In 1987 when a resource team from the Main Street Program of the Texas Historical Commission visited Kilgore for three days of study, little did they know what they were about to create.
In addition to suggesting that the derricks be re-erected, along with saving and restoring the Crim and Texan Theatres, another recommendation was to create a park at the World’s Richest Acre.
For this to happen, the KHPF Derrick Committee, chaired by Amanda Pratt Nobles, had to get sites with clear title on the World’s Richest Acre donated to the foundation along with derricks and derrick donors.
Beginning work in 1990 from a set of plans designed by Shelley Eubanks Potter of Longview, a landscape architect and the granddaughter of Nora and E.C. Elder of Kilgore, the Park Committee of the foundation was formed to work with the Derrick Committee under the supervision of the KHPF board.
Fund raising was the next step in the project. The committee, with board member Betty Mobley serving as chairman, began work selling bricks with engraved names and granite pavers.
Frank Brown, who joined the KHPF committee in 1993, soon got involved when the groundwork needed to be laid for the construction phase of the project.
Electrical service, gas lines and telephone lines had to be re-routed or moved, and a sprinkler system had to be installed. Working with and around the last derricks that were to be restored in the WRA, construction of a stage and land grading began in 1996, with the majority of the park construction completed by October of that year. More than 500 engraved bricks dot the brick sidewalks, along with more than 125 granite pavers around a central brick planter. The concrete stage was constructed on the eastern corner of the WRA Park, parallel to North Street.
Future plans include more landscaping and park fixtures.
Some of the park uses will be for cultural arts such as plays and concerts by Kilgore High School and Kilgore College. The Main Street Program suggested if the park was built, it would serve as a central place for downtowners to gather, in particular for noon concerts and brown bag lunches.
More than two decades ago, one lone derrick stood on the World’s Richest Acre, the original derrick to its site, preserved and maintained by the Kilgore Improvement and Beautification Association. Now 12 more derricks stand on the one-half city block known as the World’s Richest Acre, adjacent to the railroad depot, including one with a workable pumping unit donated by the Marvin A. Smith family. During the boom, 24 derricks once stood side by side in that area.
What was once a focal point of the oil industry has once again become a focal point of downtown.
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