Custer Park / Elks Aquatic Center
Custer Park is a park located on the western edge of downtown Bismarck, on the northwest corner of Broadway Avenue & Washington Street. It was Bismarck’s first municipal park when it was approved in 1909 and developed in 1910.
Custer Park was the result of efforts first undertaken by the Women’s Community Council in 1909, when they beautified two vacant lots at the corner of 5th Street and Main Avenue. That same year, the Civic Improvement League – who previously coordinated with Northern Pacific Railway to embellish Depot Park – agreed to secure a plot of land for a permanent city park.
Land was obtained in 1910 for $585, $100 of which donated by Colonel C.B. Little. It initially consisted of four acres between Washington Street and what was then called West Park Street (now West Custer Park Street), and Main to Rosser Avenues. A small lake was originally planned, but never implemented. 100 trees were donated by Oscar Will and planted that spring. In October, a landscape architect was hired to design a plan for the park. Over the next four years, more than one thousand dollars of improvements were made to the park, including 400 trees, 150 shrubs, water pipes, walking paths, and a retaining wall across Rosser Street.
By 1915, the city employed a caretaker for the park. Between 1915-1919, the city funded another $1,400 towards the park.
An evergreen tree within the park contains a plaque dedicated to Mark Kellogg, a Bismarck Tribune reporter killed at Little Big Horn. The plaque was provided in June 1954 by the Daughters of the American Revolution.
The park’s notable Eagle Statue was dedicated on October 1, 1988 to commemorate the bicentennial of the United States Constitution.
The Elks Aquatic Center (AKA Elks Pool) is located directly across from the park, which was the city’s first swimming pool when completed in 1932 using funds donated by the local Elks Lodge. The original pool was 100’x100′, ranging in depth from 3.5 feet to 12.
The pool’s existence was jeopardized in 2004, when costly repairs totaling over $100,000 prevented it from opening for the season. After months of research and public feedback, the park board authorized replacing Elks Pool later that year for an estimated $2.5 million (final cost was $1.8 million). The original pool and bathhouse were demolished soon after.
Several options for a replacement were considered, including an indoor pool and waterpark. Ultimately, an outdoor pool was chosen that included a waterslide and small waterpark. The bathhouse was built slightly southeast from the original.
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