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Tim McDonald's newest history column - Liverpool's waterfront parking.

The site of the future parking lot and Centennial Park, taken from the Liverpool bridge
The site of the future parking lot and Centennial Park, taken from the Liverpool bridge

 By the 1940s, there were so many automobiles in Liverpool that parking in the downtown area was becoming a problem. At that time, cars were permitted to park along Main Street but there were not enough parking spaces to accommodate the growing number of vehicles.

After World War 2, Liverpool’s downtown started to grow and many new businesses were opening.  More shoppers meant more cars and it was decided that a parking area was desperately needed.

 

Liverpool’s waterfront was the scene of many old wharves from the era of wooden sailing vessels when Liverpool was a very busy port in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Unfortunately the condition of many of the wharves had deteriorated. Back then, the Mersey River went right up to the backs of the buildings on Main Street. Large wharf rats were a familiar site along the river and they would come into many of the stores’ basements. Although this is hard to believe, there was also a railway track that crossed over the wharves and proceeded to the area that was later the site of Stenpro, near the bridge.

The Liverpool Waterfront, showing the wharves. The area later became the site of the present day parking lot

 

A plan was created to fill in part of the Mersey River where some of the wharves were located. By doing this, a parking area would be developed to help with the parking issues in the town.

 

By July 1950, the Liverpool parking grounds were nearing completion. The area started from the town bridge and extended to the where the Legion was located on the waterfront. There were two exits planned from the parking grounds; however, there was only one entrance, which was at the lower section of Gorham Street across from the former Town Hall and beside present day Home Hardware. The only exit in 1950 was by the town bridge.  In the summer of 1950, the Liverpool Bridge was being repaired and material that was needed to do the repairs was piled by the exit so exiting the parking area was not easy at that time. The existing railroad track remained and continued to be used until the 1980s.

 

The Liverpool parking grounds (also, known as the Liverpool parking area) opened to vehicles on the evening of Saturday, August 5, 1950, but on a limited basis. The local police were on hand to instruct the general public on how to use the new area.

The parking grounds were not paved so the speed limit was 10 mph.

Plans were also being considered to add the second exit and to change the entrance to a different location. The new entrance was not going to be from Main Street. A story in the Advance in 1950, in reference to the new parking area, said, “It makes one wonder if in our time we will ever see enough cars in Liverpool to fill the present space”.

 

There was also the hope that a road from the new parking grounds to Shipyard Point would be developed and would be given the name “Sunset Boulevard”. The road was eventually made but was named Henry Hensey Drive, to honor the late Henry Hensey of Liverpool.

 

The parking area eventually became more commonly known as the Liverpool parking lot.  Some paving was done, though the actual date of paving is not known.

 

In November 1962, the parking lot experienced one of its first floods, which was caused from heavy rains and higher than normal tides. This flooding still continues today during storms and higher than normal tides.

 

In 1964, new lighting was added to the parking lot. Tall aluminum poles, with two lights on each, were installed along the center of the parking lot starting from Legion Street and going toward the bridge. The new modern lights made the area one of the brightest in town.

 

Eventually, more of the Mersey River was filled in to create the first park on the waterfront, which adjoined the parking lot. In 1967, Centennial Park officially opened. Today, it is the park located next to Liverpool’s Visitor Information Center.

Many years later, more of the river was filled in to create Privateer Park.

 

The parking lot has had multiple uses. Other than a parking place for shoppers and workers, it more recently became the site for the farmers market. At one time, the carnival rides for Privateer Days were located here, as well.  The Liverpool Tourist Bureau eventually made its home in the parking lot, too. People sometimes park in that area to chat with friends who are also parked there or to watch others drive around the “idiot loop”, which is the drive through the parking lot, up Legion Street, down Main Street, down Market Street and back to the parking lot.

 

Many people may not know the history of Liverpool’s parking lot. The next time you drive through it, remember that at one time this area was once the site where many large sailing ships could be seen, docked at the local wharves.

 

Tim can be reached at localhistorynut2015@gmail.com

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