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The Orange Memorial Playground


Sketch of the Memorial Playground

If you grew up in Orange in the 1950s, you may remember the large playground located on Belleview Avenue behind the current Orange County Library, where the Verizon and town public works buildings are located today. The story of its establishment is an interesting example of how many organizations in Orange came together to establish a community park.

By the late 1940s, the town recognized the need for a safe children’s playground, and in 1949, under the leadership of the Woman’s Club of Orange, steps were taken to bring that vision to fruition. The lot behind the courthouse owned by the town and the adjacent parcel owned by the American Legion post were donated for the playground’s establishment. The Legion’s parcel was the location of the failed War Memorial building in 1945, which had collected substantial donations up to that point. Due to a confluence of good timing, the Woman’s Club voted to enter the new playground project in the “Build a Better Community” contest sponsored by the General Federation of Woman’s Clubs (their national organization). The winning project would receive a prize of $60,000.


The development of the Memorial Playground began with the installation of a storm sewer by the town. The Woman’s Club secured the participation of Albert Beecher, a landscape architect from the Virginia Tech. The site plan was characterized by perimeter fencing, a wading pool, ornamental plantings, swings, water fountain, rest rooms, picnic area, sandbox, and softball diamond and measured 222 x 225-ft. The Woman’s Club sought active partners in their project from local civic and community organizations.


Donations for the project came from the Orange County Chamber of Commerce; Dolly Madison Garden Club; Junior Woman’s Club of Orange; Merchants Grocery, Scott-Pendleton Feed Co, and T.O Gillum & Co.; P.D. Waugh & Sons; C.C. Gill & Sons; W.T. Goodwin and H.E. Grasty & Brothers; Town of Orange; Lion’s Club; Mr. and Mrs. J.R. Gipson; Dorothy Williams; Orange Rotary Club; American Silk Mills; Orange PTA; University of Virginia; Circle of Kings Daughters; Orange Volunteer Fire Department; Ladies Auxiliary Orange Volunteer Fire Department; Virginia Metal Products Corporation; Woodberry Forrest student body; Biddie Sanford; and Daughters of the American Revolution.


Painting the Fence

The new Memorial Playground was constructed and was dedicated on May 14, 1950. Mrs. Faye Kilpatrick was named supervisor for its inaugural season. Disappointingly, the Memorial Playground project did not win the Build a Better Community contest, but it did receive an honorable mention among Class B entries at the General Federation of Woman’s Clubs convention in Roanoke.


Many still have fond memories of the playground and the friends and good times that they made there. Today the only reminder of the disappeared playground is the brick fireplace with stone seats standing in a small patch of grass amongst the asphalt parking lots behind the Orange Courthouse complex.

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