TALLAHASSEE – Yesterday, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Park Service dedicated the Lakeside Pavilion at Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park to Walter Coldwell, director of the Florida Park Service from 1960 to 1963. Throughout his career, Coldwell worked on the design of more than 30 state parks.
“Remembering Walter Coldwell takes us back to the very beginning, when our system of state parks was founded,” said Donald Forgione, director of the Florida Park Service. “I am sure he’d be proud that we still follow his principles of design, drawing from and highlighting the natural elements of the environment.”
A ceremony was held to unveil a plaque, erected on a post alongside the Lakeside Pavilion. Dr. Joe Knetsch, retired historian from the department’s Division of State Lands, talked of the accomplishments of Coldwell during his career.
About Walter Coldwell
Walter Coldwell graduated from the University of Florida as a landscape architect. He was hired in 1936 as an employee of the National Park Service along with landscape architect Emmett Hill to work with the Florida Park Service to design and develop the first state parks in Florida.
Until the mid-1940s all state park design work was handled by these individuals. Their work was heavily influenced by the National Park Service through the publication “Park Buildings” and the philosophy to employ local, natural materials and craftsmen style architecture in their designs. Hill and Coldwell used these principles to work on the early park designs.
In 1947, Coldwell was assigned to Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park as superintendent. In 1953, his associate Emmett Hill was appointed director of the Florida Park Service and Hill then appointed Coldwell as assistant director.
Hill and Coldwell oversaw and had significant influence on park designs during this second period of park development. This work included Alfred B. Maclay State Gardens. The basic design philosophy used by the pair greatly influenced park development during this period. Although major park development was contracted out, Coldwell as assistant director had significant influence on the designs.
In 1960, Coldwell was appointed director and during his tenure saw an expansion of the service’s design and construction office and the development of recently acquired John Pennekamp State Park.
In 1963, Coldwell resigned as director, but continued as a park planner until his retirement in 1967. During his career he was directly involved in planning, design and development for over 30 state parks, nearly every park acquired until his retirement.