Wichita has over 170 parks and five of them have ties to one man. Henry Schweiter, who was born in Switzerland in 1844. In 1870 he moved to Wichita in a covered wagon.
Henry Park was acquired in 1886, this very small neighborhood park is named after Henry.
He ran Wichita’s first lumber yard with his partner, John Davidson. He traded that for property on Chisholm Creek, where he built an icehouse.
Schweiter Park was acquired in 1946, this park is also named after Schweiter.
Harry met Caroline Gardner in 1872. She was staying with the Greiffenstein family at the time. They married in 1873.
They had six children – Henry, John, Willie, Carrie, Lillie, and Otto.
In 1874 Schweiter opened the Wichita Ice Company. The company owned a building which stored 3,500 tons of ice.
In 1876, the family moved to his farm, which was once about two miles southeast of Wichita.
He hired an English landscape gardener to design and work on a picnic area that later became Linwood Park.
In 1886, he opened a steam-powered railway Schweiter’s Rapid Transit Line that followed a diagonal path which is now called George Washington Boulevard.
In 1887, Schweiter gave the area roughly between Lincoln, Harry, Hydraulic and Grove Streets to the City of Wichita. This was before the creation of Riverside Park, and it was considered the best park in Wichita.
The Open Shelter was built in 1936.
The assembly area includes one stage and bench seating for 300.
The park once hosted a herd of buffalo sent here from New York. There’s a great article about the New York Zoo’s experiment to send buffalo to the midwest. Check it out:
In 1904 he began work on the Schweiter-Bissantz building just west of the Carey Hotel (modern day Eaton Hotel)
Rivera Park was acquired by the city in 1946. This park sits in the Schweiter development area.
Schweiter donated land to the city in 1887. Linwood Park is home to the Park Department Greenhouse and Nursery which are the only surviving New Deal buildings in the park.
In 1910, he built the 10-story Schweiter Building on the northeast corner of Main and Douglas.
Interesting note: =Deer, elk, and buffalo were once residents at Riverside Park, but in 1918, those animals were moved to Linwood Park. I have no idea what happened to them after the move. They are clearly not here anymore.
The picnic area hasn’t changed a bit since I was a kid. I remember a number of Cub Scout meetings sitting around the U-shaped picnic table. The city’s website says it seats 80 people!
Caroline died in 1923.
By the time Henry died on October 16, 1925, he was a millionaire and one of the most respected men in the city. Schweiter was 81 years old, he and Caroline are interred in a beautiful vault at Highland Cemetery’s mausoleum.
The farm remained in production until the 1940s when the Schweiter addition was developed.