Before it was a park
Before Kewanee Park District developed Northeast Park in the early 1920’s the property was the site of the coal-mining and brick-making operations of the Kewanee Mining and Manufacturing Company. Founded in 1893 by Chester Turner, the company closed several years after a fire destroyed its brick factory in 1905. The coal mine was located near Main and 11th north of today’s main ball field. The brick yard was north of the Elm Street entrance to the park.
The picture below shows the coal-mining operations that occupied the grounds before 1905. During the 1910’s the vacated property became an unkempt eyesore in north Kewanee.
With a vision of what it could be, A. J. Anderson (real estate broker) suggested the development of a park on the old mining property. In 1919 E. E. Baker started that vision into reality when he offered a donation of $50,000 if the citizens of Kewanee would authorize the formation of Kewanee Park District that would match his donation through a bond issue and levy a sufficient tax to retire the bonds and maintain the parks of the district. Such a referendum was passed on September 6, 1919 by a vote of 349 to 153.
In the 1920’s after it became a park
“Probably the most popular spot in all the Kewanee parks is the swimming pool located in Northeast Park”—that is the way a 1928 Kewanee Park District publication described the massive pool that occupied much of the east side of the park.
Northeast Park was the first park developed by the newly-formed park district, according to the publication, with preparations for laying out the park beginning as soon as the district was formed in 1919. Besides the lake-sized pool, the park by 1928 would include “four tennis courts, a baseball diamond, athletic fields and children’s playground.”
Located where Kewanee Mining and Manufacturing previously had a water-filled clay pit used for brick-making, the pool after enlargements measured 310 by 144 feet. The unfiltered pool had concrete walls and walkway surrounding it, but the bottom was gravel over the clay.
The 1928 publication reported that the original contract for the pool and bath house was for $17,000 and that both were “entirely free to all.” The director reported 37,200 “bathers” in 1927.