Saturday, May 7, 2011

Center School Recreational Field

Often we take for granted our public facilities, parks or recreationaly lands, and certainly their origins. For instance, the athletic filed adjoining the Center School was originally a gift to the Town of East Hampton. In the Fall of 1922, Bevin Brothers Manufacturing Co. (the fabled bell maker) gave approximately 3 acres of land north of the then grammer school ( which became the High School in 1939) for a Community playground. The land was deeded to the East Hampton Bank & Trust Co. with the understanding that when $5,000 had been raised and expended toward putting the grounds into proper condition, the land should be deeded to the town. One of the stipulations of the gift was that alcohol could not be served on the grounds. You will likely note that although beer is served at Old Home Day, it is done so from the rear of the American Legion Hall and not from the school grounds.
A commission composed of J. Howell Conklin, Secretary, Albert B. Starr, Treasurer and Harlan G. Hills, Chairman formed to raise the money by popular subscription.
In July 1923, the Village Improvement Society voted to start this subscription with a gift of $1,000 and a pledge to give 75 pecent of the proceeds of the upcoming Carnival towards the same fund. The successor to the Village Improvement Society is the Old Home Day Committe, which we all know holds its annual festivities on those same grounds.
Work commenced on the grounds on the morning of July 19th, under the supervision of Harlan G. Hills with Wolfe Reisiner, as foreman. A carloan of tile had alread been unloaded and a ditch was dug from the Congregational Church north past the Methodist Church (now the American Legion Hall). Today, DEP and our town Sanitarian would initiate a cease and decist order until proper permits could be obtained, but in 1923, the 125 feet of 18 inch tile that would carry the brook as well as connecting Bevin's sewer with storm drains in the Village Center and permitting the project were not quite as involved or formal as today. Those drainage pipes eventually emptied into Pocotopaug Creek heading towards the Salmon then Connecticut Rivers.
In addition to the drainage, horse and carriage sheds belonging to the 2 churches were dismantled or moved.
The committee planned to put in 2 or 3 tennis courts, croquet, basketball, swings, teeter and everything that go to make up a playground, and, raise $10,000 within a few weeks. The project was a success and the field has been used for a variety of activities. Old Home Day annually, but from 1939 to the mid 1960s it was the High School athletic field. Home soccer and baseball games were played her as well as track and field meets. And from the mid 1920s to the 1950s, the East Hampton Bombers played their summer baseball games along with the factory league teams.

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