Updated: Jul 7
Several locals, along with city, state and county officials were in attendance Monday morning for the groudbreaking of the Louis Southworth Park in Waldport. Southworth was a well known black citizen of Waldport in the 19th Century. In 1856 he bought his own freedom from his enslaver James Southworth, who petitioned against it, according to Jesse Dolin with Oregon Coast Visitors Association. He earned the money by playing fiddle and mining. He later cared for his former enslaver James Southworth when he fell on hard times. In 1880 Southworth purchased a plot of land with his wife and son and later donated a section of it for Waldport's first school. Dolin noted that Southworth also milled the wood used to build the school. He was also a blacksmith and ferryman.
The city of Waldport in honor of Southworth commissioned Peter Helzer to build a bronze statue of Southworth with his fiddle. It is currently on display at the Alsea Bay Bridge Interpretive Center. The projected cost for the park project is over $1-million. The city received a $750,000 from Oregon State Parks & Recreation and will spend $198,000 of its own money to develop the former Waldport high school site. Plans call for a playground area, two to eight picnic shelters, a sports court, a hard-surface walking trail around the outside. There is hope by the city of Waldport to get bids and start building by the end of summer.