Delano Park’s signature element, the Historic Rose Garden, was built in 1934 by work teams from the Civil Works Administration (CWA) under the guidance of Carolyn Cortner Smith, one of Alabama’s earliest female architects. During the Depression, Decatur was hit hard, and we lost major employers such as the L&N Railroad Shops. Projects such as the CWA improvements at Delano Park provided needed job opportunities in bleak times and were a statement of hope in the future. In the 1930’s, everything was certainly not coming up roses. But as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s alphabet soup of New Deal programs, rose gardens were being built throughout our country. Perhaps these served as tangible reminders that despite life’s thorns, beauty could still be found. In fact, the name Roosevelt means “field of roses”.
On December 30, 1933, The Decatur Daily announced “City Park Area to be a Beauty Spot on County’s Face.” The article revealed “approximately 140 men, both skilled and unskilled, will be employed in rushing the city parks improvement project to completion by February 15. Expenditures on the project will total over $24,000, of which $5,000 will be spent for materials.” The article goes on to say that “The section lying between 6th Avenue and 8th Avenue will provide the central beautification theme as it will evolve into a beautiful elevated rose garden with 2,000 selected roses planted at vantage points.” Possible plantings are described, including 3,000 gladiolas, crape myrtles, and the transplanting of trees from Bankhead National Forest. The article concluded by saying that the “color ensemble, when complete is expected to be one of rare beauty.” The Rose Garden was created in 1934 and planted with hard work and determination, a commitment to beauty and improving our community life, and sprinkled with seeds of hope in the future. The Delano Park Conservancy aims to do the exact same thing–to have the faith of our fathers and persevere in adding to their legacy.