Kansas: Lawrence’s Watson Park





1902 AT&SF locomotive in Watson Park


On this July day in 2014, I  was  exactly one month away from moving from Lawrence, Kansas to Lexington, Kentucky.  Watson Park became a place to take a break from the stress of downsizing and packing for the move.  🙂  I especially enjoyed this historic locomotive that is the centerpiece of the park.

One of the most popular attractions of Watson Park is locomotive #1073. Built in 1902, it was used in freight service in the Lawrence area from 1908-1952. The 2-6-2 Prairie type locomotive traveled more than 870,000 miles and originally cost a little more than $20,000. The locomotive is located on the northeast section of the park; many children refer to this park as “train park” because of the locomotive.  City of Lawrence




Named in honor of the late Buford M. Watson Jr., Lawrence City Manager from 1970-1989, this park was originally known as Central Park. Incidentally, Central Park was part of the original town site when Lawrence was founded.

Watson Park serves as a “gateway” for visitors to the City of Lawrence from the north, west and eastern proximity of Downtown Lawrence. The renaming of Watson Park was dedicated on March 27, 1990.

The seven-acre park, located in the Old West Lawrence neighborhood adjacent to downtown Lawrence, is one of the most popular destinations for Lawrence citizens to visit. Watson Park is home to the Lawrence Outdoor Aquatic Center, along with an original train locomotive, playground equipment, and basketball court.
In addition, there is a picnic area along with a gazebo that allows visitors to relax and enjoy the scenic park. Throughout the summer months, Watson Park is a popular gathering place for families and friends to enjoy the open space in this highly visible two-block park, which is separated by 7th Street.




Watson Park also is home to the Lawrence Outdoor Aquatic Center, which was renovated in 1995. In October 2003, a bronze bust was unveiled in honor of the park’s namesake, Buford M. Watson Jr. The artist was Tom Wilkerson, former assistant director of the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department.

The stone sculpture “Emergence,” created by Edd Ortiz was added to the park in September 2003. Emergence was a product of the Kansas Sculpture Association’s Stone Symposium, which was held in Lawrence in the 2002. The sculpture was accepted as a gift by the Lawrence City Commission in June 2002.  City of Lawrence

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