In 1901 the 125 acres of Peabody Park was established with a gift of $5000 from George Foster Peabody (1852-1938) in honor of his relative George Peabody (1795-1869), a famous philanthropist who helped reconstruct southern schools and colleges after the Civil War. Mr. G.F. Peabody was born in Columbus, GA and was one of the countries most prominant financiers and philanthropists. He supported a variety of educational and political causes and in the late 1800’s served on the Southern Education Board along with our first university president Charles Duncan McIver (1860-1906). He helped support Mr. McIver in the effort to establish the women’s college that became UNCG.
Peabody Park was established as an educational park that would enrich the acedemic life of the University. President McIver’s original plan was to place a series of stone markers about the educational history if North Carolina in the park, but his early death prevented this plan from being carried out. There are few memorial markers in the park. The oldest one, near the path that runs under the music building bridge, is from the very first bachelor class of 1903.
History of The Park in University Life
The students enjoyed the natural area form the very beginning of its establishment. Daily health walks were a requirement of all students in the early years of the park.
From 1904-1954 there were elaborate May Day festivals held in the park complete with the crowning of a May Queen. During the 1920s and 30s an annual Park Night honored students who best exeplified the institution’s ideals of scolarship and service. In 1941 one of the branches of Buffalo Creek was dammed to form a small lake, and an outdoor ampitheater was consructed on the lake’s shore where concerts and pagents were held. The lake was drained in 1954 and replaced with the current golf course.
From 2003-2005, a renovation of the Peabody Park Woods was undertaken. Roads were moved, bridges and new walkways were built to help preserve some of the natural spaces. Most recently, UNCG has taken steps to restore natural ecosystems in the park by establishing Peabody Park Woods as a preserve and constructing an aerial bride to provide a birds-eye view of the woods (map #3). It is also reestablishing a Piedmont Prairie (map#4) with native wildflowers and grasses in the western part, and has helped to construct two wetlands (map #5,6), one in each area. The restoration efforts have been guided by the Peabody Park Preservation Committee, which was established by Chancellor Patricia Sullivan in 1997. The committee draws members from the UNCG faculty, students, and staff, and members of the Greensboro community. All have an interest in promoting the conservation of education of natural areas in Greensboro. Although the committee’s initial focus in the 90s was to restore and maintain the woods as an example of a native piedmont woodland, the focus has expanded to include caring for natural areas in the more open western half of the park.
Peabody Park was established as an educational park, and this mission is still the guiding principle today. Undergraduate and graduate students use the park for teaching and research. UNCG faculty, students, and staff, and members of the Greensboro community participate in special events to remove invasive plant, e.g., English ivy and bush honeysuckle, and help reforest with native species, e.g., loblolly pine and red buckeye. These activities help educate the community about the importance of maintaining ecosystem and species diversity. Also, members of the UNCG community and visitors use the park as a quiet respite from daily work. The park is a unique green space in the City of Greensboro providing about 230 metric tons of oxygen each year.