Quakertown Senior High School Used to be a Horse Racetrack?

Quakertown Senior High School Used to be a Horse Racetrack?

Ivyanna Barndt, Staff Writer

Quakertown Senior High School has been the site of bustling loud noise, town socialization, large sports events, and Quakertown Pride for much longer than just when this building was built in 1957 but many do not know why. Before the many walls of our high school stood, there stood a Quakertown Fairgrounds, also known as “Lulu Park”. Here lay events like horse racing, fairs, and other town gatherings. The well-known Quakertown/Pennridge Rivalry even built its foundations here, hosting the Thanksgiving home game in 1934, before the Alumni Field was even constructed.

Because Park Avenue is not as it can be seen today, with most of the houses not even constructed, the park thrived. Within the park, there was a half-mile car and horse racing track on the High School’s very grounds for the Quakertown Driving Club. In fact, in 1894, Lulu Park was advertised as “A Popular Summer Resort,” with “a small lake and a well of cold spring water,” highlighting the attractions of the eighteen hundreds. The other attractions can be highlighted in the adjacent image. Similar to the Ice Rink every winter in Memorial Park, Lulu park had started this tradition over one hundred years ago, with the process to preserve the water including a layer of horse manure.

While the old Park sustained the Bucks County Fair under both names of Lulu Park and Quakertown Park, the popularity of the fairs began to decline in 1933 due to factors like weather attraction failures. An article from the Old Timers Edition of 1957 states, “The popular Fair began to suffer from bad weather in 1933 and had only two fair days that year.” The article continues with, “After battling, the weather for four years, the directors decided to call it quits after the 1937 Fair that had little sunshine and had all horse racing drowned out.” Within the 1933 fair, there was a thought-to-be popular attraction entitled “Wedding in a Lion’s Den.” During which, the grandstand was at full capacity with spectators in hopes of seeing some action. Contrastingly, the lions “…. reclined lazily in a corner,” stated another issue from August of 1933.

Within the decline of the interest for the Fair, the Quakertown Athletic Association was formed in 1935, and by 1937 baseball at Lulu Park had ended. The population inhabiting the Old Senior and Junior Highs (reference “Elementary Redistricting May Change QE’s Fate Forever”) increased, and the town needed the space for our current Senior High School and the population needed housing. Park Avenue was extended, and thus, Quakertown Athletic Association needed to seek a new home. From this, the QAA purchased eight acres across from St. Isidore’s church. They then would consult with the now-closed Quakertown Construction Company in order to build the baseball stadium, desiccated now together costing ten thousand dollars. The main structure of the stadium, dedicated in June of 1939, still remaining sturdily intact today hosted room for 1,300 people in the grandstand, bleachers down the foul lines, and room for 400 cars to be parked.

Today, the stadium holds just 800 in the main grandstand with dugouts and an adjacent food stand during games. In a 1989 edition of the Morning Call, a local newspaper, an article written by Jeff Schuler, discusses the detailed account of the baseball stadium as stated by a local historian, George Fox. The article states, “East Greenville had a team, Limeport had a team, Souderton, Harleysville, Nazareth, Washington, N.J., Allentown – they all had teams,” recalled Fox. “Payrolls for some of those teams would sometimes run $200, 300 dollars a weekend. There were some great local players, too – guys like Lefty Holstein, Art Mahan, Russ Fisher, Frank Hiller. And they’d get a thousand people on a Sunday afternoon to those games.”

After the Quakertown Park Association sold off small building lots to pay off the costs of the new ballfield, they then turned it over to the park for just one dollar. Yet, this was done with the agreement that the borough would purchase the land next to the ballpark and create Memorial Park. In 1945, the town voted to create Memorial Park, as shown on the original ticket stub and advertisement of the voting ceremony adjacent. Of course, the town voted to make Memorial Park, the 110-acre place we know today.

From the delegation of Memorial Park, the Ice Rink, still skated on today, gained its traction. In 1946, professionally trained ice skaters were even brought down from Allentown to demonstrate the potential of the rink and photographed in the adjacent image. January 12th of this year, the Borough cleared the town to skate on the rink as well, continuing the annual tradition. With the freezing of these waters, the waters within the known Quakertown Community Pool had yet to even exist. Within Memorial Park, there was a large fountain to play in, Macadam tennis courts, and different assortments of metal play equipment. A local historian, M. Ann Hellmann, a long-time member of the Richland Library Company, President of the board of directors, and local historian recalls her childhood days of playing in the fountain and attending the park in the 1950s when she stated in an interview, “There were all kinds of neat things there… before they built the new swimming pool. I remember all the different things they had at the park, back when the tennis courts were made of macadam and we used to play there in the summer.”

In 1957, the community saw the walls of the new Community Pool go up. From there, the Park began its renovations, converting the older Macadam tennis courts to the acrylic-topped tennis courts, installing new play equipment, and laying paths along Tohickon Creek. Pavilions were also put into place next to the baseball field and can be rented out today. Gradually, more baseball fields were added across from the main Park entrance and used for the Quakertown Youth Baseball Association.

In 1967, Memorial Park gained new significance to its name. A war memorial was built on West Mill Street in memory of “the Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines from this community who answered the call to service during World War I.” The memorial features a disabled cannon and a “Stone memorial with bronze World War One plaques surmounted by a Doughboy statue and flanked by memorials for World War Two and the Korean War. Nearby is an inter-war 75 mm gun.”

Located further back in the park, the community decided to renovate their park and entertainment equipment. In 1993, “the Friends of Panther Playground,” a volunteer group was established. Before the community would begin their work on this project, the space there was open for recreational play. The Quakertown Borough wrote in a remark about the Panther Playground, “Their [the Friends of Panther Playground] goal was to create a unique wooden playground that would not only be utilized as a community playground but also function as a recreation space for families across the Upper Bucks region.”

The building process took around a week or two just to build with much more time put into coordinating, planning, and gathering sponsors. The playground was an integral part of the Quakertown Community and for many signified unification and group effort. A Quakertown resident, father of nine children, and an experienced carpenter for over a decade, Guy Barndt, had many remarks about his experience contributing to the building of the playground.

Within this interview, he stated, “It was a joy to use my skills to create a structure that all our children could play on.” When asked about how two of his eldest kids, now adults, helped he stated, “They helped in ways, like sanding boards and a lot of splinters in the hands and…. It was well-engineered.” The involvement of people of all ages from within the town, from three years old and beyond just shows the amount of dedication for having a new park space after the closing of Lulu Park and the new baseball scene. Guy Barndt had many other things to say about the playground as well, harvesting the spirit of many in Quakertown. He stated, “It was a coordinated effort by everybody in town. It was neat to see the town come together to do something like that.”

The structure of the playground was composed mainly of wood, but the process of putting up that structure took a large amount of coordination and help from local businesses and residents as well. The borough included the “helping hands” within the structure itself in quite a unique way. The Playground was an estimated seven years past its lifespan on its closing on Thursday, September 3rd of the year 2020. However, its final way of giving back to the community was special. Twenty-eight years ago in its building, the sponsors and “Friends of the Panther Playground” were able to engrave and personalize their names into the boards of the structure. The borough was able to coordinate saving the pieces of wood with the Playground’s demolition and was prepared to give them back to the families that cherished them and left their mark for those many years.

The Borough and Parks and Recreation Department of Quakertown had made the decision to construct a new playground and included the local children through holding a Drawing Contest that would help redesign the playground, now called QuiNBy’s Playground. The borough’s reasoning for this revitalization of Memorial Park reads,This will provide children and young people of varying abilities different choices of recreation, as well as the opportunity to interact together, creating an atmosphere where diversity disappears, and community members can develop together in a positive way.” It will feature low maintenance costs, easier cleaning procedures, shock absorbance, and be ADA accessible.

The playground is still in progress today, yet its’ bright colors and new equipment can be seen taking shape. It is located close to the War Memorial and a few yards from West Mill Street towards the baseball stadium. The location of the previous panther playground, swingset close by, and drinking fountains may be a recreational area once again; the results were not mentioned. While many argue about the safety of the playground located in close proximity to the road and the preservation of the War Memorial, the playground is located with less distance from the Quakertown Community Pool.

However, the pool is also under remodel currently. The facility featured a slide, diving board with an 8-feet deep pool, competitive swimming lanes, an area for smaller kids, a play yard, changing and washrooms, and a concession stand. The new, $3 million dollar pool, is expected to have as the borough states on their Instagram, “a large 25’ slide, new diving board, rock wall, and play feature at the 0’ entrance,” and much more. There also will be a new baby/ program pool with many features. The pool is said to be complete in May of this year. While the facility was updated in 2004 using the existing pool walls and floors, the pool faced a rip in the liner and unrepairable mechanical issues, losing as much as 2 inches of water per day in its last season open. For the aforementioned reasons, the pool is facing its’ renovation currently. The Borough states in an article regarding the pool, “While it is sad to see the community pool closed for the 2021 summer, the Borough looks forward to introducing the community to a new community pool that will have a longer lifespan so community members can make lasting memories.”     

Another key feature of Quakertown’s Memorial Park and recreation area is looking forward to a revitalization. The War Memorial in Memorial Park, now about 55 years old has seen a decline in its’ condition and its surrounding features. The Quakertown Borough deems it as “no longer representative of the community’s appreciation for all who served” in an article discussing the revitalization. The Quakertowns Veterans’ Memorial Committee is counting on the generosity of the community to help fund this project. The new memorial would feature an updated plaza, new flag poles representing all of the military branches, adding shelter to cover the park benches, and updating and restoring the overall site lighting, landscaping, and monument. The VFW brought the idea to the town during their Memorial Day speech and service in 2021; a banner advertising the remodel stands in the park today.

Through time, the parks of the Quakertown community have changed drastically through time. They started in 1893 with the naming of Lulu park to 129 years later as the town observes the modernization of its facilities. Quakertown has seen its’ fair share of events, from horse racing and agricultural shows to exotic animals to sports and traditional childhood enjoyment. All of the strides from the parks of Quakertown can be seen in both negative and positive lights, yet are undeniably remarkable in their accomplishments in adapting to various population and crowd changes. The interests of town residents may have changed drastically, but the heart of Quakertown is evident in the community’s surroundings.

Works Cited/Sources

Lulu Park:

Hellmann, M. Ann, et al. The Journal, A magazine of Genealogy and Local History. Number 1 ed., vol. Volume 1, Quakertown, PA, Richland Library Company, 2021. 21 vols.

Quakertown Historical Society. “Quakertown Historical Society local history “blue books” circa 1842-2013.” Quakertown Historical Society local history “blue books”, circa 1842-2013, Philadelphia Area Archives Research Portal (PAARP), http://dla.library.upenn.edu/dla/pacscl/ead.html?fq=repository_facet%3A%22Quakertown%20Historical%20Society%22%20AND%20subject_topic_facet%3A%22Local%20history%22&id=PACSCL_SMREP_QHS03. Accessed 20 January 2022.

Wikipedia. “Pennridge–Quakertown Thanksgiving Day Football Classic.” Wikipedia, 18 January 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pennridge%E2%80%93Quakertown_Thanksgiving_Day_Football_Classic. Accessed 20 January 2022.

New Ballfield in current-day Memorial Park:

SCHULER, JEFF. “BASEBALL THE WAY IT USED TO BE QUAKERTOWN BALLPARK RECALLS ANOTHER ERA COVER STORY.” The Morning Call, 23 March 1989, https://www.mcall.com/news/mc-xpm-1989-03-23-2671744-story.html. Accessed 20 January 2022.

Panther Playground/QuiNby’s Playground:

Ferry, Joe. “Quakertown makes start on bigger and better playground.” The Bucks County Herald, 15 April 2021, https://buckscountyherald.com/stories/quakertown-makes-start-on-bigger-and-better-playground,8725. Accessed 20 January 2022.

Quakertown Borough. “About | Quakertown, PA.” Quakertown Borough, 2021, https://www.quakertown.org/government/parks-recreation/borough-parks/memorial-park/panther-playground/about. Accessed 20 January 2022.

Quakertown Community Pool:

Quakertown Borough. “Quakertown Community Pool | Quakertown, PA.” Quakertown Borough, 2021, https://www.quakertown.org/government/parks-recreation/quakertown-community-pool. Accessed 20 January 2022.

Memorial Park’s War Memorial:

Quakertown Borough. “War Memorial | Quakertown, PA.” Quakertown Borough, 2020, https://www.quakertown.org/government/parks-recreation/borough-parks/memorial-park/war-memorial. Accessed 20 January 2022.

The United States World War One Centennial Commission. “World War I Centennial.” World War I Centennial – World War I Centennial, 11 November 2020, https://www.worldwar1centennial.org/index.php/component/gmapfp/2627:quakertown-memorial-park.html?view=gmapfp. Accessed 20 January 2022.