Preserving Center Memorial Park
by Susan Barlow

The Manchester Historical Society supports the preservation of Center Memorial Park in its natural state. Over the years, attempts have been made to pave areas of the park. The Historical Society and the public, with widely circulated petitions, have opposed these encroachments.

Yet the Town has undertaken a $60,000 project to study enlarging the library at its current location. This project will study only the option of expanding the library at this location, even though many residents and taxpayers have suggested moving the library, rather than adversely affecting the historic park in the center of our town. Other suggestions, such as using current space differently, finding other space for some library functions, improving crosswalks to other parking areas, providing a drive-through book drop, etc., have apparently been rejected.

Friends of the park want to preserve this historic area with its curved paths, pavilion, and memorial statues to veterans. As one of the charming sites in Manchester, the park deserves better than to be considered a spot to be paved and built upon.

This is the letter that the Historical Society submitted to Scott Shanley, General Manager, with copies to the town Board of Directors:

"The Manchester Historical Society strongly opposes any encroachment on historic Center Memorial Park for parking or enlargement of the library building. This land is an icon of Manchester, important both historically and environmentally in the center of our town. The land was given to the public by the Cheney family for a park, and we advocate preserving its natural character, as envisioned by its donors. We request that once and for all the Town declare this park off limits for paving and development."

The dancing bear fountain in Center Memorial Park, an icon of Manchester's charm. Curving paths behind the fountain lead to a flag pavilion and to Linden Street. The fountain was given by the Cheney family in 1909 to memorialize Frank Cheney (1817-1904), one of the Cheney brothers who founded the silk mills. The Historical Society conducted a celebration in May 2009 to recognize the fountain's one-hundredth anniversary. Photo by John Spaulding for the Manchester Historical Society.

To access a Reprinted article on the Dancing Bears statue, please click: 100 Years of Dancing Bears.

At right, the flag pavilion.