Last Friday 8/23/19 Gay Donnell Willis, President/CEO of the Turtle Creek Conservancy, joined us to present the past, present and future of Oak Lawn Park located in uptown just north of the central business district.
Oak Lawn Park opened in 1909 and was 20 acres at that time. Leaders hoped the park would help to attract prospective land buyers to Dallas’ first northern suburbs.
Early in the 1930’s, there were a number of New Deal Works Progress Administration projects constructed at the park – a stone bridge, picnic tables and benches. They are still in use today.
In 1936, the park was renamed Robert E. Lee Park after a large statue was commissioned and presented. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was in Dallas and unveiled the statue which remained for 81 years until a decision was made by city council to remove the statue and revert to the original park name of Oak Lawn Park. (During our meeting it was noted that there may have been VERY brief consideration of “John Torres Park.”)
Arlington Hall was built in 1939 and the design was inspired by the Curtis-Lee mansion in Arlington, Virginia. Generations of weddings, receptions and other events have occurred at Arlington Hall.
The Conservancy was “born” in 1995 and works to establish public/private partnerships and make possible consistent funding, construction of improvements and ongoing maintenance. Ms. Donnell Willis explained that the board seeks to focus on provision of elevated care (maintenance over and above what the city budget allows) and thoughtful development that insures the park continues to be a park of green space and natural elements first and not an over programmed beehive of activity and group events. It was also noteworthy to hear that the Conservancy works closely with Friends of the Katy Trail, given the proximity of one to the other.