the perimeter, but it is also popular for weddings, concerts and parties. The park is also, literally, the center stage for our King William Fair when it takes a real beating from the crowds.
It has been suggested that some of the Fair proceeds be set aside to refurbish the park. Not only does the grass need attention but many of the trees are beginning to die from old age and disease. We may be somewhat behind the curve for timely replacement of the park’s trees, but we’re trying to catch up.
As Maria Pfeiffer described in her July 2007 newsletter article, the Parks Department will be planting two red oaks and one Monterey oak tree this fall. You may also have read Maria’s article with photo in the August 2007 newsletter showing Bartlett Tree Experts planting a nice size Monterey Oak at the west corner of the park at Washington and Turner to commemorate Bartlett’s one hundredth anniversary. Maria will continue to work with the Parks Department on a long range plan to replace additional trees.
There is a great deal of interest in the neighborhood to further enhance the park with major landscaping – shrubs, flowers, benches, water fountain(s), improved trash containers, etc. It has also been suggested that a monument with plaque giving a brief history of our neighborhood be installed at the northeast corner of the park at King William and Washington; that location being essentially the gateway to our neighborhood, particularly for walking tourists. All that is needed are a few dedicated souls to plan and implement the park renewal program. If this idea sparks your interest, call the King William office and volunteer to be a part of the team. This park could be King William’s crown jewel. Bill Cogburn