Now there is a chance to do a little bit of learning while you play in Lawrence’s South Park.
Parks and Recreation leaders last week installed two new signs that give visitors a detailed history of the city’s oldest park, which is just south of the Douglas County Courthouse at 11th and Massachusetts.
“We thought it would be nice to tell the park’s story a little bit,” said Mark Hecker, assistant director of parks and recreation. “It has a cool history.”
The two signs — one is on the west side of Massachusetts Street near North Park Street, while the other is on the east side near South Park Street — tell about how the park was used as a staging site for William Quantrill’s 1863 raid that “left over 150 male inhabitants dead and a large part of Lawrence in ashes.”
The signs also tell how the park — established in 1854 — has such fineries as the Theodore Roosevelt Fountain and the 1906 William Kelly Bandstand. But the signs also point out that the park has been used for less ceremonial occasions during its history, such as for growing crops and grazing livestock to supply the city’s residents.
Hecker said such informational signs are becoming more important as the city tries to attract more tourists who are interested in the city’s history.
“It helps give people a sense of how old some of the stuff is that they’re looking at,” Hecker said. “The only sign we had there before was basically built to hide an electrical box in the park.”
The new signs — which are designed in an antique style — were built by a local sign company and cost about $2,500 for the pair, Hecker said.
He said the department will look for opportunities to place similar signs at other parks or city buildings. He said Clinton Park, Watson Park — once known as Central Park — and Hobbs Park all have interesting histories dating back to the early Lawrence time period, and the Carnegie Building also could benefit from an informational sign.