Edwin John Kiest, publisher of the Dallas Times Herald, was born on September 25, 1861, in Cook County, Illinois. He was a self-made man.
In 1871, he quit school to work as a newsboy in Chicago to learn the printer's trade. He later worked as a compositor and reporter for various Chicago newspapers. In 1889, he went to work with the Western Newspaper Union, which sent him to Dallas in 1880. In 1896, rather than accept a company promotion that would transfer him back to Chicago, Kiest established a stock company and bought the struggling Dallas Daily Times Herald, later known as the Dallas Times Herald, which he owned and published until his death in 1941.
Among his many civic accomplishments through the years, Keist was influential in founding the WRR, the nation's first city-owned radio station. He worked through his newspaper to advocate the development water supply for the City of Dallas with the result being Lake Dallas in Denton County. Kiest served as president of the State of Texas from 1908 to 1911. In 1920, he helped finance the building of permanent structures for the fair and was later named its lifetime honorary president. Keist was a financial supporter of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and with his artist-wife, Elizabeth Patterson Kiest, heled to found the Dallas Art Association- the predecessor of the Dallas Museum of Art. He served as president of the Dallas Park Board from 1931 to 1935 and as a directory until his death. He was given the 1930 Linz Award for Civil Service. As a memorial to his wife, Elizabeth Patterson Keist who had died in 1917, Edwin Kiest made a gift of land to the City of Dallas for a regional park. The bequest made in 1931 was the largest gift of private land ever received by the City of Dallas for a park. The 247-acre tract of land was dedicated as Kiest Park and, through the years, has been developed into one of Dallas' finest and most popular parks. Early features of the park included bridle paths and stables to allow for recreational horseback riding. In the 1930's the Works Progress Administration built several beautiful stone structures in Kiest Park that complimented the rustic feeling of the park. Stone gates mark three entrances to the Park. A stone picnic shelter much like the one at Stevens Park was built deep within a wooded grove of trees. A stone Field House built for patron enjoyment features two enormous stone fireplaces. Above the mantles of the fireplaces bronze and wood plaques are inscribed with the words of dedication:
"The Park Board presents this structure to you - the citizens of Dallas for your enjoyment. Use it and protect it. Like other park properties, your money has built it and your care will preserve it. Let your Children respect and care for this visible sign of your interest in their welfare."
The WPA built a beautiful formal garden at the heart of Keist Park that covers two and a half acres of land. The City of Dallas dedicated the garden in memory of Kiest's wife Elizabeth Patterson Kiest. The historic garden was the site of many special events and was well maintained for over 50 years through the mid-1980's.
In 2003, FOCP set a goal of bringing about the full restoration of the historic Kiest Memorial Garden, its stone structures and Water Rill feature back to its original appearance in 1934. The garden was planned by Landscape Architect W. B. Woodruff in 1934 and built by workers of the Works Progress Administration in the same year. The original plan included a stone pergola that was 150 feet long by 16 feet wide that framed a view to the water rill. The water rill is a little brook, lined with stone that extends 300 feet through the heart of the garden. The rill flowed past formal gardens that included rose beds, cannas and candle trees. The rill was once was crowned with a piece of statuary at its north end above a basin of flowing water. The statue served as the fountain head and main feature of the flowing water rill. The statue was of a frog. A small stream of water flowed from its mouth into the center of the larger oval basin below.
During 2002-2003, 1,200 red cannas donated by Nola Rae Smith and yellow candle trees that were propagated by the Texas Discovery Garden were planted. The flowering plantings line the length of the water rill.
In 2004, the Wynelle Clifton Daylily Garden was dedicated with 300 specimen plants donated by the Day Lily Growers of Dallas. State and local officials who attended the dedication include Roberto Alonzo; Ed Oakley; Elba Garcia; Dallas Council of Garden Clubs members; officers of the Texas Garden Clubs, Inc.; and Clifton family members. Click Here for Photos
Other improvements made in an effort to fully restore the gardens have included: installation of a drip irrigation system; installation of a red cedar split rail fence on the north end of the garden; planting of eight flowering trees donated by local garden clubs and individuals; .planting of 34 Little Gem magnolia trees received from the Dallas Reforestation Project.
In 2006, the Friends of Oak Cliff Parks raised funds through donations and many hours of hard work to save and restore the rill. A grant of $15,000 was received from the Cain Foundation of Austin Texas to restore the hydraulic operation of the rill and for repairs and plastering of its basins. A grant of $10,000 was received from the Carnival Supermarket Foundation to use toward the creation of the historic frog statuary/fountain head and for flood lighting of the rill and statue for the surrounding trees. The restoration of the rill was completed in 2008. A pocket garden was also planted around the frog fountain pool. The FOCP received Texas Garden Club, Inc. state competition first prize awards for the restoration of the rill and historic gardens as well as for the new pocket garden.
2179 W Kiest Blvd, Dallas, TX 75224
2179 W Kiest Blvd, Dallas, TX 75224