The weather is nice and warm. Time to get outside and one of our city’s beautiful parks. If you’ve got kids, there’s nothing they want to do more at the park than play on the playground.
Public parks have been a part of Paducah’s landscape since the city’s earliest days. One of the first, if not the first, was Fisher Gardens in the mid-1800s, located where Blackburn Park is now. But public playgrounds, with playground equipment, didn’t arrive until after the turn of the 20th century.
Opening on June 11, 1914, Kolb Park at Sixth and Broad Streets was Paducah’s first public playground…and it’s still a playground today.
Louis C. Kolb, the founder of the park, emigrated to Paducah in 1860 at the age of 18 from Hellbronn, Germany. He came to town with fifty cents in his pocket and established himself as a butcher. In 1864 he married his wife, Elizabeth Kroop, and also witnessed the occupation of Paducah by General U.S. Grant, watching him lead his troops up Broadway to take possession of the telegraph office. Throughout the second half of the 19th century, Kolb’s success and local prominence grew. He was an original stockholder in the city’s first bank, as well as an investor in the Palmer House Hotel and West End Improvement Company. Throughout town he became known as “Grandpa Kolb.”
Kolb built a grand house at 1810, and it is the property directly across the street that he ultimately donated to the city for the purposes of a playground.
The opening ceremonies for the playground were a grand affair, complete with a speech by Mayor Hazelip, a children’s chorus, a performance by the Paducah Band conducted by A.J. Bamberg, and the raising of the flag on the newly erected 60-foot flagpole, by Miss Elizabeth Rhodes, daughter of the park commissioner.
And finally, after all that folderol was over, the kids got to play on their new playground equipment which consisted of six swings, horizontal bars, flying rings, seesaws, slides, a tennis court, a large sand pile, and a giant stride.
(In case you’re like me and didn’t know what a giant stride was, a picture of one from a New York City playground is posted below. Source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division ca. 1910-1915.)