City Park History - Crescent Creek
Commercial logging started in North Gig Harbor in the late 1800s. The Gig Harbor Timber Co. and D. Cavalero logged Crescent Valley by railroad for more than seven years starting in 1908. The 4-mile rail line ran along the ridge above the creek to the bay. A boom crew tipped the logs off the loaded cars from a trestle just west of Randall Drive NW.
Crescent Creek runs three miles from Crescent Lake to Gig Harbor Bay. After logging cleared the valley of its old-growth forest, families began to homestead the area, making their living through ranching, farming, and dairy operations. Crescent Valley residents would use the railroad track as their path into town, since it was an easier walk than on the trails. Evidence of the rail’s roadbed can still be spotted in Crescent Valley.
Crescent Valley School was built in 1915 located on the corner (Vernhardson / 96th and Crescent Valley Road) where the old Masonic Temple structure still stands. Children enjoyed fire drills as they were allowed to slide down the chute-style fire escape from the upper floor. The first primary grade teacher was Lucy Goodman of Crescent Valley. She was paid $65 for 36-weeks of teaching. The school ceased operations in 1941 when the school district consolidated. The building was purchased in 1949 and remodeled by the Masonic Temple Association.
In 1948, the Peninsula School District donated the park to the City. The restrooms, stone wall, and water fountain were built through the Works Progress Administration program in 1936-1937. For over four decades, it was the City's only community park and the location of many traditional church-related and family events. The park was renamed Crescent Creek Park in the late 1990's.
The Park's large, open air structure, natural creekbed, and specimen trees represent an important historic landscape that embodies Gig Harbor’s early rural lifestyle. Still known to long-time residents as "City Park" it was the first (and for many years) only park within city limits. It signifies a national economic period of significance with architectural characteristics of a type, method of design, and construction typical of WPA projects around the country. Although the Park is not currently listed, the WPA structures at City Park are eligible for Gig Harbor's Register of Historic Places.
Commemorative WPA Plaques
Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal cultural programs marked the U.S. government’s first big, direct investment in cultural development. The largest and most important of his “New Deal” programs launched in the spring of 1935. Projects for the construction of recreation facilities were found to be excellent for the employment of large numbers of common laborers, as well as a small number of skilled workers. The most important of these projects were in parks, ranging from small parks in the rural communities to the larger state parks on which thousands of men were employed.
Records from 1935 list three Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects associated with schools in the Gig Harbor area. One of them was Crescent Valley School built in 1915 just above what is now Crescent Creek Park. Records indicate that the sidewalks from the school were built under WPA at 50 cents a linear foot. The work to construct the open-air park facility in 1936 employed workers at $55 a month: 6-hour days, 5 days a week. A plaque in commemoration of the 1937 construction is mounted on the water fountain near the shelter.
Pierce County Landmarks Commission Restoration Grant
In 2008, the Pierce County Landmarks Commission recommended approval of a grant to provide matching funds to reroof the historic picnic shelter (middle image below) and restrooms. The Pierce County Historic Preservation Grant Program demonstrates that maintaining the integrity of our historic landmarks matters.
The roofs on both leaking structures were replaced with 30-inch hand-split shakes (image of old shingles below) like those used when they were originally constructed in 1937.