Byrd Park, also known as William Byrd Park, is a public park located in Richmond north of the James River and adjacent to Maymont. It is named after William Byrd II, whose family owned much of the area when Richmond was founded in 1737. The park includes a mile-long trail with exercise stops, monuments, tennis courts, baseball fields, a playground, an amphitheater, and three small lakes: Shields (sometimes spelled Sheilds), Swan, and Boat Lake. Boat Lake (also called Fountain Lake) has a lighted fountain at its center and visitors can rent pedal boats during the summer season at this lake as well!
In 1873, the city of Richmond began the creation of a new municipal waterworks system (new reservoir), in order to replace an earlier one which had become insufficient for the growing city. The pit used for building up the reservoir became what is now Fountain Lake, itself fed by the reservoir. The large tract of parkland surrounding the reservoir was descriptively named New Reservoir Park, with the equally aptly named Boulevard serving to house the water main leading from the reservoir to the thoroughfare of Broad Street, simultaneously providing access to the park.
By 1907, the park had been renamed William Byrd Park, and by 1914 plans had begun for the construction of two additional lakes: Shield's Lake and Swann Lake.
The park's Christopher Columbus Monument, erected in 1922, was controversial at the time of its construction because it honored Italian-Americans in a climate of increasing anti-immigration sentiment. This monument is shown above. In 2016, the Richmond Police Memorial Research and Relocation Site Committee completed the relocation of the City's Fallen Police Officer Memorial to Byrd Park. The memorial is an 8-foot-tall bronze statue of a police officer carrying a girl clutching a teddy bear, along with a plaque of the names of 28 Richmond police officers killed from 1869 to 2003.
The World War I Memorial Carillon, built by Cram & Ferguson in 1932, is a memorial to those who died in that war; it contains 56 bells. The Carillon is played on occasions such as Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and July 4 and is also used for hosting wedding receptions, parties, meetings, and other gatherings.
The amphitheatre, Dogwood Dell, has annual summer concert and theatrical events, including a concert by the Richmond Concert Band that concludes with the "1812 Overture", complete with cannon fire, the carillon, and a fireworks display on the 4th of July. Events and shows for children are frequently scheduled at the Ha'Penny Stage just beside the carillon.
In May, the park hosts an annual "Arts in the Park" festival, a two-day event in which over 400 artists and artisans display and sell their work. The second Saturday in June brings out Richmond's annual "It Starts in Park Festival" which is designed to encourage healthy living and family fun for the summer months just as schools are letting out for the summer holidays. The carillon is also home to the city's live Christmas Nativity pageant now held (weather permitting) on December 23, after over 60 years of holding it on Christmas Eve.
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