Thursday, June 02, 2011

Local stone fireplaces in Hoyt Park have a unique history and date back to the Great Depression

Historic Hoyt Park Fireplace
Hoyt Park on Madison's west side has an interesting history. Its origins date back to 1890, when the city bought the property rights to a stone quarry on the site. The park was developed during the Great Depression with funds from the New Deal after the quarry stopped operating in 1933. The park's 12 stone fireplaces reflect that history.
Major efforts to develop Hoyt Park began during the Great Depression with funds provided by Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. Many unemployed workers were hired by programs such as Works Progress Administration and Civil Works Administration to improve various aspects of Hoyt Park. Significant among these laborers were the Italian masons from the local Greenbush neighborhood who were responsible for constructing stone fireplaces and tables using materials from the Park's quarry. Though money for the building projects had been exhausted, the Italian masons continued to work without pay in order to complete what they had started.

However, subsequent time, vandalism, and harsh winter cycles caused the Depression-era artifacts to deteriorate. In response to citizen concern for the dire situation, the Friends of Hoyt Park was founded in 1995. This volunteer group is committed to restoring and preserving cultural features of the park's past. In the years to follow, with financial contributions of both the City and the Friends of Hoyt Park, the twelve stone fireplaces were meticulously restored to their previous condition.
Hoyt Park was designated a City of Madison Landmark in 1995. (Photo is one of my illustrations for "The Hidden Gems of Madison-area Public Parks" in last week's Isthmus.

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