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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Historical Marker Moved Three Times

This is the present location of the Rock Springs Park historical marker. Note the distance to the large white house in the distance as compared to the smaller image below.

In the June 19, 2009 edition of the East Liverpool Review, it was reported that the Chester City Council had agreed to apply for a grant from the W.Va. department of transportation that would enable them to install historical markers at several sites in the city. Some of the sites for potential signage were listed as the old Chester Bridge, a tin mill (pictured above) that once stood where Allison Elementary is currently located, the McDonald-Calcott home and the Matthews home. It also mentioned several of the historic markers which are currently in the city, including the one at the former location of Rock Springs Park. The paper has not said whether or not new markers have been approved, but the article reminded me of an interesting fact I uncovered while researching the park: its historical marker, which by the way incorrectly reads “Rock Spring Park," has been moved three times since it was installed 1980.

This site along the southbound approach to Route 30 from Chester was the original location for the Rock Springs Park historical marker.

On May 6, 1980, the Rock Springs Park historical marker was placed at the site of the old merry-go-round. Planning Committee Member, Frank DeCapio, along with Fred Armstrong of the West Virginia Archives and Dan Pennell of the West Virginia Department of Highways spotted the sign where the carousel pavilion once stood east of the old Chester High School building. This made logical and sentimental sense, but due to the excavation for the cloverleaf approach to the Jennings Randolph bridge, it placed the historic marker directly along Route 30. Armstrong and Pennell soon learned that markers such as these cannot be placed on a national road, perhaps to avoid having people pull over to read them or taking pictures on the side of a highway, but more likely because it is not state property. On September 22, 1980, Armstrong and Pennell along with then mayor, William Scarry, respotted the sign inside the inbound turn of the Jennings Randolph Bridge off-ramp which curves to the east toward the "upper end" of Chester. At that time, as you can see below, there was a large mound of dirt covered in vegetation behind the sign. Roy Cashdollar, also pictured below, noted, “Perhaps the sign can be moved back somewhat once the ‘mountain’ next to it has been removed.
The “mountain” was removed and the land leveled for improved sight lines for drivers and to control water run off. At that time, the historic marker was moved again approximately 40 yards west along Carolina Avenue to its present location just across the Route 30 on-ramp and adjacent to the Virginia Gardens Memorial Park. It is interesting to note that Cashdollar was already thinking about a park in 1980 when he suggested that the spot where the sign was placed in September 1980 could be cleared and “the area could possibly serve as a little park, complete with benches." This area remains a flat grassy plain with a few recently planted trees and newly added light post, but a memorial park with birdbaths and a gazebo was added in 1983.

If the present grant goes through and Chester is given funds for new historical markers, the City Council has promised that they will “choose the oldest places and the ones with the most historical significance” and that after the signs are installed “the city will make a walking tour brochure that maps each site's location.” I hope that they will also add the old markers including Rock Springs Park as part of that tour as it was once the tourist stop in Chester, or better yet, make a new sign that properly identifies the park as "Rock Springs" with the final 's.'

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