The week's Photographer's Journal video is titled "Remembering Clifford Park."
Ormie King, author, columnist and local historian, recalls the heyday of Clifford Park, commonly referred to as the "Y Field."
As written in O'Hearn's Histories, in 1891 the Young Men’s Christian Association became concerned with the lack of playground and athletic facilities in the city. In June of 1891 a special committee was formed to correct this dearth.
Nelson Beardsley offered use of his Standart Avenue property. The committee declined this offer. An area on Camp Street was also considered. President Eddy of the City Railway Company offered use of Lakeside Park to the Association for athletic purposes during the summer. The search for a suitable location went on for six years.
June 6, 1897, the Committee on Athletics reported that they had made inquiries concerning the field lying south of Burt’s Woods and owned by the Auburn Theological Seminary. The Committee went so far as to state that, in the event a field was provided, they “would guarantee that the field shall not be a source of expense to the Association.@
On Sept. 17, 1897, The Auburn Argus reported “The Misses Willard (Caroline and Georgina) have purchased the ground belonging to the Theological seminary, and which formed a part of the Burt’s woods property and presented it to the YMCA” The plot comprised 742 feet on Steel Street and 350 feet on Swift Street.” The article went on to say, “These benevolent daughters do not stop here. They will also defray expenses of erecting a fine grand stand, with the necessary dressing rooms and other conveniences, and of fencing in the property. It is safe to predict that “Willard Field” will be the most popular center of outdoor sports.”
It contained “A baseball grounds, football field, quarter mile track, tennis court, a park for the summer months and a skating rink for 1,000, a club house with a large fire-place and necessary dressing rooms, all to be completely enclosed.”
The fence was key to the associations guarantee. Admission would be charged for events. The skating rink was opened Jan. 4, 1898. “On the balcony of the club house a band entertained a crowd estimated at between 1,000 and 1,200 people, for which adults paid a single admission fee of ten cents and children five cents. Season tickets for men were $2.50 and ladies $2.00”.
By 1929, the cost of operation was so expensive, that the YMCA found it impossible to finance the cost of repairs. The City of Auburn leased and took over operation of the Field, by common consent, on October 2nd, of that year. The conditions of the lease included removal of the grandstand and fences around the property.