Judge Isaac Parker returned to Fort Smith Tuesday (Oct. 15) sitting in his chair, reading a law book, waiting to welcome visitors to downtown Fort Smith.
A bronze statue of Parker, which serves as the centerpiece of Gateway Park at the triangle of land in eastern downtown Fort Smith created by the intersection of Rogers and Garrison Avenues was installed in the park Tuesday. The sculpture, which sits on a four-foot stone pedestal and stands just over seven feet tall, was designed by Kansas City artist Spencer Schubert.
It joins two other statues – John Carnall and Mother Superior Mary Teresa Farrell – which were also installed Tuesday. Carnall, born in 1818, was an early leader in the Fort Smith Public School system, and Farrell, who arrived in Fort Smith in 1853, was instrumental in bringing healthcare to the region.
Organizers of the park wanted to depict three of the big components of Fort Smith’s history — law and order, education and healthcare — with the statues. The statue of Farrell stands on the church side of the park, while Carnall’s statue is at the back. The park also features the United States and the Arkansas state flag. Cost for the statues was about $342,000.
The $750,000 project is a private/public partnership, with the park being built with private funds and the city covering the cost of sidewalks, street lights and moving a water line. The Gateway Park project will be managed by 64.6 Downtown, the group behind The Unexpected festival, Invest Fort Smith summit and other downtown promotions.
64.6 Downtown will dedicate the park and transfer the ownership of it to the city at a ceremony a 11 a.m. Thursday (Oct. 17) at the park.
“The new park is a 64.6 Downtown initiative, and funded by the generosity of the community. It will be donated to the City of Fort Smith to become a gathering place for residents and visitors alike to learn more about the contributions these three community leaders made in the late 1800s. The park will also include a flag plaza featuring flags of the United States, Arkansas, and the City of Fort Smith,” a media release on the dedication states.
Parkers’ descendants now living in Little Rock will attend Thursday’s dedication as will the artist, said John McIntosh with 64.6 Downtown.