Val Verde County Historical Commission
Southwest Texas Junior College
Star Park is older than the City of Del Rio and its creation is tied to that industry that changed Del Rio from a small agricultural hamlet into a bustling community of several thousand people. That industry was the railroad.
In 1882 the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railroad (operating under Southern Pacific control) built the line from San Antonio into Del Rio. That line met the eastbound construction near the Pecos River completing the country’s southern transcontinental rail line. The G.H.&S.A. established a division headquarters in Del Rio because of its water supply.
The railroad company platted a tract of land north of the railroad tracks as what is now known as the First Railroad Addition with a water tank positioned just off of Broadway, now North Main Street. As early as 1903, the block with the tank was labeled “Public Square.”1 This is the first reference to the park; although, the low population numbers north of the tracks suggests that few people frequented it. The block is labeled “Water Tank” with no reference to the square in 1913.2
The City of Del Rio was chartered in 1905 and again in 1911, but only in 1922 did the City designate the area as a park. The City Commission’s August 8 resolution refers to the property with a reference to the 1903 map, giving the site its first official recognition. The Commissioners named it Memorial Park. A later reference called it Water Tank Park, which is understandable since the minutes note that the water tank will remain.3
In 1932, the park took on added meaning. The American Legion, Post 23 and American Legion, Auxiliary Unit 23 dedicated the park as Star Park. A monument placed by the American Legion Post and Auxiliary Unit in 1973 is dedicated to Val Verde County veterans killed in action.
The front reads:
"This Monument a Perpetual Memorial is Dedicated to the Memory of Those Who Fell in the Service of Their Country
On Land, Sea, and Air, from Val Verde County Given by the American Legion Post 23 and the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 23 May 30, 1973"
The back of the memorial reads:
"In Memory of Joseph Bolner, Alvin Heid, Dewey Henderson, Walter Hoemig, and John Paul Jones,
Val Verde County's World War One Service Men Who Gave Their Lives in Line of Duty for Their Country
Star Park and Star Park Hedge Were Dedicated and Planted in November 1932 by the American Legion Post 23 and Its Auxiliary Unit 23"
The star of Star Park was designed and probably poured by Phil Garoni. Garoni was an Italian immigrant, a naturalized citizen, a stonemason and cement worker, and a member of the American Legion.4 The star remains but the old Star Hedges have disappeared over the years.
The name of the park was used commonly around the neighborhood, but the name did not become official until 1972. On February 8 of that year, the City Council adopted “Star Park” as its official name.5
Benches were installed by the City in 1975 to make the park more user-friendly, but during that same summer, another issue came before Council. Playground equipment was planned on, though not without question. “Mr. Castro was asked to verify [sic] as to whether this park is a Historical Park and if so, if playground equipment would be in conflict.” The answer appeared later that summer when bids of taken for playground equipment. The City was nearly ready to install the equipment and to plan a recreation center in the block. That, apparently, was over the top. City staff and council changed their minds about the plan by fall.6
Three other publicly-owned tracts were targeted for recreational park development with the playground equipment to be diverted to one or more of them. These parks were developed during the next two years and remain parks today.7
Star Park itself has remained staid. Children play in the park, and events are held there, but the memorial always in sight from all parts of the park.
1 Val Verde County Clerk’s Office, Map Book 1, page 139.
2 Val Verde County Clerk’s Office, Map Book 1, page 48.
3 City of Del Rio, City Council Minutes Vol. 2, pages 33-34, 268. A search through the Val Verde County Courthouse offers no deed transferring title of the land from the GH&SA Railroad to the City of Del Rio. No declaration by the railroad to the public announcing the public nature of the square can be found either. However, the 1903 map was originally glued into a deed record book as though it were a legal record. The map was later removed and placed in the Map Book.
4 John Anthony Garoni to DLB, personal interview, August 2002.
5 City Council Minutes, Vol. 8, page 347.
6 City Council Minutes, Vol. 10, pages 10, 29-30, 50.
7 City Council Minutes, Vol. 10, pages 55, 68, 162, 263.