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GreatLIFE donates Harmon Field blueprint to NCHS

By Roger Zarn, Special to the Globe Editor's note: On Monday, GreatLIFE Worthington donated the 1925 blueprint plan for the planned Harmon Field to the Nobles County Historical Society. The following describes the history of the Harmon Field plan...

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GreatLIFE Worthington's Chad Nixon (from left), Nobles County Historical Society staff member Roger Zarn, GreatLIFE Worthington General Manager Ben Johnson and Nobles County Historical Society President Art Frame stand Monday with Worthington Playgrounds Corporation blueprint for the planned Harmon Field. (Ryan McGaughey / The Globe)

By Roger Zarn, Special to the Globe

 

Editor’s note: On Monday, GreatLIFE Worthington donated the 1925 blueprint plan for the planned Harmon Field to the Nobles County Historical Society. The following describes the history of the Harmon Field plan.

 

WORTHINGTON - It was the “roaring twenties,” and Worthington residents were enjoying a more leisure time. Hours were shorter both on the farm and at jobs. Technological advancements reduced labor and increased the profits of everyday work. People were eager to play, and new recreational facilities became important community projects.

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In the mid-1920s, Worthington envisioned an extravagant public recreation center that was to be located on the present Country Club site.

The Harmon Foundation was established in 1922 by real estate developer and philanthropist William E. Harmon. The foundation included such divergent activities as lending $300,000 unsecured to college students from 1923 to 1928 and installing scores of playgrounds in American cities.

Worthington was one of four Minnesota towns to be considered for the award. Florence Nadler, a representative of the foundation, arrived from New York in November 1924 and investigated Worthington’s proposal. She was quite impressed. Worthington received a $2,000 grant to inaugurate the public recreation center. The conditions of the grant were that the playground be called “Harmon Field,” it must only be used for recreation and it must be free for all.

On Dec. 31, 1923, the Worthington Playgrounds Corporation was incorporated. The purpose of the corporation was to own, operate and improve the playgrounds or other amusements.

The local board of directors of the Playgrounds Corporation, which included Dr. Gould, L. M. Herbert, Dr. F. M. Manson, Dr. S. A. Slater and Henry Tellander, appreciated the visit from Florence Nadler and immediately hired Minneapolis architect F. W. Ramsdell to prepare both preliminary and final plans for the playgrounds.

The Ramsdell plan was presented for public approval in June 1925. A 52-acre tract of land was selected as the site for the playgrounds and a nine-hole golf course. Six of the 52 acres was set aside for the playgrounds and would be facing Oxford Street (Old Highway 16).

The plans included a baseball diamond, volleyball and tennis courts, children’s playground, picnic grounds with brick fireplaces, park shelter, band shell, concession stand, golf course, parking lot for 150 cars and a special woodland trail that surrounded the entire park.

On April 24, 1924 the Playgrounds Corporation was authorized to sell 250 shares of common stock at a share price of $100 per share to fund the purchase of the 52 acres. On Nov. 10, 1925, the Playgrounds Corporation purchased 51.90 acres of land for $350 per acre for a total of $18,165.

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The playground developed slowly, but never reached the goals set by its founded. In the end Harmon Field boasted a nine-hole golf course, picnic grounds and children’s playground.

Prior to 1937, the golf course portion of Harmon Field was being operated by an unincorporated association known as the Worthington Golf Club, operating the grounds under a lease from the Worthington Playgrounds Corporation, which owned the real estate.

On Sept. 2, 1941, the Worthington Playgrounds Corporation held a special stockholders meeting and authorized the board of directors of the corporation to transfer all assets of the Worthington Playgrounds Corporation to the Worthington Country Club, Inc. The Worthington Country Club was incorporated on Aug. 13, 1941.  

 

Roger Zarn is a staff member of the Nobles County Historical Society. This piece contains excerpts from a Daily Globe article dated Aug. 5, 1972.

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