Of the more notable purchases made by the Public Parks Committee is present day Bob Noble Park, located at Park Avenue (Highway 60) and Joe Clifton Drive. On February 24, 1913, the Park Commissioners contracted with the Wadsworth Improvement Company (Ben Weille, President and Don Wilcox, Secretary) to purchase approximately 114 acres located at Thompson Avenue (now H C Mathis Drive) and Hinkleville Road (now Park Avenue). The notes were paid annually from 1913 to 1920. When the full purchase price of $25,000 was received by Wadsworth Improvement Company, the title was acquired by the city and the deed was filed with the McCracken County Court Clerk on June 13, 1921. Almost immediately that same year, the City of Paducah contracted with the American Park Builders Landscape Architects of Chicago to design Noble Park.
This public park property was originally tabbed Forest Park. The density of the woods made accessibility limited to mostly foot or horseback. A moonshine business was still operating in the "gully" behind what is now the amphitheater. The wooded area became a haven for outlaws. The combination of moonshine and outlaws resulted in so many muggings that the young people began calling it Monkey Wrench Park. The story goes that no one entered the woods to visit the still without the protection of a monkey wrench.
This large wooded area remained unimproved for a decade. Then Captain Robert H. Noble donated $10,000 towards its improvement. The agreement was that the city would match the funds dollar for dollar. The City quickly accepted Captain Noble's generous offer and the Board of Park Commissioners renamed the grounds Bob Noble Park.
A concrete wall and ornamental entrance was constructed in front and a heavy wire fence was placed around the entire property. The tablets (pictured) on either side of the archway were placed at the entrance in 1926, and the inscription on the tablet, written by Irvin S. Cobb, was an expression of Paducah's appreciation of Captain Noble's gift. "Captain Bob Noble, Native of Paducah, Life Long Resident, Patriotic Kentuckian, Southern Gentleman whose generosity made possible the beautifying of this playground for the people of his home town."
The Lake ( Lake Gerry B. Montgomery)
In the early 1900's, the lake area was a mere swamp that had to be skirted by buggy. In the early 1920's, the dam was constructed at the backside of the park to create the lake. It was stocked with fish and fishing has always been allowed. About 1936, W.P.A. workers concreted the lake.
Ducks soon began gathering around the lake but in 1974 the unhealthy condition of the waters made it necessary to drain and dredge the lake. With the help of the Army Corps of Engineers, the reconstruction was completted and a pump was installed to supply fresh water. Then, in 1975, the lake banks were rip-rapped by park employees and a link fence installed to keep debris out of the lake.
The island in the center of the lake was dubbed "Duck Island" because of the flocks of ducks that would gather in the lake. Eventually, a duck house was added for "the convenience and welfare of the ducks." It adds to the splendor of the lake, delighting and amazing spectators.
In August 2018, the Paducah Board of Commissioners approved naming the lake after former Mayor Gerry B. Montgomery who served as Mayor from 1988 until 1996. The lake is now known as Lake Gerry B. Montgomery. Mayor Harless said, “Mayor Montgomery is to credit for bringing back Noble Park to the community. She thought it was an asset to the community that needed to be preserved.” Mayor Montgomery also founded the Paducah Ambassadors which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2018. The approved municipal order states, “The City of Paducah along with the Paducah Ambassadors desire to express their gratitude to former Mayor Montgomery for her dedication to the preservation and promotion of our community by formally naming the lake at Bob Noble Park in her honor.”
The First Caretaker and Museum
At the front of Noble Park, where Shelter 16 now stands was the caretaker's home. When Roy Nelson became the first caretaker in 1930, he obtained a crew of about 15 W.P.A. workers and traveled to Marshall County. There, they tore down the old jailhouse, a log cabin of times past, and hauled it log by log to a site in Noble Park. The log cabin was reconstructed to its original state by Mr. Fike, father of Carl Fike, who was a park employee for 35 years or more.
Mr. Nelson used this log cabin as a museum, collecting household and farming antiques, and historic war items from local residents. Mr. Nelson allowed teachers to bring school children through the museum for history study. Later, when the log cabin began to deteriorate, he moved the museum pieces to display cases in the swimming pool lounge for one and all to see. After his death these museum pieces were sold.
The Swimming Pool
The first municipal swimming pool in Noble Park was constructed in the late 1930's by W. P. A. labor. The pool was 100' by 200' when originally built. The swimming pool was in such a hazardous and run-down condition by 1971-1972 that it cost $350,000 to reconstruct and repair. At that time, the size of the pool was reduced to 90' by 165', which is olympic size. The Noble Park Swimming Pool was opened to everyone, regardless of race, color or creed in the 1950's. There is a plaque inside the lounge are which reads in part:
MUNICIPAL SWIMMING POOL and BATH HOUSE --1971
Parks, Playgrounds and Recreation Department of the City of Paducah
aided by the U. S. Bureau of Outdoor Recreation,
with gratitude and commemoration to our Vietnam Veterans
and in memory of SP/4 Roger Hornsby,
son of Commissioner John W. Hornsby,
Jan. 13, 1947 - Mar. 8, 1969
Many improvements have been made through the years. A new stone wall was constructed along Hinkleville Road (now Park Avenue) by W.P.A. (Works Progress Administration) labor, with the City furnishing the materials. In the 1960's, a stone wall was constructed along Thompson Avenue (now H C Mathis Drive) by utilizing West Kentucky Vocational School student labor with the City of Paducah furnishing materials. The stone wall along Park Avenue was demolished in the mid 70's to make way for the widening of Highway 60 West and the stone wall along H C Mathis Avenue was removed in 2004 because of its deteriorating condition.
"History of Paducah Parks, Playgrounds, and Recreation", August 1, 1978, compiled by Sue Dana Greene, edited by Gracie Alexander.
"Paducah Parks Master Plan, July 1990." Background data researched and provided by Richard Holland, McCracken County Preservationist, Director of Growth, Incorporated and member of the Board of Directors, Kentucky State Heritage Commission.