A commemorative wall has been constructed at the World’s Richest Acre Park to honor the donations of Kilgore residents who raised money for the beautification of the city. The wall, placed at the park on May 3, bears plaques which feature the names of people who originally donated money to the city for the construction and installation downtown of 40 miniature oil derricks.
The miniature derrick project was first proposed in 1993 as a way to decorate downtown sidewalks with additional lighting because SWEPCO would not allow lights to be strung across the streets.
“We needed a way to have more Christmas lights downtown,” Sue Brown, president of the KHPF, said. “There was nothing to connect lights across the streets. Building owners didn’t want the liability of hanging lights across streets.”
The mini-derricks were built and installed with funding from local donors and remained in place on downtown sidewalks until 2008, when the city began its streetscaping project and received approval to string lights across streets. Kilgore Historical Preservation Society was then tasked with finding a new location to place the mini-derricks.
KHPF chose a vacant lot on South and Commerce streets as the new home for the mini-derricks, but the city needed that space for additional parking while the Crim and Texan theaters were being restored. The decision was then made to raise funds for a wall to be placed at the WRA Park so the original donors, as well as the donors who funded the new plaques, could be recognized.
“The lot was purchased and the design was completed with good intentions to proceed,” Brown said. “However, the cost was prohibitive, with other projects such as the old post office building restoration being a priority, so another plan came to the forefront and that was to give back the derricks to those who donated them and sell the lot to the city as it was needed for downtown parking for theatre visitors. That was the original reason donors came forth and purchased the lot for KHPF. Then a wall was designed and plaques made to credit all donors.”
KHPF has additional plans for the wall and plaques at the park. A sidewalk is to be constructed so that park visitors can more easily view the plaques and identify the names of donors. Funding for the wall and plaques came from the 2011-2012 Kilgore Chamber of Commerce Leadership Class, which held a Cake Chase 5K event to generate the funds.
Learn more about KHPF and the history of Kilgore by visiting their website at KilgoreHistory.org.