2019 will be the 98th season of golf and tennis at Rea Park since it opened in 1922.
Board members of Friends of Rea Park, Inc. are working to finalize goals for 2019. This year, priorities will be to ...
Revitalizing Rea Park: Increasing Civic Pride While Preserving Our Culture, Our Past Traditions and Our Heritage
On April 19, 2017, Rea Park's application to be placed on Indiana's register of historic places was accepted by the Indiana Historic Preservation Board in Indianapolis. Friends of Rea Park, Inc. supported this effort to place the park on historic state and federal registers from its inception. Our intent has always been to "relight the glow" of Rea Park's historic clubhouse and grounds. It is, and will always remain, a beloved Terre Haute landmark. The U.S. National Register of Historic Places added Historic Rea Park on June 12, 2017.
Being listed on the national register is federal recognition that Rea Park is a place of significance. People think highly of the national register. It is a recognition factor that organizations can use to obtain needed resources, whether they come in the form of a grant from a foundation, governmental agency, or business; or a donation from a private individual.
Placement on the federal register sends a message to our community. In rehabilitating Rea Park, we are restoring a piece of Terre Haute's historic fabric. Our history, our customs and our traditions will be in better hands given this designation. We think future generations will look back years from now and thank us for preserving this wonderful park.
Rea Park's historic register applications were funded by the Terre Haute Parks Board and guided by Indiana Landmarks, Inc.
In the fall of 2016, the Wabash Valley Community Foundation awarded Friends of Rea Park, Inc. $1,500 to use toward marketing the Rea Park renewal project. This money will used to market the Rea Park clubhouse and park master plans to the public. The grant also calls for the development of brochures, displays, copies of the clubhouse and park master plans, as well as signs to be displayed at Rea Park.
Thank you, Wabash Valley Community Foundation!
Meeting in the Rea Park clubhouse, the Terre Haute Parks Board on Wednesday considered a series of options to renovate that aging landmark, as part of a park-wide revitalization effort.
Possibilities range from expanding the building to allow for year-round events to moving the pro shop to an outdoor kiosk, according to blueprints designed by architectural firm Sanders & Associates. Costs range from $1 to $1.4 million.
However the project takes shape, the structural condition of the building demands immediate action, said architect Dan Sanders. "You can go to the outside there, grab certain parts of the building, and it comes off in your bare hands," he told board members. "That's not good."
Sanders is working with Friends of Rea Park, Inc., a non-profit community group leading the renovation project with support from the city. The group aims to honor the legacy of William and Geraldine Rea - whose financial gifts established the park - while maintaining the grounds for future generations.
Board members, who didn't vote for any one of the proposals, were presented four options for overhauling the clubhouse.
The first option, Sanders said, would match the historical design and original footprint of the building, known for its Mediterranean Revival style.
The second option calls for building an addition on the east side of the structure, in which a bar and lunch counter would be built .
The third option would expand the clubhouse and add a terrace, while enlarging underground meeting space where a new pro shop would be located.
In the fourth rendering, the building's original design would be restored and used as an events center, with the pro shop being relocated to an outdoor kiosk.
All four proposals make room for golf cart storage under the building, and restoring the west side of the building to its' 1925 appearance. The plans include space for a kitchen and bar so the clubhouse could be used to host weddings, parties and other events.
Sanders said the blueprints would likely be tweaked once fundraising is complete. "These are not the final construction-ready drawings," he said, adding the plans were drafted so the Friends group could give prospective investors an idea of the proposed projects' scope.
Park board members granted Friends of Rea Park permission to show the drawings to area businesses as the board continues to solicit funding.
Friends of Rea Park, Inc. president Dr. Mike Harding told board members, "You want to be respectful of the history of the building and the architecture, but you don't want it to be returned to 1925 condition. You want it to be 2016 and forward, a building that services all the functions it needs to in today's time frame and beyond."
City Parks Board approves $26K for new roof for historic Rea Park clubhouse; TH TribStar, Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Work is expected to begin soon replacing Rea Park's roof following action by the Terre Haute City Parks Board. The Board approved a $26,150 bid by Earl C. Rodgers and Associates, Inc. Tuesday evening.
The most pressing need for the historic 1925 structure was a new roof, which was leaking badly. Before the city moved forward with a new roof, city engineer Chuck Ennis determined the building was salvageable. Eddie Bird, city parks superintendent, hopes the West Terre Haute roofing firm can proceed as soon as possible.
Representatives of Friends of Rea Park, Inc., a local group formed to raise funds for rehabilitating the structure, were happy to see the Parks Board move to replace the roof. A new roof was seen as a sign the Parks Board is committed to saving the structure for years to come.
Friends of Rea Park, Inc. will present their plans for an architectural study for the clubhouse at the next Parks Board meeting on Wednesday, June 17th at the Rea clubhouse.
The Terre Haute Park Department approved plans Friends of Rea Park, Inc. put forth at their park board meeting yesterday. Funds raised through these activities would go toward rehabilitating the park's historic 1925 clubhouse and tennis courts.
Friends of Rea Park also announced it would try to raise funds by completing a "quick-start project" ... an aluminum, anodized, 40 to 50 foot flag pole surrounded by in-memoriam bricks. It was proposed the flagpole be located to the rear of the 9th and 18th greens at Rea Park. Bricks would be sold to individuals and businesses who would dedicate their brick to an individual or group. Profits would go to benefit Rea Park improvements.
Friends of Rea Park, Inc. was recently incorporated as an Indiana entity. The group also applied for non-profit status with the IRS, which was granted in early 2015.
During the meeting, park officials mentioned the possibility of conducting a feasibility study for a rehabilitated clubhouse, a rendering, and a five-year master plan for the entire park to be used as a guide for moving forward.
The glow was its trademark. As a kid, riding in the family car down South Seventh Street in the evening, Mike Harding saw it as they passed by countless times, like thousands of other Terre Hauteans. “Rea Park’s clubhouse used to be lit up at night. You could see it from Seventh,” recalled Harding. “There was a lot of community pride about Rea Park.”
Now 62 years old, Harding holds a sentimental attachment to the facility. The 1970 medalist at the local sectional, Harding played Rea as a high schooler. He got a job there at age 14 and kept it through his college years at Indiana State University, watering the greens at night. Harding moved to Evansville in 1980, working as a mining engineer and then as an administrator for the Pike County schools.
Harding returned to his hometown in 2013 and played the course and found its condition to be “better than ever.” When he walked through the stately, white clubhouse, though, Harding was “taken aback” by the worn state of the historic building. He moved back to Terre Haute last year, enlisted the support of Scott Williams of the Wabash Valley Foundation and Tommy Kleckner of Indiana Landmarks. They shared ideas and concerns with Eddie Bird, the Terre Haute city parks superintendent, who helped them form the Friends of Rea Park group.
The grassroots organziation earned nonprofit 501(c)(3) status last week, thanks to Friends member and local attorney Bill Olah, Harding said. The Friends’ ranks include others, just like Harding, with fond memories of playing golf or tennis at Rea. “The older you get, you start thinking, ‘What can I do to help and leave a legacy?’” Harding explained, “just like Mr. and Mrs. Rea.”
The Friends hope to raise funds to renovate the clubhouse, repair the aging tennis courts and get the entire 160-acre park placed on the federal National Register of Historic Places. And restore the glow. Time has taken a visible toll on the building.
“We hope to get it back to that point, where it’s a respected part of the city’s parks system,” said Kleckner, director of the Indiana Landmarks western regional office in Terre Haute. Kleckner aims to see Rea Park added to the National Register of Historic Places by late 2016. His office is working on the nomination process for Rea. It deserves the distinction for several reasons, including its age, architecture, landscape and connection to the Rea family. “We don’t see public buildings built like that anymore,” Kleckner said.
It’s a Terre Haute icon. “Even if it’s someone born and raised here who never visited it, it’s still one of those identifiable landmarks of this community to them,” Kleckner said. “Something needs to be done.”
The park and clubhouse mark their 90th birthday this year. The course opened Aug. 1, 1925, thanks to a $100,000 trust left in the will of William S. Rea, who died in 1919, to turn the 160 acres on the city’s south side into a park, with an 18-hole golf course.
On Sept. 10, 1925, the city dedicated the clubhouse, funded by an additional $60,000 donation from Rea’s widow, Geraldine. She donated the extra money when the city administration struggled to raise funds to carry out her late husband’s wishes.
As the master of ceremonies at that 1925 ceremony, Rea family friend John T. Beasley, put it, Geraldine Rea “in her quiet and beautiful way ... expressed a determination to build a clubhouse,” according to a Terre Haute Tribune report. “This magnificent structure, the finest of its kind in the state, that we are dedicating today, is the result of that gift.”
And, “that was quite a gift,” Harding said last week. Indeed, her $60,000 donation would be worth $811,666 in 2015 dollars. Her husband’s contribution of $100,000 would equal $1.37 million today. Those gifts allowed the city to hire the local architectural firm Johnson, Miller, Miller and Yeager — prolific in the early 20th century — to design a clubhouse as a “high-style example of Mediterranean style,” as Kleckner described it. The structure is surrounded by a course landscaped by prominent Indiana architect Lawrence Sheridan.
“Despite its conditional issues, it looks like something you could see sitting in a village along the Mediterranean [Sea],” Kleckner said. Its conditional issues are significant. They threaten the clubhouse’s chances of marking its 100th birthday, or perhaps even its 91st.
“Something needs to be done right away,” Bird said. Roof leaks caused a hole in the ceiling of the main pro shop room, an otherwise impressive, high-ceiling space where golfers and tennis players gather before and after playing. Damage from water leaks is visible not only in the ceiling tiles but also in the upper walls, floors, and in the basement, where rooms once used for parties, lockers and storage sit mostly idle. The foundation shows the effects of drainage problems.
The first-floor and basement rooms need refurbished, said Dave Kennedy, the golf pro at Rea. “It’s a big building that right now is really only using one room, and it’s just a waste,” Kennedy said. “Obviously, it was a great building back in the day,” he added, “and that’s what Mike and the Friends of Rea Park’s vision is — to bring it back.”
Redesign, repurpose. Its revival will require an investment. Bird said a local construction firm estimated the repairs would top $320,000. The cost to repair the roof would involve $20,000 for materials alone, he added.
Bird shared his concerns about the roof with the Terre Haute Parks and Recreation Board at its meeting last week. Board members, in agreement with Bird, decided that before pursuing a full roof repair, a structural engineer should determine whether the building itself is salvageable. Bird wants such an inspection to also make sure the clubhouse is safe to use in the meantime. Rea’s golf season begins March 1. “I think it’s just been neglected for so many years,” Bird said. “It just needs a lot of work right now.” A plaque in the clubhouse marks renovations to the course done in 1984-86.
Harding patterned Friends of Rea Park, Inc. on a similar group in Evansville that generated funds to restore that community’s historic Bosse Field. The Friends of Rea Park group hopes to draw funding support from private foundations, government entities, grants (thanks to the group’s nonprofit status), and individual donors. A renovation of the clubhouse could top $1 million, Harding said, emphasizing that’s a “wild guess.” The tennis courts, added to the park years after the golf course opened, need vast repairs, as well.
The park is worth the investment and effort, Harding contends. Its grounds have been toured by countless golfers, tennis players, cross country runners and casual walkers through nine decades. The names of those visitors include baseball great Tommy John, basketball legend John Wooden and LPGA pioneer Patty Berg, among others.
“That’s a beautiful building out there. If an architect got a hold of it, they could really redesign and repurpose it,” Harding said, rattling off a list of functions the clubhouse could house beyond golf and tennis events. “I think it could be something the whole community could use and have pride in.
“It was once a grand old building,” he added, “and it can be brought back.”