Niagara Gazette

Columns

January 30, 2013

BRADBERRY: Happy birthday FDR, athletic field

Niagara Gazette — According to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum website (www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu), Jan. 30, 1882, dawned cold and white at the Roosevelt family home in Hyde Park, New York. By 8 p.m. that night, Sara Delano Roosevelt had been in labor for more than 24 hours.

Forty-five minutes later, she delivered a 10-pound boy who was blue and not moving. The doctor blew air into his lungs, and the newborn began to cry.

Fifty-four years later as president of the United States, FDR stood here in Niagara Falls to dedicate what was originally known as Hyde Park Stadium, a Works Progress Administration project which now includes a beautiful golf course, bocce lawn bowling, tennis courts, Sal Maglie Stadium, trout stocked Hyde Park Lake, awesome picnic pavilions, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a newly remodeled Ice Pavilion and a peaceful Rose Garden.

The athletic field at Hyde Park that FDR came here to Niagara Falls to dedicate nearly 80 years ago, would eventually become the largest city park in New York state outside of Manhattan’s Central Park.

Ironically, the name has no clear connection to the name of the famous Roosevelt family home, Hyde Park; rather, it was a gift from Charles B. Hyde, owner of a paper company, one of several that once dotted the landscape as a by-product of cheap and plentiful power and a skilled labor force in Niagara Falls that started the ball rolling.

Reportedly, when he sold the paper company and retired, he purchased a large tract of land on what was then the outskirts of the city. He willed the property to the city which took ownership after he died in 1921, laying the groundwork for the eventual development of the park.

In 1928, the Niagara Falls Power Company pitched in donating 58 acres, then stepped up to the plate again in 1943, tossing in another sizeable slice of valuable real estate.

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