As early as 1910 it was generally acknowledged that what this progressive town needed most was a new park for the health and happiness of her citizens. Nine years and four trips to the ballot box later, warring factions seemed hopelessly deadlocked on where to put the “new” park.One faction headed by the Chamber of Commerce wanted to purchase land around the public library (today’s museum) for a new city hall and public park. They felt this location would enhance the new brick commercial district. The other faction wanted a new park that was more than “landscaping” for the central business district. The latter group won out and on September 20, 1920, the city trustees approved purchase of Herman A. Dickel’s 19 acre ranch (for the grand sum of $875) at the southwest corner of Lemon and Sycamore Streets. A broad trunk palm tree still on the park grounds near the northwest corner of Lemon and Cypress once stood in the front yard of the Dickel home.
Mayor William Stark publicly congratulated Mr. Dickel for voluntarily selling at a reasonable price. The citizens voted overwhelming approval of a $100,000 bond to purchase the property and begin improvements. Florence Yoch, noted landscape architect of the Henry Huntington estate in San Marine was engaged to plan the new park. Mrs. Yoch recommended a young Rudolph Boysen to supervise installation and maintenance. Mr. “B” stayed on for more than 38 Years and developed the “Boysenberry” in his spare time. Each year between 1921 and 1929 a new garden or structure was added to the park. The Greek Theater, water garden, cactus garden, plunge and bathhouse (demolished), and baseball stadium (restored) were part of a building boom stopped only by the Depression. Originally named City Park, it was renamed to Pearson Park in 1960 to honor Anaheim’s longtime mayor, Charles A. Pearson. The present day park maintenance buildings were originally part of Boysen’s greenhouse. He not only maintained the park grounds but grew all the flowers as well. As you stroll through the park, note the statue of actress Helena Modjeska depicted in her most famous role.
Mayor Charles A. Pearson
with Jack Benny
In 1922, the Anaheim City Council adopted plans for a 20 acre City park which was completed and dedicated on July 15, 1927. M. Eugene Durfee was the architect for this beautiful open air auditorium known as the Greek Theater.
Rudy Boysen, first Anaheim Park Superintendent, planted the cactus garden in 1921. Many of the cacti came from Mr. Boysen’s many trips into the California desert. Mr. Boysen is also credited with the discovery of the boysenberry, which made Walter Knott very famous.
The Orange trees were removed and in 1927 this “up to date” baseball diamond and grandstand, with a seating capacity of 750 persons, was installed.
Helena Modjeska, renowned Polish dramatic actress, came with other Polish friends to live in Anaheim in 1876. This beautiful statue was sculpted by Eugen Maier-Krieg and erected in September 1935. The statue depicts Madame Modjeska in the role of Mary Queen of Scots. In July, 1876, Count Chapowski (who wrote ‘ORSO’, a book about the love between a circus strong man and a lady acrobat, with the plot laid out in Anaheim) and Madame Helena Modjeska, along with their son Rudolph, sailed to the United States. The Count had previously been in Anaheim and convinced his wife and thirty Polish intellectuals to begin their life anew.
Anaheim was a town in which German, Spanish, English and Chinese were spoken. The group of Polish intellectuals spoke enough German to converse. Unfortunately, these newcomers’ talents were not in farming. They soon found excuses not to do their daily chores. Modjeska admitted “we all came to the conclusion that our farming was not a success. Everything seemed a sad failure”.
Local residents tried to help, with one Anaheim family being the most friendly… August and Clementina (Schmidt) Langenberger.
Mrs. Modjeska, having retired from her illustrious stage career in Europe, found that she was an “impoverished, Polish exile”. She realized that agriculture was not the answer to her financial future…so she came up with another plan to enable her to remain in the United States.
Acting was what she did best. She traveled to San Francisco and made her first stage appearance 6 months later. She went on to a stage career in the United States that would span two decades. Even though she moved to Santiago Canyon and built a home that was designed by Stanford White, she frequently visited her friends in Anaheim. Clemintina remained a friend until Modjeska’s death in 1909. Modjeska loved her home, and its surrounding 12,000 acres, calling it “Arden”.