Of Maps and Mysteries (Part 1): Greenway Park

Seems I always find something new in old photos. The other day I was hovering over Fort Worth via an aerial photo taken in 1952 when I saw a couple of features on the East Side that I did not recognize. Here is the first mystery feature:

Unlike today’s Google aerial photos, this photo has no labels. That wide street running from seven o’clock to two o’clock is East Belknap. But what is that large rectangular open area just north of Belknap stretching between the railroad tracks (left) and the river (right)?

Turns out that was the original Greenway Park. Its layout appears rather formal, with a U-shaped driveway and rows of uniformly spaced trees along the long sides. But despite the park’s size (a half-mile long) Greenway apparently had few facilities.

gateway detailI can make out a tennis court (lower left) and a structure (upper right) at the curve of the U-shaped driveway that might have been a stage or shelter house.

Greenway first shows up as unlabeled parkland on a 1926 map, when part of the park was still outside the city limits. Belknap would not cross the river and connect with Grapevine Cardinal Road until about 1929. This map from 1943 shows the shaded area of the park on both sides of Belknap. (Map from Pete Charlton’s “The Lost Antique Maps of Texas: Fort Worth & Tarrant County, Volume 2” CD.)

Bobby Stanton, as a youth growing up in Mosier Valley’s African-American community, commuted to I. M. Terrell High School on the East Side. He remembered that Greenway was the only city park open to African-Americans when he was growing up in the 1940s. (Bobby Stanton eventually was able to get into any park he wanted: He grew up to be Robert Stanton, appointed by President Clinton in 1997 to be director of the National Park Service.)

Like any area that offers seclusion, inevitably Greenway Park provided those having the means and the motive with the opportunity and became a crime scene now and then. Clip is from the Dallas Morning News in 1932.

I had never heard of Greenway Park before. But I find not only that it still exists but also that I have passed by it on the Trinity Trails many times. It’s just over the levee, hidden in plain sight near the junction of Airport Freeway and Interstate 35. And it’s those two major public works projects and an earlier one—the Trinity River floodway in the early 1950s—that nibbled away at the park on three sides.

Now Greenway Park has a baseball field and a small playground. Ironically, the park’s nearness to two freeways makes it hard to get to and from by car because the freeways’ connections to the park are tricky. Better leave a trail of bread crumbs.

In Part 2 I’ll trot out the second mystery feature.

Of Maps and Mysteries (Part 2): Ethel Ransom Memorial Hospital

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4 Responses to Of Maps and Mysteries (Part 1): Greenway Park

  1. Mary Walthall says:

    As a Riverside kid, I remember the park from the 40’s and 50’s. I was fascinated by it when my parents would drive by it, and that it was for blacks only . I remember also that on the south side of Belknap there was a black Masonic Lodge and I believe a dance hall. I attended the same schools in Riverside that my mother attended. It was basically a good life and there was an innocense that I believe kids these days miss out on.

    • hometown says:

      Mary, I grew up in Poly but have no memory of the park or the lodge hall. But I have spent the last few days tracing the lodge backward and forward in time.

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