McIntire Park History

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An Early 1930s Park and Recreation Venue

McIntire Park is one of Charlottesville’s largest and most popular public recreation venues.  The park’s namesake, Paul Goodloe McIntire, initiated the creation of the park by financing the City’s first land acquisition in the mid-1920s.  Park development began in the 1930s, led by the city’s recently formed Department of Recreation (established 1933).  The effort was aided by contributions from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and local civic groups – which included the Mothers Club, Rivanna River Garden Club, Young Men’s Business Club, Kiwanis, and Elks.  Eleven adjoining parcels of land were acquired between 1926 to 1972 to encompass 150 total acres.  In the 1950s, old Rugby Avenue was widened and realigned to form the Route 250 Bypass, which cleaved McIntire Park and created Greenleaf Park and a tennis court complex south of the Bypass (later McIntire Skate Park).

The park’s current 130 acres are divided by the circa-1920 Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks into two sub-sections: McIntire Park West, containing mostly modern elements, including lighted ball fields, a playground, picnic shelters, and nature trails, and McIntire Park East, where the park’s oldest elements were constructed, such as a circa-1935 wading pool and bathhouse, the 1938 nine-hole McIntire Golf Course, and the 1966 Dogwood Vietnam Memorial.

The McIntire Golf Course opened in 1938.  Reflecting the socially democratic sentiments of the period, it was built as Charlottesville’s first public golf facility where “…a poor man will have a chance to have some fun (The Daily Progress, July 9, 1937).”  The Young Men’s Business Club championed the project, garnering public support and spearheading fundraising efforts.  Well-known Virginia golf course architect Frederick Findlay (1872–1966) designed the nine-hole course.  The course incorporates the park’s undulating topography and existing landscape features, including a grove of old-growth hardwood trees and the circa-1880 Charlottesville & Rapidan (C&R) Railroad right-of-way, to dictate play and challenge players of all skill levels.

The “pasture-style” design of the McIntire Park Golf Course features broad, rolling fairways and sand greens (or “browns”), reminiscent of the traditional links-style courses of Scotland where the game of golf first evolved.

 

McIntire Park image 2
Image 1: The Dogwood Vietnam Memorial 2011.

 

The Dogwood Vietnam Memorial was erected in 1966 to honor the 23 Charlottesville-area soldiers who were killed or listed as missing in action during the Vietnam War.  It is believed to be the first memorial honoring Vietnam War soldiers in the United States.

Paul G McIntire in 1918
Image 2: Paul Goodloe McIntire, 1860-1952.

 

A Gift to the Citizens of Charlottesville

McIntire Park is named for wealthy philanthropist and Charlottesville native, Paul Goodloe McIntire.  During the early 20th century, McIntire, spurred by the ideals of the City Beautiful Movement, donated over a million dollars in land and other gifts in support of various educational improvements and civic beautification efforts around the city. 

Among his many contributions was the land for Charlottesville’s first three parks: Lee Park (1917), Jackson Park (1919), and Belmont Park (1921).  In the mid-1920s, he also financed the city’s acquisition of land for two additional parks—an 89.2-acre tract reserved for the white residents of Charlottesville (McIntire Park, 1925) and a 9.25-acre parcel for use by the local African American population (Washington Park, 1926).  The park system did not become fully integrated until the 1950s.

 

Clermont Formerly Mason Family Home in 1917
Image 3: 1917 Photo of the Former Mason Family Home (Built circa 1878, burned 1922).

 

A house stood at the center of the Masons’ “Clermont” estate, a large farming complex that occupied the McIntire Park property during the late-19th and early-20th centuries.

Historic photos courtesy of Special Collections Library, University of Virginia.

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Additional Resources

In accordance with Historic American Landscape Survey (HALS) standards, the City of Charlottesville has recently developed historic documentation for this local property.  HALS Level II documents were created, consisting of a written history, large format black & white photographs, and color field photographs.  Copies are also available at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (Archives & Library); Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society; First Baptist Church of Charlottesville; Jefferson-Madison Regional Library; Library of Virginia; and University of Virginia Library (Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections):

Historic American Landscapes Survey of McIntire Park East (DHR ID: 104-5139) pdf icon 

Large-Format Black and White Photographs of McIntire Park East pdf icon 
    part 1 | part 2  (zip archives)

Color Photographs of McIntire Park East pdf icon 
    part 1 | part 2 | part 3 | part 4  (zip archives)