The storied history of Felton Little Park (recognized as Auburn’s oldest park) deserves to be preserved and told, so as to secure a written and posted public record of the special place that these 7.93 acres have occupied in the hearts of Auburn citizens and visitors since being deeded to the city of Auburn on December 15, 1948.
A local citizen, C. Felton Little (and his family) granted this property to the city for the sum of $1.00 “… for the establishment and maintenance of a public park, for the benefit of the public.”
It is noted in the deed that "the grantee (city of Auburn) shall have the right …for the sale of soft drinks, ice cream, candy, tobacco, cigarettes, peanuts, and similar items ….” Submitted for levity, it is rightfully imagined that these collective concession items just don’t fit well together … not comfortably or sensibly, anyway.
Early known uses of Felton Little Park
1949-1968: High School Football
Felton Little Park served as the football field for both Auburn High School and J.F. Drake High School —Drake games on Tuesday nights, Friday night games for AHS — it is a common, vivid memory that the local community would fill the stands to watch and cheer their teams, players, and lively action …AU students were in visible attendance! Mid-season 1968, Auburn High football games moved to Duck Samford Stadium.
1949-1968: Youth Baseball & Adult Softball Games
Two temporary baseball/softball fields were established, including wooden collapsible picket fences securing the outfields within the perimeter of the football field, allowing the playing of games in the spring and summer months, primarily for youth, ages 5-12. In the evenings, adult pickup and league softball games were held. AU student softball and flag football games were held there, too.
1949-late 1960’s…Beasley’s Pasture
Baseball and softball team practices took place in what was known as Beasley’s Pasture. Mary Luda Beasley, Alice (Beasley) Bidez, her husband, P.R. “Bede” Bidez, and the Beasley family, owned the property across Glenn Avenue, extending the length of the west side of Ross Street, to Magnolia Aven — 5 to 6 baseball/softball practice field arrangements occupied the pasture. Ultimately, Beasley’s Pasture was acquired by Estelle Mae Wittel and husband, S.S. Wittel. While not their initial intended use of the property, the Wittels agreed to sell the 7.11 acres to the city, March 28, 1951, George H.“Monk” Wright, Mayor. In 1964, the city began developing a municipal complex (Fire Station No. 1 first, then police station and city offices followed). Reconfiguration of those original city structures continues to the present, with 2020-22 reconstruction being carried out for new and improved Auburn Public Safety buildings and usages.
1949- present: Felton Little Park
Playground equipment and picnic areas continue today for community use, as when the park was first opened (9-5-1949).
Little League Baseball and Dixie Youth baseball and softball programs over the decades were conducted within the three permanent Felton Little Park fields (A, B, C). The city of Auburn (APRD) provided for countless kids, families, and team play, creating abundant joy and excitement of the games.
These three fields were first built in mid-1969, and continue in use to this day. What a treasure Felton Little Park has afforded the community all these years!
The annual season-opening Play Day, introducing all newly-suited-up players and age-group teams (ages 5-12), which included a barbecue cookout provided by the War Eagle Lions Club, with each team playing a game that day, set the tone for the ballgame action that was to be for the upcoming season, and the standards for exemplary sportsmanship expected of all.
Of particular note were the 1955 and 1956 Auburn Little League All Stars, all of whom grew up learning and playing the game of baseball at Felton Little Park. These two teams won the Alabama State Championship, and advanced to and won the Southeast Regional LL Tournament in Rome, Georgia, earning a berth to the zenith of youth baseball tournaments, the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
All of this started at Felton Little Park in Auburn, Alabama … and continues so to this day, like the many community-based, post-season Dixie Youth All Star teams that have won area, sub-district, district, state, and national/world age-group championships. LL and DYB player skill development and team/program activities and accomplishments over the years all had one common denominator: Felton Little Park.
Railroad Trains Passing By
A most unique feature of ball games at Felton Little Park …so bucolic, riveted in sentiment!
The games of baseball, softball, and football always came to an abrupt halt whenever the trains passed by the near-north end right-of-way of Felton Little Park — kids, coaches, umpires and fans took the obligatory pause in the action … as the engineers, head brakemen and firemen often blew the standard RR “two longs, short, & extra long” unified bursts of the whistle … often to the kids’ pumping their arms and fists in the air to implore the train blasts! That is some memory!
The Central Pacific Railroad made the first stop at the then-original Auburn Railroad Depot on May 13, 1865 … over the years, many other train companies have used this stretch of tracks, still operating to this day … still capturing kids’/coaches’ attention, as trains roll by during games.
As there was never sufficient or established parking available for Felton Little Park activities in early years (Beasley’s Pasture, Ross Street and Harper Avenue, neighborhood areas, just wherever one could find a parking spot!), the city of Auburn surprisingly became the beneficiary of a strip of land perpendicular to the park, extending to Ross Street. This .359 acre parcel was granted to the city by Aileen (Samford) Walpole and husband, B. Legare Walpole, for the sum of $10, on October 16, 1986. This tract of land still serves the parking demands for Felton Little Park.
The hallowed grounds of Felton Little Park have been an integral part of the city of Auburn since its inception in the late 1940s … if you played baseball or softball in this community at an early age, you did so at Felton Little Park.
This park has served as a testimonial to the long-standing dedication, support and hard work of countless staff, players, families and volunteer workers and coaches … and has always received consideration and support by the city of Auburn and the Auburn Parks & Recreation Department — a collective effort on many fronts.
That value of municipal and departmental supportive engagement cannot be overstated. Felton Little Park is where it is today because of the concerted and sustained city and APRD leadership, along with the legions of volunteers who have contributed immeasurable time and effort for the worthy cause of youth and family enjoyment, under the rubric of community recreation.
Indeed, Felton Little Park is a tangible reflection of meaningful collaboration, over decades, by countless individuals, the city of Auburn and APRD … all for the support of kids and families.
The ball fields, bleachers, concessions stand, press box for score keeping, team gear and field maintenance storage facilities, parking, and adjoining playground equipment and picnic areas (each component having its own unique story!) collectively add to the breadth of the rich history and spirit of Felton Little Park.
It is to the honor of Felton Little Park that this permanent commemoration will be dedicated on this Monday, Oct. 3, 2022.
Whether it’s in the bitter cold of player tryouts, rainy days of spring, or the toll of sweltering summer heat, Felton Little Park was always there … and still is — a place where kids can gather up, play ball and have the best time of their young lives. Just being kids and playing ball.
This is the stuff that childhood memories & friendships are made of — this is Felton Little Park.
This look at some of the history of Felton Little Park was written by Steve Cosgrove, a long-time volunteer coach and supporter of youth sports in Auburn who is passionate about Felton Little Park and its importance to the community.