"The Prettiest Little Spot"
Orr Park is re-dedicated to businessman, city supporter
A White Fringtree grows from dirt beneath an iron grate which has a small plaque that reads, “JA Orr Park.”
The patch of ground that used to be JA Orr Park on Musgrove Street in Clinton was overgrown just a few weeks ago. Clinton Canopy volunteers who were bringing the park back to life found the plaque, buried, and on Thursday they re-dedicated Orr Park.
It is named several years ago for a man who fixed the bikes of Clinton children for many years. There’s still a small sign with office hours on the shop where he worked - his second career after running the Musgrove Street Western Auto.
“James Orr was a member of First Baptist Church, served eight years with the Chamber of Commerce, was a member of the Planning Commission, served 10 years as a District 56 Trustee, and was a member of the Lions Club. He wanted to establish a Baptist home for the elderly, and that led to Martha Franks in Laurens,” said Jeff Smith, representing Main Street Clinton at the Orr Park re-dedication.
A letter from James Orr III was read expressing the family’s sincere appreciation to those who have brought the small, urban park back to life. The letter said JA Orr many times told his family, “The money you spend in Greenville doesn’t help Clinton one bit.”
The late businessman would have said the park ceremony was “too much fuss,” and he always considered Clinton “a good business town,” the letter said.
“The next step we hope to take is to have a mural painted on this wall. We have several artists here today to consider the possibilities. They’ve been looking, listening, and dreaming. I invite you to talk with them. Chat about ideas. Keep the ball rolling,” said Susan Galloway, representing Clinton Canopy.
The volunteer group has planted herbs and flowers, along with the White Fringtree in JA Orr Park, and has installed labels with QR codes that allow people to scan with their Smartphones and learn more about each plant.
“This was a small idea that snowballed,” Galloway said. “Downtown Clinton is being revitalized, one step at a time.
This project began with a small step. It was obvious there had been a bench and a tree here before. There was a grate and marks for at least one bench. The city put in new benches. When Clinton Canopy started talking about putting in a new tree, we discovered a plaque, covered in leaves under the grate, referring to this as J.A. Orr Park. The suggestion of a park caused us to expand our vision. ...
“As we shop local, we support, not only our local businesses, but our entire community. I think Mr. Orr understood that. We are interconnected. No single business or project alone will make our downtown what we want it to be. Every project matters in creating our downtown atmosphere. Each one adds to the whole and together they build success. This park is an example of how one small idea snowballed: we went from replacing a bench to planting a tree to a collaboration between the city and a group of volunteers to create a space that will attract more than just butterflies. Clinton Canopy has put out signs to identify the plants in the park. The signs have QR codes which you can scan with a smart phone to get more information about each one. Some of the plants here are herbs that can be used in cooking. Perhaps you’ll eat some oregano from here on your pizza across the street.”
Orr Park was re-dedicated the day before Clinton began its May 18-19 Rhythm on the Rails festival. The ceremony was five days after the May 11-12 Presbyterian College Commencement that drew hundreds of visitors to Clinton. For visitors, and citizens alike, the small park is seen as a link to the past, but also a bridge to a future that will see more greenspace in urban Clinton.
Galloway said, “Why renew a little patch of land named for a man we barely remember? Because Mr. Orr represents who we are as a community. The more we researched, the more we learned. As you have heard from Jeff, he invested in Clinton; he invested in its people; he loved children. In an editorial after Mr. Orr’s funeral (1998), Russell Dean was quoted as saying, ‘he was the consummate community servant.’ He was especially concerned with the quality of life for residents of Clinton - something that resonates with the mission of Clinton Canopy. Adele (Alducin, Main St. director) put in the public invitation that this is a celebration of J.A. Orr Jr. and his contributions to Clinton. I would extend that to say this is a celebration of all our downtown business owners. They are more than just business owners. They are friends and neighbors. They work hard to provide us with a successful downtown and contribute to our quality of life.”