2101 Walker Solomon Way2101 Walker Solomon Way
Drew Park opened in 1946 as a 10.5-acre segregated recreational space for African Americans. The park was originally called Seegers Park for the white family who had previously owned the land and operated a brewery there. However, in response to efforts by locals to achieve a more representative name for the park, it was renamed posthumously in 1952 for Dr. Charles R. Drew, a prominent African American surgeon who was a pioneer in the field of blood transfusions. Drew Park boasted the best facilities for African Americans in the city of Columbia, including a swimming pool which opened in May 1950, the first for African Americans in the city. The swimming pool was an especial point of pride for Drew Park due to the neighborhood’s highly successful men and women’s swimming teams, the “Drew Park Pool Sharks.” Neighborhood youth also enjoyed access to a spray pool, baseball, softball and football fields, tennis courts and picnicking areas.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Drew Park frequently hosted athletic and social activities, one of the more popular being the annual May Crowning festivities held by Columbia’s African American population. Many times, the park crowned one of the neighborhood’s own local young ladies as queen. Hundreds of African Americans from across the city attended the crowning, celebrating the coronation with dancing, singing, costumes, and exchange of gifts. Longtime residents of the historic Kendalltown area remember Drew Park fondly as a vital center for community growth and fellowship.
Today, Drew Park includes the Charles R. Drew Wellness Center, which opened in 2005, and offers the community a modern swimming pool, a gymnasium, a track, and a cardio workout center, as well as exercise classes and swimming lessons. The park also provides playgrounds, a splash pad, a walking/jogging track and open green space for hosting community festivals and events.