Upon attending a planning meeting for Hunting Park’s revitalization last week I was awarded a brief history lesson on the historical park. Stuart Appel of the Wells Appel Architecture Landscape firm hosted the event and led the discussion about Hunting Park's history.
True to Philadelphia’s love for gambling, in 1809 the first race track in America came to life in what is now Hunting Park. Born in 1858 was the idea of an open landscape in Northern Philadelphia for Philadelphians to enjoy the open air and space. There was a lot of growth within the park during the 1920's when the lake and Smedley bandstand were added. Bands played on at the bandstand while rowboats floated around. Although there is no longer a lake within the park its memory is ever present in the constant over flooding and drainage problems the park suffers.
Hunting Park once contained an array of entertaining amenities that drew crowds in and kept the surrounding neighborhood content. The Dentzel Carousel was built in the park in 1924 that provided fun for the children and parents alike. When the neighborhood began to decline so did the park's well being. As crime, violence and drugs flooded the area funding for the park went with it. Hunting Park now stands as a focal point within the community and certain aspects of its history are crucial to the future planning of the park.