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Sunday, September 29, 2019

Kerrville's Louise Hays Park: Built in One Day

Louise Hays Park site Kerrville Texas 1950
Site of Louise Hays Park, Kerrville, 1950, before construction.
Images courtesy Hays family and the City of Kerrville.
Click on any image to enlarge.
Louise Hays Park built in a day Kerrville Texas 1950Louise Hays Park built in a day Kerrville Texas 1950Louise Hays Park built in a day Kerrville Texas 1950Louise Hays Park built in a day Kerrville Texas 1950Louise Hays Park built in a day Kerrville Texas 1950Louise Hays Park built in a day Kerrville Texas 1950Louise Hays Park built in a day Kerrville Texas 1950I received a nice letter last week from the daughter-in-law of Louise Hays, telling me about some photographs of the building of the Louise Hays Park in a single day. The letter told how the images had been copied and given to the City of Kerrville, and the folks at the city were kind enough to share them with me; now I can share them here with you.
Included with the photos were newspaper clippings about the park’s big day.
“Some 600 men, using machines in a race against time,” the Dallas Morning News reported on April 23, 1950, “will attempt to turn thirty-five timbered acres into a finished playground park between dawn and dusk.
“An Army of men, manning more than 100 trucks, tractors, bulldozers and rollers, will rumble into the river-bank acreage at 7 a.m.
“Twelve hours later Louise Hays Park should be finished, even to its name cut into the native stone entrance archway.”
The date for work to begin (and be finished) was April 26, 1950, which happened to be the 94th anniversary of the founding of Kerr County.
On March 16, 1950, the Houston Post reported “Folks of this picturesque Texas Hill Country town are going to be as busy as honey bees on April 26.
“They are going to build a million dollar park in one day.
“That’s right: a million dollar park from sun-up to sun-down.”
What they built that day was only a fraction of what the park is today; more acres have been added, most recently from a gift from the Lehmann and Monroe. Yet what they accomplished in that first day is truly amazing.
“By nightfall Wednesday,” the Dallas Morning News continued, “the area will boast a concrete square dancing slab 100 by 150 feet, a picnic area of thirty concrete tables and benches, sixteen smaller picnic units, twenty barbecue pits, riverside benches, restrooms, a cold drink shop and a full-blown playground complete with swings, slides and merry-go-round.
“Electricity will have been connected and the lights will be burning. The plumbing will be installed and working. The paint might not be dry, but the job will be completed.”
The volunteers made the ‘park in a day’ happen. The Houston Chronicle called the completed park the “Miracle on the Guadalupe,” in an April 27, 1950 story:
“A thousand men have made a gift grow into a lovely park in a day…. The gift was a tract of 35 acres along the river from Mr. and Mrs. Robert S. Hays. Their only stipulation was that the city beautify and make it a public park and that it be named the Louise Hays Park in honor of the wife of the donor.”
One of the unsung heroes of the building of the park was Mrs. W. A. Salter, publisher of the Kerrville Mountain Sun, who “from the day that Mr. and Mrs. Hays announced their gift, she has plugged hard day in and day out for the realization of the park project.”
The Dallas Morning News story had this quote from Mrs. Salter: “We didn’t have enough money in town to build the kind of park we wanted, but we decided we could if we could get everybody to donate one day’s work – get every an to give one day’s time.
“Money was still needed, an estimated $20,000, and plans were made for raising that.”
The building of Louise Hays Park was a true community effort, set in motion by the gift of 35 acres by Mr. and Mrs. Robert S. Hays. I’m thankful for the family’s continued generosity in sharing these photographs with all of us.

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Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who thought a story about community spirit might be a useful reminder about what happens when we work together.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 28, 2019.

Did you know I have two books available, both filled with historic photographs of Kerr County?  Both books are available at Wolfmueller's BooksHerring Printing Company, and online by clicking HERE.


  1. I grew up in Kerrville in the 80's up to 2006 unfortunately we had to move 2 of my children are from Kerr. Lots of wonderful memories from Louis hays park I learned how to drive at the park until I was capable to drive in the street, at a younger age my family and I would always have picnics at the park celebrated many birthday parties, played volleyball, celebrated July 4th and was my Favorite spot to go swimming at the river, I miss it dearly and hope one day we may return to relive those many wonderful memories I had as a child.

  2. Thanks so much for taking the time to write this article about my Grandmothers park.

    Kind Regards,

    Heather Louise Hays Raabe


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