How to buy a piece of Laurel Hollow Park
by Liz Lundberg
Hey ORL readers: I've asked Matt if I could post today to share some important news about Laurel Hollow Park. Anyone who has been visiting ORL since the beginning will recall my September 2006 article on the historic Newell, WV landmark. But first, an update on the life of Laurel Hollow since late '06; then after that, my special news.
The original brainchild of George Washington Clarke, a dinnerware salesman for Homer Laughlin China, Laurel Park was very popular back in the early 1900s; however, it was destined to be short-lived. After Clarke died suddenly of a heart attack, no one stepped in to fill his shoes. It's said that he spent quite a bit of his own money on it; even though it was built on Homer-Laughlin property, the attraction seems to have been under his sole stewardship, and so it fell into disuse. By the time I wrote about it five years ago, you could walk past where its remains lay and never know it existed.
In 2008 restoration began on what is left of the original structures. and the space they occupy has been transformed. The central area, ringed by (now towering) sycamores is clear of vegetation; there are benches and picnic tables, and the old polar bears' den now serves as an amphitheatre where bands have recently played and weddings are scheduled for this coming summer. Trails that once wound their way through the wilder half of the hundred acres park are lined with crushed stone nearly all the way to Newell Heights.
Newell native and park enthusiast Mark Gonzalez, who now resides in Birmingham, Alabama, has created a website in tribute to Laurel Hollow Park (laurelhollowpark.net), including a text that surely has not been read by anyone for many years. In a description of the park that Gonzales discovered in a 1907 Homer Laughlin China catalogue, we discover that the ravine half of the park was "... improved only by smooth graded walks, rustic bridges and comfortable seats, in so far as they may not interfere with the wild natural effect.” That original intent resonates if you traverse just beyond the renovated paths to the base of the spring-fed waterfall.
So if you never, when you were a kid, explored the vine-choked jungle in the summer or sledded its steep banks in the winter, you still have a chance to enjoy this beautiful historic landmark. Don't waste any more time; get the heck down there, for gosh sakes, and soak it up! Those of you who have, and who remember the mystery and excitement should return to rekindle your sense of alive-ness.
This glorious restoration is the brainchild of the Newell Community Improvement Coalition, a local nonprofit organization composed of roughly two dozen Newell residents, and supported with cooperation from local businesses. The NCIC coordinates and shares responsibilities for those invisible things that happen around small towns, such as putting up seasonal decorations, maintaining public trash barrels (or replacing them when they get destroyed by renegade autos and hormone-infected youths) and clearing debris from sidewalks and gutters. The man-hours add up, and with the addition of Laurel Hollow to the list of activities, these residents have proved their devotion to and pride in their town.
Support the park; buy a brick!
To invite your participation in creating a permanent home within the park for the storing and sharing of its legacy. The next stage in the development of the park is the addition of an information center, to include an enclosed kiosk set upon a raised section of pavement.
Rather than requesting donations, which would render all the gifts anonymous, the group thought that everyone who wants to could have their own legacy permanently installed upon a paving stone at the information center. So far the idea has been well-received and spots are being reserved fairly quickly; still, the estimated need is for roughly 200 inscribed pavers sold, with room for 400 available (should fortune bless the park with so many enthusiasts).
The paving company and stone style have been selected - pavers will be varying shades of red brick and come in two sizes; 4 x 8 and 8 x 8-inch. The writing on each paver will be indelible; no need to worry about it wearing off! The 4 x 8-inch bricks are priced at $50 and the 8 x 8-inch ones at $80. Construction is planned for mid-summer, so the window of opportunity for obtaining one is only about two or three months.
If you are interested, you can navigate to Mark Gonzalez’s special Web page to print an application; alternately, you may find pick one up in many of the local business around Chester and Newell.
If you think it is a nice idea but don't really have a reason to get one, please read further for a list of really good reasons. And yes, I'm trying to sell pavers! This project means a lot to me, and my window of opportunity for getting them purchased is only two or three months!
So think of all the people or events you know that you might bless with a paver. Here are my suggestions:
--The memory of your grandparents, who recalled the heyday of the park to you.
--The simple fact that your family name is synonymous with the Upper Ohio Valley: maybe you're an Allison, a Tice or a Chaney, and you want to set their legacy in stone.
--The sled-ride you took that you hit a tree in the park and broke your arm, the tree you carved your initials in, or the first kiss you stole from another under the shade of the hardwoods.
--Maybe you have or know of a local business that would want to take the opportunity to contribute to the project; one that has long had roots here, or one with intentions of sinking deep roots.
--Finally think of the folks you know who used to live here but no longer do, and who, like Mark Gonzales, dearly love the upper Ohio valley, and who would leap at a chance to plant a permanent token where their a bit of spirit permanently abides, if not their bodies.
It's the best kind of bang for your buck; after all, you can’t take it with you, but you can choose the best place to leave it!