How Louis Park came about

Karen Ramos, retired librarian, adds to the discussion of Louis Park:

“After reading your article on the Stockton Rod and Gun Club I checked my files for information that might shine some light on the city’s acquisition and development of that property.

Below is the section on Louis Park that appears in Bert E. Swenson’s master’s thesis from College of the Pacific titled A History of the Stockton Recreation Department, 1910-1947, Including Its Early Background, and the Development of Its Program and Facilities, Stockton, Calif.: The Author, June 1950.

“The original Louis Park, situated at the junction of the San Joaquin River with Smith Canal coming from Yosemite Lake in the heart of the city, was given to the City of Stockton in memory of the Louis family whose forebears were associated with the early history of Stockton.
















“Charles H. Louis was born in Stockton and went swimming in the river at the present site of Louis Park. The writer feels that he had something to do with the city’s acquisition of Louis Park and sets it down here as an illustration of how a small seed dropped on a fertile mind may bring forth fruit beyond any anticipation.

“The writer addressed a meeting of the Stockton Women’s Council in the present Elks Hall soon after coming to Stockton. In the course of his remarks he urged the securing of land areas, then on the outskirts, for future development. The remark was made, “A person who has made a lot of money in a community owes something back in that community that has been so good to him. What can bring greater satisfaction than to give a piece of land for a park as memorial to the fact that you have lived and worked here?”

“Mrs. M. S. Arndt, wife of the owner of the Arcade Men’s Clothing Store, came up to the speaker after the meeting. Mrs.
Arndt had the fertile mind where the seed had fallen. She said, “I have an uncle, Charles H. Louis in New York City, who might be interested. Do you have such a piece of land in mind?” Dad’s Point, named after an old fisherman squatter, Dad Kreider, then living on the property, was brought to her attention.

“There was an exchange of letters which culminated in Mr.Louis’ buying the fourteen-acre property for $4,000 and presenting it to the City of Stockton for a park and playground in memory of his parents. Originally Dad’s Point contained several abandoned old river beds. It was covered with native willows and subject to overflow in the spring. A strip fifty feet wide had been cleared away along the river’s edge.

“Families and young folks came here to picnic and to fish and to watch the produce boats make their daily trips to and from the rich Delta Islands and the evening steamers, Captain Weber or J. D. Peters, start on their nightly trip to far-away San Francisco. Thus came into being one of our most popular park areas. During World War II, and at the present, a part of Louis Park is in the Riverview Housing project. To the people in these small rooms and during the war families living in the trailers, Louis Park was a Godsend to which they could overflow in hot weather.

“It was also a mecca for all of our residents throughout the year. Thousands still go to Louis Park to see, not the river steamers, but the ocean steamships that come in and go out of the Port of Stockton.

“Mr. Louis often visited the site in company with Mrs. Arndt, stopping off upon his many trips around the world. He further aided in its early development by providing its Japanese bridges and the planting of Japanese cherry trees, of which he was very fond. The Stockton Camp Fire Girls were hosts upon the occasion of these visits. They always gave him a picnic and a program. He was thrilled to see so many young girls in white middies, blue skirts and red ties.

“The Camp Fire Girls also aided in the early development of Louis Park. They planted, under the direction of Victor G. Anderson, Superintendent of Parks, one hundred various kinds of trees, including a Sequoia Sempervirons in memory of Mrs. Charles H Louis. Mr. Louis gave them a gift of five hundred dollars and asked them to install a plaque at the base of the memorial tree and put a bouquet there on each anniversary of her birth. This is still carried on. Mr. Louis also presented the Stockton Camp Fire Girls with a thirty-five foot War Canoe, which was used locally and later taken to Camp Minkalo.

“When Mr. Louis passed away he left a sum of ten thousand dollars in his will. This was used to provide an irrigation system and develop the new area which was acquired from Albert Lindley when the Federal Government straightened the San Joaquin river and left the original Louis Park off its bank. This area needed to bring Louis Park up to the San Joaquin river was purchased from Mr. Lindley in 1924 and contained 9.38 acres. At the same time land titles were cleared up for several abandoned old river beds on the property owned by the State of California. The total cost of these acquisitions was $9,870.

“In 1930, when the Stockton deep water channel was begun, the San Joaquin River was further straightened and spoils areas acquired. Mount Diablo Avenue, an extension of West Acacia Street and Picardy Drive, lead directly to Louis Park.
The Riverview Housing Project was built adjacent to and some of it directly on the Louis Park site. The Riverview Trailer Court was located entirely on property dedicated for further Louis Park development. The housing project built their community recreation building on Louis Park Property. This community center will ultimately be owned by the City of Stockton.

“Louis Park now contains 37 acres, approximately one-half of which remains undeveloped. The developed area contains sanitary facilities, play apparatus, the Charles H. Louis wading pool and a large number of picnic tables and benches. The park in general, with its shade trees and wide open spaces, is ideal for family and larger group picnics.

“Louis Park has direct connection with Yosemite Lake and offers fine possibilities for a boat harbor for row boats and canoes. This park is directly across from the Naval Annex on Rough and Ready Island where dozens of Navy boats are now stored in Stockton Channel.

“In a period of thirty years, in the beginning without a name, this spot has grown from a flooded area covered with virgin willows into a major riverside park with unlimited possibilities for marine recreation.”

Note that Swensen called the lake in American Legion Park Yosemite Lake. I grew up around that park, and all the residents called it Yosemite Park. It was decades before I heard it called by its proper name.

Anyway, it’s interesting to see how things were done back in the day. Parks weren’t created as part of master-planned developments; good people gave them to the community out of civic spirit.

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    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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