June Marks 56th Birthdate for Ann Morrison Park
It’s been nearly six years since the City of Boise hosted a 50th Anniversary celebration of Ann Morrison Park. The celebration honoring the “First Lady of Construction” Ann Daly Morrison and the employees of Morrison Knudsen Co. was held at the park on the 4th of July 2009. The family-friendly, all-day event was presented free of charge to the public with children’s games, a patriotic band concert, and a spectacular fireworks display at dusk.
No party or fireworks planned for this year’s birthdate, but many of us “old-timer” EmKayans still enjoy remembering the excitement over the day the park was dedicated and opened to the public on June 7th, 1959. Fascinatingly beautiful–with its fountain that streamed 40’ high in the center of a spectacular 220’ color-illuminated reflecting pool, massive 40’ clock tower, formal gardens with tiny toadstool lamps that glowed at night and speakers tucked away that waft soft strains of background music, and flapping sounds from the flags representing the 46 countries that Ann had visited while working alongside her husband on his projects. And, some of us, who were children at the time, simply recall that our excitement was largely about the candy cane-striped playground equipment and splashing in the wading pool on hot summer family picnic days. The beautiful park was a most fitting tribute to the beautiful, giving spirit of Ann Morrison who was known locally for her great civic interest and friendliness.
Harry Morrison purchased the land after Ann passed away in 1957 for the express purpose of building the park to honor her. The land was purchased through the family foundation that he had started in 1950. He turned the construction of the park over to a team of experienced MK Project Managers who immediately set to work to meet his June 7th completion date. Heavy equipment was brought from the Brownley Dam Project to clear and level the land. M-K men planted thousands of trees, shrubs, and perennials. They used 10,000 pounds of grass seed, built 5 miles of roads and winding sidewalks, and installed 21 miles of underground sprinkler systems. As a matter of interest, two historic items were also placed in the park: the weather vane that perched atop the old city hall until its demolition in 1953, and as part of a small bridge, the front step of General Lafayette Cartee’s home, one of the grand old mansions on Grove Street. The $1.25-million project was completed after just ten months. An article from the City of Boise historical website states that “Boiseans had never seen anything like this before and hundreds of people and organizations asked to be part of it. Nearly 1000 contributions were received-ranging from trees to flag poles, fireplaces and sundials. The Daly family donated the modern clock tower and 300 Morrison Knudsen ‘Old Timers’ funded construction of the picnic shelter near the east entrance to the park.”
The following moving statement is from a feature article written in the June 1959 issue of The EmKayan magazine about the completion and dedication of Ann Morrison Park:
Spring’s warm caress, the patient hands of landscape artisans and a year of painstaking work by construction men have brought a bouquet of beauty in remembrance of a great lady to the full bloom of completion in Boise.
This everlasting bouquet is Ann Morrison Memorial Park, an oasis of grass and gardens, pools and playgrounds that graces 153 acres in the heart of Idaho’s capital city. It will be dedicated and opened to the public during ceremonies the afternoon of June 7.
With the dedication of this living memorial, the late Ann Morrison, wife and constant companion of M-K President H. W. Morrison for 43 years until she passed away in 1957, will thus be accorded the rarest tribute of all the many tributes bestowed upon her during a lifetime of travel to the world’s far corners as the beloved “First Lady of Construction.” A bronze plaque to be unveiled on the opening day will explain simply but eloquently:
”She knew the shrines, the people, the cities of faraway lands…yet dearest of all was this, her home, the place she knew as Boise the Beautiful.”
An article in the City of Boise Website states that, Harry Morrison was dissatisfied with the likeness of Ann portrayed in the original bronze sculpture. In 1962, he hired New York City sculptor Anthony De Francisci to create a new portrait of Ann Morrison.
At age 76, Anthony De Francisci was a world renowned sculptor of commemorative medals and bronze relief sculptures. In 1921, he was selected by the U.S. Mint to design the new Peace Dollar, which remained in circulation through 1935.De Francisci’s $5,000 guilded bronze sculpture of Ann arrived in Boise on January 1963. The replacement sculpture was installed in the park on February 23, 1963 — Harry’s 78th birthday.
You can also read more about Ann Morrison Memorial Park at the following City of Boise website: