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Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Arched Virginia Gardens Sign

When I was still working on the book in the summer of 2009, I asked my dad about the arched Virginia Gardens ballroom sign that used to be displayed in the memorial park on the corner of Carolina Avenue and Sixth Street. At that time he thought it was still there, but it had just recently been removed due to deterioration. All that remained were two steel pipes which used to hold it place. On a return trip to Chester to meet Doug Arner at Arner’s Funeral Home, I learned that a new sign was being constructed for the gazebo, and by that fall, the sign had been hung above the entrance to the gazebo and everything had been freshly painted. The empty paint cans were still stacked next to the fence. (See Images of America: Rock Springs Park, bottom p. 122) No one seems to know what happened to the original sign, however.

As the article below (Sent in by alert reader and Newell historian Mark Gonzalez) explains, the memorial park was the result of the efforts of the Chester Planning Commission to create a tribute park to Rock Springs.

Originally lumber was used to support the 3-piece arched sign. More recently, it was bolted to pipes facing Carolina Avenue. (Courtesy of Mark Gonzalez, from the April 19, 1983 issue of The Panhandle Press)

The park was dedicated and the first annual Rock Springs Festival was held starting on July 25, 1983.

The East Liverpool Evening Review reported on Saturday, July 23, 1983, “Memories of a colorful bit of local history will be recalled anew this week, as Chester area residents prepare for the first Rock Springs Park festival. Dedication ceremonies are planned Monday evening for the Rock Springs Memorial Park, a small section of fenced land at Carolina Ave. and Sixth St. where the City Planning Commission hopes to locate a permanent museum for park memorabilia. The ceremonies which will feature the first ‘Miss Virginia Gardens,’ Lori Theiss, and her court, are to be part of a four-day celebration.”

There was also a plan to build a small cement block structure to serve as a museum in the park . “Planning Commission member Anne Ford said the commission may consider a 'buy a block' program to help with funding.” The city also applied for funds under the Governor’s Emergency Employment Program to build the structure, but it never came to fruition.

Planners intended the festival to become an annual event and it did continue for several years but ended in the late 80s.

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