What was once part of the front lawn of the president’s home at Tennessee Tech University has now been transformed into a park and greenspace for students, including a walking path with benches, lighting and water fountains, along with activities such as cornhole and a putting green complete with a few sand traps.
Built in 1964, the president’s home – Walton House – was named for Old Walton Road, the main route from Nashville to Washington D.C. that President Andrew Jackson would travel back and forth to his home. The long stretch of grass out front of Walton House has never been used for much other than parking for special events.
But now, President Phil Oldham and first lady Kari Oldham, have offered up that property on the corner of N. Dixie Avenue and E. 12th Street for the building of Walton Park.
“Kari and I know the importance of having an outdoor greenspace for recreation,” Phil Oldham said. “When the Ashraf Islam Engineering Building was funded, a new place for the activities held in Sherlock Park had to be identified, and our front lawn was the best location.”
Tech’s facilities department worked with a landscape architect to design the space. They ran water and electricity out to the field and flattened a portion of the land specifically for the marching band to practice. They also installed an extra crosswalk to give students more options for crossing Dixie Avenue to get to this updated space.
“We just got the lights on the band tower that project out onto the field,” said Chuck Roberts, associate vice president of Tech facilities. “So now as we get into fall and the band starts running out of daylight earlier, they’ll still have some lights out there to help them out. I’ve been seeing a lot of students out there utilizing Walton Park now. There’s a lot of people playing soccer and ultimate frisbee. I’m sure as the weather gets a little cooler and students get settled in to their fall routines, we’ll see more and more students using the space.”
The makeover of the greenspace has been underway for little over a year now as work has also been underway on the brand-new Ashraf Islam Engineering Building that interrupted the use of the former Sherlock Park space. While this new student-centric area offers space many of the activities once held in Sherlock Park, a portion of Sherlock Park will remain near the new engineering building, complete with a pond used for studying water flow. Several of the trees from Sherlock Park were transplanted to the new Walton Park, which will now be the large-scale greenspace that students use for activities needing more room.
“While sentimentally we miss rehearsing in Sherlock Park, the field at Walton Park is really a blessing,” said Jeff Miller, director of bands. “With its proximity to the Bryan Fine Arts building to the ongoing beautification of the park area, we’re very thankful to have such a wonderful space to rehearse in. It gives us a great sense of pride to rehearse in Walton Park where everyone driving through campus gets a chance to see and hear us.”
Oldham added, “Tech didn’t just want to replace Sherlock Park. We wanted what came next to be a definite improvement for students. We are happy to see them using the new park and equipment.”