August 29, 2018
You’ve been to countless events at Park Central Square. You’ve probably strolled through a few times on a gorgeous Ozarks evening.
But how much do you know about the centerpiece of Downtown Springfield? Here are five facts.
The square is 183 years old.
A Kickapoo chieftain gifted John Polk Campbell a good-sized tract of land. Campbell donated 50 acres in 1835 to Greene County to create a town to serve as the county seat. The plat designated two of those acres to serve as a public square.
Campbell helped design the layout of Springfield. He modeled it after his hometown of Columbia, Tennessee. That is why the streets enter Park Central Square on the sides and not the corners.
The square housed the county courthouse, but it burned down.
Historians say Greene County’s first courthouse was a log cabin owned by Campbell. It served from 1833-1888. The second courthouse was a two-story brick building, built near the center of the square. It lasted from 1838 until a fire destroyed it in 1861. Reports conflict
No worries. There was already a new location lined up. The first three-story structure in southwest Missouri was built on the west side of the square. It stood where the Heer’s Building stands today. Constructed started in 1858. The building was partly in use when the second courthouse burned down.
But Greene County soon outgrew that building. They constructed a new one new north of the square. It opened in 1912 at the intersection of Boonville and Campbell.
In its early day, Park Central Square was the major hub of commerce in southwest Missouri.
In the 1800s there were two Springfields — North Springfield Springfield. Those towns didn’t get along at all when the Frisco Railroad’s headquarters were on the north side. The cities merged in 1887 and the new, united Springfield grew fast.
The town wanted the latest and greatest of everything, and that’s what the town got. Thousands of railroad employees lived in Springfield. That a lot of commerce and income in the city.
It was also a major traffic hub.
Springfield is in the middle of the map, making it a crossroads for the country. It should come as no surprise, then, that both the Butterfield Overland Stage Route and Route 66 passed through Park Central Square
A famed landscape architect helped redesign the square.
In 1969 work began on Park Central Square, which was in need of a facelift. The federal government provided $1 million in grant money. The City of Springfield kick in $500,000 to help get the ball rolling.
Lawrence Halprin and Associates was a well-known landscape architecture firm. It had a reputation for innovative designs. Halprin wanted to create a vehicle-free zone. The intention was to turn the square and beyond into a traffic-free pedestrian area. He wanted Park Central Sqaure to be “an active space for public assembly, devoted to pedestrians and their needs and comforts.”
Halprin did the initial planning and design of Park Central Square. The city, though, decided not to close off the streets.
Still, his efforts made the square historically significant in the eyes of landscape architecture enthusiasts. They insisted it on its preservation when the second rebirth of Park Central Square started in the early 2000s.
So there you go, smartypants. Five facts about Park Central Square. Now go forth and impress your friends.