Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Watertown's Thompson Park

by Susan G Mathis

In Watertown, NY, where I grew up, a beautiful city park rivals many of the grand parks of New York City, Chicago, and Philadelphia. I spent untold hours hiking, swimming, picnicking, sledding, and playing on its lovely grounds, so I just had to write the park into one of my novels.
Originally called Watertown Park on its architectural drawings, it's now and forever called Thompson Park in honor of the donor, though for the first twenty-five years locals called it City Park. The park was the vision of local industrialist John C. Thompson, the secretary and treasurer of the New York Air Brake Company.

In 1899, Thompson made an anonymous donation, possibly influenced by the City Beautiful philosophy that was popular during that time. Thompson said that his gift of the public park and green space was for all people to enjoy, not just the rich and famous.

After frequently visiting Manhattan and enjoying New York City's Central Park, he contacted Frederick Olmsted, the park's famous designer. Though Olmsted had retired from the landscape architecture field, Thompson requested Omstead provide him a designer for what he envisioned to be a 100-acre park in Northern New York.

Known as the Father of American Landscape Architecture, Olmsted had designed some of the most famous green spaces in America. Besides Central Park, he also designed Prospect Park in Brooklyn, the campuses of Yale, Cornell, Stanford, and the University of Chicago as well as the landscapes for Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate outside Ashville, NC, and the grounds of the United States Capitol Building!

Frederick Olmsted recommended that the Olmsted Brothers Landscape Architecture firm design the park, and in 1899, the project began. Thompson purchased land on the northwest edge of the Tug Hill Plateau called The Pinnacle, a popular overlook of forest and open pastures.

Massive stone pavilions, bandstands, and stairways were constructed to show off the beautiful views throughout the park. Thompson Park also boasts a gold course, zoo, pool, tennis courts, playgrounds, sledding hills, cross-country ski trails, hiking trails, and much more. When I'm on my yearly book tour of the Thousand Island, Thompson Park is always a must-see for me. Did your town have a city park and green space?

About Mary’s Moment:

Mathis’s attention to detail and rich history is classic Mathis, and no one does it better.—Margaret Brownley, N.Y. Times bestselling author

Summer 1912

Thousand Island Park’s switchboard operator ​Mary Flynn is christened the community heroine for her quick action that saves dozens of homes from a terrible fire. Less than a month later, when another disastrous fire rages through the Park, Mary loses her memory as she risks her life in a neighbor's burning cottage. Will she remember the truth of who she is or be deceived by a treacherous scoundrel?

Widowed fireman George Flannigan is enamored by the brave raven-haired lass and takes every opportunity to connect with Mary. But he has hidden griefs of his own that cause him great heartache. When George can’t stop the destructive Columbian Hotel fire from eradicating more than a hundred businesses and homes, he is distraught. Yet George’s greater concern is Mary. Will she remember their budding relationship or be forever lost to him?

About Susan G Mathis:

Susan G Mathis is an international award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands in upstate NY. Susan has been published more than twenty-five times in full-length novels, novellas, and non-fiction books. She has eleven in her fiction line including Mary’s Moment. Find out more at www.SusanGMathis.com.


  1. Beautiful! Only 6 hour drive from us; we're going to put this on the bucket list!

  2. Thank you for posting today, and Merry Christmas. The city that is closest to us does have a park, but I don't know the history of it. Thank God for the people who had the foresight to make some of these lovely areas, and to save land from being built up and swallowed into the city!