Nicholl Park Recreation Facilities – Richmond CA

Project type: Parks and Recreation
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The Works Progress Administration (WPA) carried out extensive improvements on Nicholl Park from 1935 to 1938.  These included constructing ballfields and tennis courts, adding lighting, landscaping, and drainage and, most unusually, creating a lawn bowling green and a game bird aviary. The aviary and bowling green are now gone, but the tennis courts and fields remain, along with elements of lighting and other work.

Nicholl park was given to the City of Richmond in 1926 by Mrs. Mary Nicholl, widow of one of the founders of the city.  The original pillars and dedication plaque marking the entrance to the park on the north side of the park on McDonald Avenue (the city’s main street) are still standing.  Some of the old trees may have been planted at that time, but the park had not been developed very far by the time the New Deal arrived.

In 1935, the WPA was called upon to add a bowling green and song bird aviary to the park.  The aviary is long gone, but the bowling green has only recently disappeared. A utility building next to the green, likely built by the WPA, is still there but closed up.

In late 1936 (and probably into 1937), the WPA added athletic fields, including two baseball fields, tennis courts and a children’s playground. Both ballfields are still in place, as are two sets of tennis courts. The children’s play area has been completely overhauled, leaving no trace of WPA work.  

Flood lighting was provided for the ball fields, though the present tall light poles look to be more recent.  Lighting was also installed for the tennis courts on the east side of the park and both the light standards and the fencing around those courts appear to be original.  Two old light poles can also still be seen by the former bowling green.

In 1938, the WPA was back again to make further improvements, such as bleachers and a locker building for the ballfields, adding flowers and shrubs, and putting in drainage.



Source notes

WPA job cards, Fresno Public Library, San Joaquin Valley Heritage & Genealogy Center.

WPA Project No. 65-3-176, App. Date 9/16/35, $7,564, "Construction of bowling green and song bird aviary in Nicholl Park."
WPA Project No. 165-03-3509, App. Date 9-16-36, $6,073, Total Funds $8,580, Average Employed 23, "Develop athletic field including soft-ball and baseball fields; install flood lighting system and appurtenances at Nicholl Park in the city of Richmond, Contra Costa County."
WPA Project No. 165-3-3046, App. Date 10-7-36, $5,270, Total Funds $8,184, Average Employed 28,  "Construct tennis courts and do work incidental thereto at Nicholl Park and Union High School in Richmond, Contra Costa County. To take the place of work formerly prosecuted under Official Project No. 65-3-4331." 
WPA Project No. 165-3-352, App. Date 10/10/36, $19,308, Total Funds $22,368, Average Employed 60, "Install lighting system for tennis courts, landscape, construct playground facilities and work incidental thereto, in Nicholl Park, City of Richmond, Contra Costa County. City owned property.
WPA Project No. 465-03-2-640, App. Date 4-18-38, $19,461, Total Funds $24,232, Federal Man-hours 22,774, Average Employed 71, "Improve Nicholl Park in the City of Richmond, Contra Costa County, by painting fences; installing drain pipes; constructing bleachers, locker and storage building; grading paths, planting flowers and shrubbery; and performing appurtenant and incidental work. In addition to projects specifically approved. City owned property."

Project originally submitted by Gray Brechin on June 11, 2010.
Additional contributions by Andrew Laverdiere, Richard A Walker.

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

3000 Macdonald Ave.
Richmond, CA 94804

Coordinates: 37.934710, -122.340369

2 comments on “Nicholl Park Recreation Facilities – Richmond CA

  1. Nichol park at one time also had a farm animal petting zoo and a miniature train.

  2. I remember the petting zoo. I also remember the black train. As kids we threw pennies in the wishing well located on the front sidewalk if I’m not mistaking.
    I also remember the kids Easter Egg Hunt ever year.
    I wish that someone had pics to share of back in the day.
    Those were the good old days.

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