Arthur Boorman Ottaway’s lasting gift
Ninety years ago, on July 15, 1930, two events were held at a yet unnamed piece of lakefront property. The first party of the day was the festive annual picnic for employees of the Welch Grape Juice Company. Soon following that event, the Westfield Board of Trustees gathered for a ceremony to open officially the 16 acre piece of land, thenceforth to be known as Ottaway Park.
Arthur Boorman Ottaway married Myrtle Hunting Redfield Nixon in 1912. The couple made their home at 120 E. Main St. In the course of his life, Arthur became Judge A.B. Ottaway. When he died Jan. 10, 1927, his will designated a gift to the village of Westfield. Sixteen acres of Lake Erie frontage known as “Gas Springs,” was to be used as a community park.
J.F. Allen, longtime barber and civic leader, appointed by the Westfield Rotary Club, enthusiastically began planning to transform the property into a park. With work beginning on July 30, 1929, many local citizens generously donated money, time and labor to development and improvement of the park over the next 10 years. They cleared underbrush, built roads, dug wells, built a kitchen, dining room, bath house and toilet facilities. Access to the lake necessitated construction of three large cement stairways. Testament to their construction skills, one from the top level remains in use today. Sadly, a second no longer can be found, while the third drops from the lower level to about twenty feet above the bottom of the cliff. Two rustic bridges were built over the creek. Further, for families’ pleasures, the crews provided 71 picnic tables, 10 settees, 2 slides and teeter totters, 4 baby swings and 7 adult swings.
This work was completed over the course of ten years. And in 1941, J.F. “Jack” Allen announced that the park was entirely debt free. Commended for a job well done, he was asked to continue his tenure. That service is memorialized by a white obelisk located at the entry drive. It simply states, “Jack’s Drive.” Perhaps you have seen it and wondered, “Who’s Jack?” Much of the work completed by Jack and his fellow citizens remains in use today with some improvements, such as a village water line to replace the wells.
Of particular note of current use is the Annual Westfield Exempt Firemen’s Ox Roast, a traditional festivity held the second Sunday in July. Sadly, Covid-19 has caused cancellation of the event this year. However, its many fans hope for a return next year when guests from around the world come to attend their WACS reunions or simply to gather for delicious beef sandwiches, crunchy waffles, tempting French fries, cold beer, live music and raffles. The park, with its pavilion, kitchen, bathrooms, beautiful grounds and spectacular views of Lake Erie is perfect for weddings, family gatherings or some birdwatching. The park is open weekends in June, Monday thru Sunday from July 1 to Labor day from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“Thanks” to Chuck Raynor for keeping the park so inviting. Most days during the summer you can find Chuck grooming the vast open space or the more sedate lower level on his riding mower. Give him a “thank you” thumbs up when you see him. If you are interested in reserving the park facilities for a special occasion, be in touch with Eason Hall. 1-716-326-4961 ext.22.
Westfield and Barcelona certainly thank Judge Arthur Boorman Ottaway for his lasting gift. What a wonderful legacy!
Joan M. Caruso is a Westfield resident and Sue Crawford Post is the coordinator of the Westfield Barcelona Chamber of Commerce.