Carson Park Baseball Stadium

Carson Park Dr., Carson Park, Eau Claire, Wisconsin

May be the oldest WPA baseball stadium in continuous use

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Carson Park Stadium

Photo taken by J.R. Manning July 2018

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Description 

The Carson Park Baseball Stadium is located in the south-central area of Carson Park in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Carson Park is located west and north of the Chippewa River on the west side of the city. Consisting of approximately 134 acres, it is the oldest, largest and most popular park in the city. The baseball stadium was a WPA funded project completed in 1936 as professional minor league baseball was becoming popular in Eau Claire.

Typical of ballpark planning, the home plate-pitcher's mound-second base axis runs southwest to northeast to avoid interference from the summer sun. [Editor's Note: This is why left handed pitchers are referred to as "southpaws" because their pitching hand delivers from the south side of the mound.]

The stadium is semi-circular in shape with a five-sided outside wall. The superstructure has wide flange steel framing with poured concrete supports. The exterior surface is rough-cut Dunnville sandstone from Downsville, Wisconsin. The basic mass of the stadium consists of 20-foot high rusticated sandstone block walls in five sections that join at oblique angles to create a semi-rounded appearance. The two larger end sections are 48 feet long and the three middle sections are 30 feet long. The two end sections are each divided into four bays 12 feet in length. The three middle sections are each divided into two bays 15 feet in length. All of the bays are marked by nearly full height, rusticated sandstone pilasters with sandstone caps. The side walls slope to the inside of the stadium at a 30- degree angle. On top of the outside wall is a short decorative painted metal railing that follows along the top of the five sections. There is a four-foot opening between the top of the railing and the edge of the roof. The roof is a single-pitch flat surface of rolled asphalt roofing on 1" x 8" wood boards laid on 2" x 8" roof joists.

Carson Park Stadium is locally significant under Criterion A in the area of entertainment and recreation. It is further significant as one of the small number of baseball stadiums constructed under the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The total resource count is one contributing structure. The period of significance begins in 1936, with the construction of the stadium, and extends to 1962, the year of the dissolution of the minor league Eau Claire team. [Editor's Note: The stadium has remained in continuous use by several amateur and school teams.}

Yet it appears possible that Carson Park Stadium may be one of the oldest, if not the oldest, WPA ballpark in the country still in use. Holman Stadium in Nashua, NH, was built in the same year, but its debut game occurred on September 23, 1937, four months after the first game played at Carson Park. [Editor's Note: An older masonry ballpark is extant in Madison. Breese Stevens Field opened in Madison, Wisconsin in 1925. The outside wall of Breese Stevens Field was constructed by the Civil Works Administration (CWA) the forerunner of WPA.]

Carson Park Stadium was built 1936-7 with funds provided by the Works Progress Administration (see Figs. 1-4). It was the first permanent home for the Eau Claire Bears, a minor league team affiliated with the Chicago Cubs. [Editor's Note: Later affiliated with the Boston Braves. The Bears became the "Braves" in 1954 when the Braves moved to Milwaukee from Boston in 1953.]

The Eau Claire Bears won the Northern League pennant in 1942,1949 and 1951. Among the team's star players and three league rookies of the year was Henry Aaron, who signed with the Boston Braves in May 1952 and was assigned to Eau Claire. Aaron was "unhappy, real unhappy in Eau Claire," being young, homesick, and one of only four Blacks in the city at the time (three of the four were baseball players). Astute Bears fans could see that Aaron was a very special player, however.

[Aaron] went up to the majors in 1954 and became baseball's all-time home-run king with the Atlanta Braves in 1974; retired in 1976; and was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. In 1994, he returned to Eau Claire to unveil a statue of himself as a young ballplayer. [Other future Braves stars who played in Eau Claire included Andy Pafko and Bob Uecker, "Mr. Baseball" more famous for his long career as broadcaster for the Milwaukee Brewers and for playing Harry Doyle in the Major League movie franchise.]

Adapted from the National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form prepared by Eric J. Wheeler and Joanne Raetz Stuttgen, May 6, 2002. A link to the document is listed below under "Sources."

National Register information 

Status
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on July 25, 2003
Reference number
03000698
Architectural style
American Movement
Area of significance
Entertainment/Recreation
Level of significance
Local
Evaluation criteria
A - Event
Property type
Structure
Historic function
Sport facility
Current function
Sport facility
Periods of significance
1925-1949; 1950-1974
Significant year
1936

Update Log 

  • July 16, 2018: Updated by J.R. Manning: Updated status, added description and photographs

Sources