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Worthington parks have religious ties

Worthington's Church Park is located at the intersection of 15th Street and Third Avenue.2 / 3
Worthington's Millard Walker Park is located along Burlington Avenue, with St. Matthew Lutheran Church nearby.3 / 3

WORTHINGTON -- Church Park is a rock in the middle of the concrete stream of Okabena Street.

Located at 15th Street and Third Avenue, it's a roughly triangular-shaped enclave that has also been known as Drake's Park and Triangle Park to those who live near it. Many years ago, early in the history of Worthington -- according to former Daily Globe editor and Worthington history expert Ray Crippen -- the land that is now Church Park was set aside during the platting and street construction of Drake's Addition for an auxiliary fire station.

George D. Dayton was selling lots in that area, Crippen explained, and the city of Worthington wanted to make sure there was an area for fire protection. A small station known as Hose House #2 was built there on the current park site.

"They may have stationed men there overnight, as well," Crippen said. "It was built because the fire department had no horses or horse-drawn fire wagons and wanted to keep the north part of Worthington safe."

Through the passing of the time, Hose House #2 became, informally, Drake's Park, but it wasn't until a little more recently that the site became known as Church Park -- for good reason.

"The original Church of Christ, now the Christian Church, was located on a property that is now an apartment, across from the park," Crippen said. "In the summer during the '30s, they had "Min-Ia-Dak," a conference for young Christian students from those three states."

Crippen said the "couple hundred" students would play in Drake's Park during their break time, and that a barracks-like building was constructed near there to house the kids.

The former site of Hose House #2 became a public park in May 1913, when surrounding property owners donated money to assist the city in purchasing the property for public purposes. The land was obtained from Frances M. Rogers for $500.

Today, amenities include playground equipment upgraded in 2000, a bench and a small concrete basketball court, along with a grassy play area.

Millard Walker Park

Millard Walker Park also has a connection to the Church of Christ, as Paul Millard was the pastor. Crippen described him as a "missionary" who had old-fashioned revival meetings in the summer. At the meetings, Crippen said, "He always introduced his father-in-law as 'Daddy Walker', and that is the only name I ever heard him called."

In 1943, Paul Millard sold the lot to the city for $2,500, on the condition that it be named Millard Walker Park -- after him and Daddy Walker.

The lot today does not bear witness to its religious past, but across the street, St. Matthew Lutheran Church towers over the neighborhood and park. Decades ago, a open green space portion of the park was flooded and became one of Worthington's outdoor ice rinks.

Those days are long gone, but now Millard Walker boasts a sand volleyball court, a full, hard-surface basketball court with three hoops, a shady picnic shelter, the playground equipment, numerous benches and recently installed modern bathrooms.

Min-Ia-Dak is now a thing of the past, and Millard and Walker are both gone, but as seems to be the case with so many Worthington parks, Church and Millard Walker parks' very names serve to preserve both people and the history of Worthington.