Drake Park History

The site was originally a semi-circle in shape with a base along Maine Avenue, and Park Circle Drive defining the half circle west of Maine Avenue. It was a passive park with ornamental light standards. Benches lined the walks and restrooms were provided. No date has been found for the renaming of the park after Col. Drake, but it is assumed it followed his death in 1928. In August 1939, approval was given to convert the circular rose garden in the center of the park into a playground. Construction of a clubhouse and enlarged play area started in October of 1949. That same year, a sprinkler system and restrooms were completed.

In 1972, the park was expanded, with federal funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The expansion included the acquisition and clearance of one and one half blocks of the neighborhood. It also included the vacation of the Park Circle Drive around the park, and St. James Place, one of two short streets radiating from Park Circle. The expansion also included a baseball diamond, a handball court, a volleyball court and two lighted tennis courts.

The historic Bembridge House is located adjacent to the park’s northeast edge. Owned by the Long Beach Heritage Coalition, it is often confused as part of the park as tennis courts wrap around the house on the west. In the 1990’s, improvements were made with Los Angeles County Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond Act of 1992 funds, including new lighting, baseball diamond improvements, and new play equipment and park benches. Two gazebos were added in the early 2000’s to shelter students who were bused from the site. The baseball diamond was converted to a soccer field, and the volleyball court converted to a roller hockey court and then a skate plaza.

In 2009, the redevelopment of Drake Park is being considered in combination with development of the Drake/Chavez Greenbelt. Drake Park would convert back to a passive park, and active uses including the community center, handball court, skate plaza and soccer field would be relocated to the greenbelt.

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