|History of the Historic Nokomis City Park
The oldest public park in Nokomis is the Fred B. Johnson Park, commonly referred to as the City
Park. It was laid out at the same time as the town of Nokomis in 1856. History tells us that
somewhere in the park is a stone marker that was used to lay out the future streets of the city. In
the very early days the park was called "The Commons".
In 1871, the park was fenced in and many trees were planted. It was quite the source of pride for
the entire community. The local newspaper of the day reports that "the citizens of the town delight
in the shade and it's beautiful appearance and not seldom does a weary tramp find refreshment in
it's cool bowers".
In 1888, the two story pagoda was constructed
in the heart of the "Public Square". The wood
fence was replaced with an iron fence and the
park soon became a social hub for the town.
Dramas, concerts, orators and dances filled the
park for many years as Nokomis grew and
prospered in conjunction with the coal mines and
In 1933, a series of weekly home talent shows drew crowds into the Nokomis City Park. One
newspaper report boasts of more than 2,000 visitors. The closing of the coal mines brought a loss
of industry and population to Nokomis. Mobility of families and cultural changes resulted in a lack
of interest and a lack of upkeep for the park.
In 1957, the pagoda was torn down due to disrepair and vandalism. It was replaced with a
concrete, lighted basketball court in the mid 60's. The park was a draw for local youth. Throughout
the 60's, 70's and 80's more modern play equipment and a pavilion were added by civic groups in
an attempt to keep the park relevant. In 1982 the name was officially changed to the Fred B.
Mr. Johnson was a long time civic leader who took great interest in the park. His home still
remains directly across from the park at the corner of Union and Pine. An occasional concert, a
car show, Lion's Club cookouts and the annual Easter Egg Hunt are regularly hosted at the park.
In 2000, the Nokomis Rotary Club along with a group of private citizens looked into the possibility
of reconstructing the pagoda in the hope that the City Park would once again be a source of pride
for the community. After obtaining approval from the city council, the group began privately raising
funds to begin their dream. Through fund raising events and many private donations, construction
began in 2003.
Under the supervision of Mr. Steve Kimbro, the industrial arts teacher at Nokomis High School, the
pagoda was rebuilt by students in the building trades class. The City Park, specifically the pagoda
area, was the site of the kick-off celebration of the Nokomis Sesquicentennial Celebration on July
6, 2006. This was also the date of the dedication of the newly rebuilt pagoda. This project can be
summed up by an article in the 1888 Free Gazette, "See to it, gentlemen, that our city park is well
cared for, improved in every possible manner, and you, as a body of city officials, will be rewarded
for just and timely counsel in the years to come".
|"See to it, gentlemen, that our city park is
well cared for, improved in every possible
manner, and you, as a body of city
officials, will be rewarded for just and
timely counsel in the years to come".