As a parent, I brought my children to the rocks where they loved to play, and now my grandchildren experience the magic of the “rocks” of Neshotah Park.
Picnic Hill and Neshotah Park were my playgrounds when growing up on the Eastside. Many adventures of my own invention took place in those settings. One special place was “the rocks” in Neshotah Park. At the time I did not realize the origin of those rocks was a step back in time when the Depression placed many men out of work. All I knew was a person could imagine to be a queen of a castle, or a Norse mythological being, or an explorer in search of new lands. Those rocks were a wonderful stimulant to my imagination. So how did those rocks get there?
The Neshotah Park improvement was funded in the 1930’s by Civil Works Administration and the Works Progress Administration, which were New Deal agencies employing the unemployed. The most dramatic project was the construction of a lily pond, waterfall, and rock garden of weathered limestone near the north boundary of the park. The rock garden and lily pond were built over a three year period with more than 60 men working on the project at times. Cost to the city was small ($53,269) and it was completed in 1938.
Helen Suettinger Bleser, Hans, the dog, & Marlene Babler sat on the lily pond rocks in 1946.
The rocks were hauled on old city trucks from Jambo Creek near Stangel’s Corners to give a proper setting for the pool. Part of the garden and pond had rocks piled to a height of about 10 feet and it was there a fountain with a pump forced the water from the lower end of the pond up to the top part to provide circulation. Drainage and fresh water facilities were part of the project. (Unfortunately these things appeared not to work out and the pond became stagnant and very hard to drain.)
The large rocks were strewn about the park over a plot about 400 feet long and 200 feet wide with the pond itself being 200 feet long and 100 feet wide. The pond was said to be five feet deep in some places.
From the July 21, 1943, Manitowoc Herald Times,—-“A poet wrote ‘a thing of beauty is a joy forever’ never got a look at the Two Rivers lily pool at Neshotah Park. We are not quite sure the lily pool ever was a thing of beauty in the first place, but it certainly has not been a joy forever. For some reason the lilies didn’t do so good but the mosquitoes flourished. There are places too deep in the pool to wade but children wade there anyway.” People were worried children would dive into the water and be hurt by striking their heads on the rough bottom. Worst of all the mosquitoes were breeding profusely in the pond! A proposed remedy was to fill the pond with lake sand to make a play spot for children (which is what happened). The vestiges of the lily pond and rock garden remain today, adjacent to Twenty-second Street.