Plans for a Wichita NAACP Black History park near Century II in downtown Wichita are progressing with the initial approval of architectural plans. Final concept approval by the Wichita City Council is expected to come July 17, with marketing materials available to help the NAACP start fundraising by July 24.
At the NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet in October 2022, Wichita City Councilman Brandon Johnson announced the city’s commitment of $1 million to create a park in downtown Wichita highlighting Wichita’s African American history. Johnson identified the City’s commitment to construct the park in the heart of downtown Wichita in Finlay Ross Park, located along Douglas, on the northeast side of Century.
Since then, leadership of the Wichita Branch NAACP have worked closely with the design team at GLMV Architecture, suggesting elements they believe will best represent Wichita’s Black history and make the park an enjoyable venue for the community to use. Late last month, the NAACP agreed on a general design concept for the park,
At a meeting in late June, the NAACP agreed on a general concept for the park, which already contains water features that can be modified into the new design. The plan calls for creating one main entrance to the park off Douglas Avenue and creating a “history walk” that leads visitors through the history of African Americans in Wichita.
The expanded water feature proposed for the park starts with bubbler fountains that gain more and more momentum until it turns into a gushing waterfall.
Important to the park’s design is a prominent display and recognition of the Dockum Drug Store sit-in in Wichita. The NAACP sit-in has been documented as the first successful lunch-counter sit-in and helped lead to the integration of lunch counters across the nation, and eventually to an end of segregation.
The focal point of the park will be the sculpture commemorating the Dockum Sit-in that was moved to storage when Chester I. Lewis park on Douglas was redesigned. NAACP planners say the park is important at the national level because Wichita’s leadership in the sit-in movement is well-documented but not well known.
The park will include an amphitheater with seating for 50 people, green space and shade trees. The park will also include wall space that can be used for display of informational plaques or artwork and spaces for statuary. About $250,000 in Arts Funding is estimated to be available for the project.
NAACP leaders and the City agree history shared in the park should date back to the 1870s and highlight the role of African Americans dating back to Wichita’s founding, including individuals like Felddin Buckner, who brought JR Mead, the founding father of Wichita, to the mouth of the Arkansas River and suggested that Mead build his town there. In addition, they hope the park will share the amazing role of Wichitans in politics and the arts as well as tell the story of vibrant African-American businesses.
Depending on the final architectural estimates, the designs may need to be “trimmed” a bit and additional funds may need to be raised. The architects promised to detail the estimated cost of major features of the park, allowing the NAACP to match features of the park to the money available.