Naming new park for first UH mayor would honor city's history
By now, many know that University Heights has a new neighborhood community park, located near City Hall, bordering Fenwick Road on the west. But how many know the history of our city or the names of its founders?
What better way to honor our city’s first mayor, John J. Howard, and celebrate our history than to name this new park the John J. Howard Park. This name has significant historical value and merit to our community.
Mayor Howard served for 25 years, from 1916 to 1941. Did you know University Heights was originally the Village of Idlewood, in 1907? In 1909, the name changed to Idlewood Township. In 1925, Howard signed the resolution to change, officially, the name of Idlewood to University Heights.
If we go back in time to before 1907, even the Village of Idlewood did not exist. Legend has it that the Silsby brothers were not too happy living in the Village of Cleveland Heights, and decided to break away and form their own village. When the main roads were laid, the Silsbys were honored by having a major street connecting the two cities named after them.
University Heights commemorated Boyd Purvis, a special educator, by naming Purvis Park after him. We commemorate another beloved former mayor, Beryl E. Rothschild, who served our city from 1978 to 2009, by naming the municipal pool after her. We honored a long-serving member of council, Adele Zucker, by naming the pavilion in Purvis Park after her.
It was during Mayor Howard’s administration that the city attracted John Carroll University to relocate here from Ohio City. Howard was key in promoting the city and establishing services to attract residents that, by the 1940 census, numbered more than 5,000, and in paving the way to the 1941 charter that is the basis for our city’s government to this day.
Knowing our city’s history enriches our pride as residents and contributes to building a greater sense of community. Honoring our first mayor with the naming of this park would capture and celebrate that history. The John J. Howard Park is the name University Heights City Council is respectfully requested to consider and implement in time for our city’s 2017 Memorial Day Parade.
This little six-plus acre park is home to a gazebo expected to become the new home for the city’s summer music programs. The park has picnic tables, benches, restrooms, children’s playgrounds and plenty of parking for those not living in the neighborhood.
One resident addressed UH City Council late last year. He said he enjoys the park with his dog companion, as do many others. He requested that council consider installing a supply of plastic bags for dog walkers to use to clean up after their pets. He also suggested the track around the park have mileage marks, for those who like keeping track of their mileage—fitness, fitness, fitness!
A longtime resident recalls the 1970s, when what is now the main parking lot was a simple paved surface. The city created a makeshift pond and filled it with water for ice-skating. It wasn’t the best skating around, but it was fun. I drove past the park many times this winter; rare was the time when I saw anyone using it other than a dog walker or two.
Who knows, a makeshift rink (not expensive and easy to assemble/disassemble) in the park may be just the ticket to get kids outdoors, engaging in active recreation.
Howard Park—the simple name by which the park would likely be known—can be where new experiences of picnics, sports, playgrounds, walking, snowshoeing, ice-skating, bird watching, painting, photography and experiencing the outdoors—alone or with others—will become the history of tomorrow.
Anita Kazarian, a 31-year resident of University Heights has been active in many of the city’s volunteer organizations. She wants to hear your thoughts; write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.