While Cotton Palace Park has been a municipal park since 1910, it actually began serving the community in a private capacity as Padgitt’s Park in 1894. Corresponding with a geyser boom, this was an exciting time in Waco’s history and led to the rise of spas, natatoriums, and health tourism – including Padgitt’s Park.
Meanwhile, like many communities across the country, Waco took note of the massively successful 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. An idea was born to develop and use the park to bring that kind of attention to Waco, via the 1894 Texas Cotton Palace Exposition – hosted on behalf of the entire state. Through its many iterations, the exposition remained successful into the 1930s, and managed to cement its legacy of wonder in the minds of generations of Wacoans. The site once held grand exposition halls, ornate grounds, rides, roller coasters, and grandstands. Visitors flocked from near and far to take in the marvels of technology, industry, and entertainment including early aviation, parachuting, and auto racing.
Following the close of the fair, the park took on a variety of new uses. It was home to Baylor University’s baseball and football programs until the development of Floyd Casey Stadium. Portions of the Kate Ross housing development took shape on the site. Later development included the creation of Cesar Chavez Middle School’s campus and support for a childcare facility. The City of Waco operated a public pool, established neighborhood park features, as well as a multi-field softball complex.
Today, the park’s neighborhood playground and other features have exceeded their useful lifespans and are ready for redevelopment and reconnection. The park’s service area extends into Waco’s growing downtown and the surrounding neighborhood has also grown considerably, making this park land increasingly vital to meeting the community’s recreation needs. Now is a great time to plan for the park’s future and to continue its storied history of serving the community.