A corner lot holds a whole lot of history. And, in coming weeks, a special park honoring that legacy will be put in place.
Farmington Parks and Recreation Director Chris Conway had a special report for the Farmington City Council during the Sept. 14 meeting.
Conway presented plans drawn together by the city’s tree board for the development of a park on the location of the former AME church near downtown.
Farmington Library Director Travis Trokey said research shows the former church, once located on the lot at the corner of Franklin and Third Streets, was built in 1887 before being torn down in 2004.
Trokey said the information on the date the church was built came from an historic survey of the downtown area conducted in 2003 using Sanborn Maps from that era — maps created in the 19th century to assess fire insurance liability for communities.
In 2014, the city adopted an ordinance acknowledging the donation of the lot from brothers Bill and Charles Matthews.
At that time, then-mayor Mit Landrum told the council the land was the site of the first African Methodist Episcopal Church west of the Mississippi. The gift of the land was given by the brothers for the city to develop the site into a memorial park in honor of the African-American families who played an integral part in the history and development of Farmington.
Currently, all that remains at the site are the concrete steps once leading to the front door.
Conway said the board discussed the design of the park by request of Mayor Larry Forsythe.
The memorial park will be a “passive” park — meaning, there are no recreation-type swings or other items related to what one typically considers with a park.
A member of the tree board is a landscape architect and helped create an initial design. The design uses both Ivory Silk trees and boxwoods.
“People walk by…they can sit and reflect,” he said. “What’s neat about the design of the park is that the trees are going to outline the foundation of the original church.”
Two stone benches are to be placed within the tree line as well.
The boxwoods are going to be planted in the alter area of the church.
“They are to symbolize (alter location),” he said. “They are going to be staggered in a way to see the depiction.”
Next to the original steps will be a stone marker, containing a design approved by the Matthews family.
“It will be a nice little park and a beautification project for what has been a vacant lot,” he said. “It will look nice…I’m really excited to see how this turns out.”
Conway said members of the Matthews’ family came out to visit with the board when they were visiting the future park to discuss possibilities for the location.
One special moment from the visit, Conway said, was when a daughter of one of those gentlemen donating the land came out to visit.
“We walked around the site and Bill Matthews’ daughter came out,” Conway said. “We also picked up the cornerstone from the church” and have placed it in storage for use in a future Farmington museum.
Conway said it was being kept in a neighboring home after the church was demolished due to unsafe conditions.
“They brought (the cornerstone) out that night, we put it in my truck and now we’ve got it tucked away for safe keeping,” he said.
Conway said the tree board typically meets on an as-needed basis. He said it was under the mayor’s urging the group take the reins for this project.
“He wanted this to be a passive park, and (the mayor) saw the landscaping as a major part of this park design,” Conway said. “(Forsythe) thought it would be appropriate (for the tree board to design)…I think he made the right call on that and what came of it is a nice design.
“To symbolize it with beautiful landscaping, I think, is going to do it justice.”
Forsythe said they are looking to an October date for a dedication ceremony for the park.
Shawnna Robinson is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-518-3628 or email@example.com