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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

Post WWII, Frederick C. See

by Rebecca Smith-Hoffman

Frederick C. See came to Grand Rapids to assume the position of Parks Superintendent in 1948.  Under his direction, planning began for a massive improvement program for the city’s parks, including John Ball.  See was born in Frankfort, Germany, where his father owned flower shops.  He studied landscape architecture in Berlin and Munich before coming to the United States in 1929 to work for an American landscaping firm.  Because of the political turmoil in Germany, See chose to remain in this country where he worked for New York landscape architects Wadley & Smythe and later for Andrews & Clark, consulting engineers, while continuing his education at Newark College of Engineering.   Following service in the Navy during World War II, he came to Grand Rapids to serve as Parks Superintendent, a position he held until 1972.  In addition to his work with the city’s parks, See designed the landscaping for the urban renewal-era City-County complex.

Once See was hired, the city did begin to spend money on John Ball Park.  In 1949, a new building for winter skating, picnic and summer play activity was constructed on the shore of the north pond.  Within the next three years, playground equipment was reinstalled, the hilltop picnic area was improved, and the zoo was reopened.  The  first parking lot was constructed in the park in 1951 near the skating/picnic shelter.  In 1963, the golf meadow gave way to a second parking lot east of the pavilion.

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