“Service Above Self” – Rotary International motto
Rotary International is a global service club formed in Chicago in 1905 to bring together businessmen and professionals to provide humanitarian service in their communities. Oklahoma City’s first club was one of the first in the nation, formed in 1909 as the 29th club.
In 1919 the local Rotary club surveyed the conditions of children in Oklahoma City and discovered that, among the many problems facing young residents, there was no large park convenient to a great many of them. Oklahoma City had four large parks but these were far away from the city in a time when many people did not own cars. In 1921, the club purchased these 44 acres of land with money from members’ pockets and donated it to the city, then the businessmen contributed to its construction by providing paving and trees, as well as the ornate sign at the west entrance.
The park was very popular, especially with children whose parents worked at the nearby meat packing plants. Like many city parks, Rotary benefited from the federal works projects during the Depression of the 1930s. On the northwest corner of the park you can see a stone marker and just behind it was the location of a stone amphitheater which hosted plays, dance and music performances. It’s gone now, but you can still see the slope in the earth where it once stood. Initially the park limits went all the way over to Westwood Boulevard but during the Depression the northwest corner was converted into Will Rogers Courts, low-cost housing for families.