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Old Independence Regional Museum partners with Batesville Community Center to highlight history of Fitzhugh Park

Featured image (from left): Michael West, Twyla Gill Wright with the Old Independence Regional Museum, Jeff Owens with Batesville Parks stand with the diorama. Image submitted.


Something new is attracting a lot of attention within the entry of Batesville’s Community Center and Aquatics Park.

A large diorama of a 1950s rural baseball park, created by Michael West, now sits near the elevator door. And a companion exhibit panel designed by Twyla Gill Wright is mounted above it to highlight the history of Fitzhugh Park.

This all came about when Wright, who is the exhibit curator of Batesville’s Old Independence Regional Museum, and Jeff Owens, the parks director for Batesville, put their heads together.

Owens wanted to find a way to show the history of Fitzhugh Park, where the new center and park are now located. Wright wanted to find a place to showcase a sports diorama that the museum had just taken off exhibit. A partnership developed.

Michael West had designed his baseball park diorama for the museum in great detail, all to minute scale. It has a complete ball diamond, a board fence surround, three outhouses, people in bleachers, cars, bicycles, refreshment stand, and a batter up to the plate. All of this was placed under a clear cover and mounted on a large “home plate” shaped stand.

It was showcased when the museum hosted the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling exhibit about sports a couple of years ago. It was then retired when a new exhibit came into being.

“The diorama is just too marvelous to gather dust in a closet, so I approached Jeff about having it on display as a long-term loan from the museum,” said Wright. “He bought into the idea immediately and said he was also wanting to tell the story of Fitzhugh Park. So, I volunteered to research and design an exhibit panel to show that story.”

The deed to the Fitzhugh brothers’ 29 acres gifted to the city for $1 in 1936 revealed the detail of the location and deal. Wright also interviewed Bill Beller and others to find the history of the early baseball fields that came to be located there. Then a swimming pool was opened in June of 1953. Wright also located a newspaper article about the pool’s opening day. (The temperature was 104 degrees, and apparently, 464 people paid to swim.)

And Wright found a blurry aerial photograph of the park and ball fields and asked Mark Rorie of Batesville Printing if he could turn it into a color, stylized drawing. She then put it all together on the exhibit panel.

Owens asked Wade’s Electric to transport the large diorama from the museum to the park. West accompanied the transferal to make sure all the tiny features stayed in place.

“I think the diorama and history of Fitzhugh Park are great additions to the community center,” Owens said after the exhibit was secured. “This park has played a large role in the history of Batesville, and many people spent large amounts of family and fun time between the baseball fields and the Fitzhugh Pool. I’m very thankful for the contribution that Mike West and the Twyla Wright of Old Independence Regional Museum have made to the center and to ensuring that the history of this park will not be lost [or] forgotten.”

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