Delano Park, the signature landmark of Decatur, Alabama’s downtown corridor, is an iconic example of the parks of yesteryear, dating all the way back to 1887. On the National Register of Historic Places, the 28-acre park is Morgan County’s oldest city park in continuous operation. Its focal element and crowning glory is the Historic Rose Garden.
Built in 1934 by work teams from the Civil Works Administration, or CWA, under the careful eye of Alabama’s earliest female architect, Carolyn Cortner Smith, the Rose Garden project provided much needed work and income for the struggling community while beautifying the park—and the town.
Decatur, Alabama was rocked by the Great Depression. Major employers like the L & N Railroad Shops were lost and jobs were scarce in the city. Decatur was not alone in this misery, and rose gardens were built throughout the country as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal.” Oddly enough, the name “Roosevelt” means “field of roses.”
In the December 30 issue of The Decatur Daily in 1933, the front page announced “City Park Area to be a Beauty Spot on County’s Face.” According to the news story, the project employed roughly 140 skilled and unskilled men to complete the rose garden between December and mid-February of the next year.
Although enjoyed by many residents throughout the years, as other parks with recreational facilities became prominent in Decatur, the Historic Rose Garden became less of a priority and, by the late 1900s, needed some TLC.
In 2000, the Friends of Delano Park was formed to begin a renaissance of the landmark, restoring historic stone structures and enhancing the beautification, accessibility and facilities for the youngest of our citizens.
Delano Park Conservancy, in partnership with the City of Decatur, intends to continue its mission to restore, sustain and preserve historic Delano Park for the enjoyment of present and future generations.
We hope you enjoy gazing at the beauty of the garden in its illuminated glory and strolling along the stone paths of this rare gem of color, texture and fragrance nestled in the heart of our grand city on a charming scale.