Legacy of young woman who designed Pioneer Park lives on in ‘quietness and charm’
, 2022-11-26 08:00:00,
Happy birthday, Dorothy Gray
Dorothy Gray, the designer of Billings’ Pioneer Park, was born on this day 126 years ago, and lived only 40 years. The 35 acres that made her famous around town were born from an inland sea 65 million years ago. In the early 1900s this acreage was a patch of ranch land until Gray was appointed by the city to turn it from feeding cattle to feeding the spirits of the residents of the rapidly-growing city.
Gray was just 25 years old when in 1921 the city’s park board hired her to write a plan turning the grazing land into an urban park. The men on the board might have congratulated themselves for being progressive by awarding a big project to a young woman. Many in the U.S. still clung to the opinion that women belonged in the home. But it would have been a dereliction of duty if the board had not selected Gray. She was the obvious choice.
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Gray demonstrated her aptitude for landscaping while still in high school. In the spring of 1914, Gray’s senior year, the city had finished construction of its new high school, presently the Lincoln Center in downtown Billings at Fourth Avenue and 30th Street. School officials invited students to enter a contest proposing plans for beautifying the grounds. Gray took first place.
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