Neighborhood residents, donors, elected officials and guests joined the City of Greenville in Unity Park on Tuesday in a ceremonial groundbreaking for the restoration of historic Mayberry Park.
“From the first time we heard the story of Mayberry Park and its rich history, we wanted to help preserve it and we wanted to celebrate all that is special and all that is unique to Mayberry,” said Craig Brown, owner and chairman of the Greenville Drive, who along with his wife, Vicki, are the lead donors for the project.
“The story of Mayberry is also the story of Unity Park and the story of Greenville,” he said. “I think it’s a narrative our community can learn from and a story we can build our future around.”
Plans call for a Little League regulation baseball field including grandstand bleachers, press box, dugouts, and concessions stand. Construction is expected to start in early 2024 and, once complete, will be called Mayberry Field.
Other donors to Mayberry Field are Rodney Williams, CEO of KW Beverage; Greenville Little League; Velda and Jackson Hughes; Pepsi of Greenville; Krish Patel; Jamie Porterfield of Waldrop Plumbing, Heating & Air; Trehel Corporation; and Bill Francis of Priority One Security.
“There will always be a part of our hearts in Southernside and West Greenville for restoring Mayberry Field,” said Mary Duckett, president of Southernside Neighborhood in Action. “I really get teared up when I think about what it looked like and the things we went through to have recreation in this area. And to think, it’s going to be an icon not only in the City of Greenville but the nation.”
The restoration of Mayberry Field represents the third piece of Unity Park following the May 2022 opening of the playgrounds, Prisma Health Welcome Center, Auro and Spinks Family bridges, and Michelin Green. The BMW Reedy River Wetlands Preserve opened on the north edge of the Unity Park earlier this year.
“This is the area that’s more imbued with the history of the neighborhood – Southernside and West Greenville – than any other spot in the park,” said Greenville Mayor Knox White.
Greenville Mayor Pro Tem Lillian Brock-Flemming, who grew up in Southernside, said she was thrilled. “Because not only was this a baseball field, but this was a place of activity for the community. So, this means a whole lot to us, because it was a place for families to play and where we have a lot of great memories.”
The City of Greenville purchased 15 acres of land along Mayberry Street in 1924, and the park opened shortly thereafter. The city committed additional funds in 1927 to build an athletic field with bleachers and equip a playground at Mayberry Park.
When it opened Mayberry Park served as the only park in a segregated city where Black children were allowed to play.
But less than a decade later, in 1936, the police department took 200 feet at the northern end of the children’s park to use as a shooting range open to the public on occasion for pistol practice. And two years later, in 1938, the city took back nearly half the land to build Meadowbrook Park baseball stadium for a newly organized white professional baseball team. Meadowbrook Park burned down in 1972.
Ill-maintained for nearly a century, recreational league players used the Mayberry Park ballfield in recent years when it was not under water or the field too soggy for play.