Conway Historical Society / Conway NH

Schouler Park in North Conway NH



Schouler Park

By vote of Conway Town Meeting of 1924 the $3000 bequest of Dr. James Schouler was used to buy this land from the Boston and Maine Railroad. It was deeded to the town on express condition that it be used only for the purpose of a public park, and named by petition of citizens in 1961.

 

 

   It has taken 15 years, but persistence has finally won. This week or next you will see a sign in Schouler Park (pronounced Skooler) which will let people know it is Schouler Park, not the village Green, or the Common, or the Boston and Maine Park, or the North Conway Park.

    It all began back in 1961, when the road around the park was being widened. It had no official name then; people usually referred to it as the station road. I though it was a good time to have it given a name of some significance, and I discussed the issue in my inklings column in the Reporter. I suggested Norcross Circle or Crescent, because S. Girard Norcross had been a teacher in the old North Conway Academy, which stood about where the community center now stands, and had served as chairman of the school Board, an office which he made essentially that of the first superintendent of schools. He worked indefatigably to improve the schools. Another name I suggested was Schouler, also connected with the area, for Doctor James Schouler in his will had left money for buying the park. Incidentally, I wonder how many people know that Seavey Street derived its name from the fact that the Boston and Maine Railroad or rather, the Great Eastern Railroad, has originally bought the Seavey Farm on the west side of Main Street.
    I asked for expressions of opinion about a name for the street, and for suggestions of other names. The response was almost equally divided between the two names I had suggested, possibly somewhat in favor of Norcross Circle because it was easier to spell and to pronounce. However it then occurred to me that the park had no official name, and it seemed rather silly to call it the Boston and Maine Park when it no longer belonged to that Railroad and there were no longer any Boston and Maine trains.
    So instead of getting signers for one petition, I prepared two; one for Norcross Circle and another for Schouler Park, and obtained many more signers than required for both. In Due time I received a letter from Selectman Joe Dodge, informing me that both names had been accepted.
    For Quite a time no sign was put up for either the Street or the Park, and I kept providing the selectman. Eventually they put up a sign for Norcross circle, and the name was quickly accepted, but they insisted that the park commissioners, not the selectman, were responsible for putting up the sign in the Park.
    It took considerable time and effort to find out who the Park Commissioners were, and when I finally found the chairman he refused to do anything about putting up a sign because he did not like the name Schouler Park; he preferred to call it North Conway Park. I pointed out to him that weather he like the name or not, that is the name; that he had the privilege of getting up a petition to change it, but until such a petition is accepted by the selectman its name is Schouler Park. I object to calling it North Conway Park because of the confusion of giving the same name to two different places. For quite a time before and after 1900, “North Conway Park” referred to the race track, with grandstand, where the airport is now.
    The matter was rested thus for a long time. A little progress was made when I became a member of the municipal budget committee in 1967 and insisted that the park should be given its proper name when money was raised and appropriated for it. Ever since then it has received its proper name in the town report, and every year I was on the Budget Committee I received a considerable chaffing.
    Last year I went to the selectman’s meeting in the interest of a member of the Swett family who was perturbed because the street sign misspelling Swett Street had recently been put up. Some discussion of the street signs ensued, and there was some banter about my persistence in regard to Schouler Park. I was pleasantly surprised to have Town Manager Arthur Seavey promise me that he was going to put up a sign for Schouler Park. There were several reporters present, and they have used the name many times since.

    Recently Mr. Seavey did me the courtesy of asking me to choose the position of the sign and to provide the historical information to be put on it. The foundation has already been placed in the ground; the sign has been built, and is now being painted with this information:
 
    Now you might like to know something about Dr. James Schouler, eminent jurist and author. It is very appropriate that then name should be perpetuated in the town, because Dr, Schouler was a public benefactor in many ways. He was one of the directors of the North Conway Library Association when it was founded in 1887, and served as its president from 1900 to 1917. He himself gave 100 books to the small collection with which the library started and did the actual purchasing of books for many years. In 1905 he gave the money for the lot on which the present library building stands; and in 1911 another gift of his was the money necessary to erect the first building- the section of the present building which now forms the reading room. He donated $75 dollars to the fund raised for buying Cathedral Ledge, to prevent it from being quarried in 1899, and another $75 the following year to buy White Horse Ledge; and he was the one of the committee of eight that arranged for making these ledges a permanent reservation for the benefit of the public. He took an important part in the coaching parades that played such an important part in North Conway from 1890 to 1896.

From the Irregular, October 11, 1977

This article was reproduced from Helen Nutes Articles 1970-1979 pages 247-48.
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