A History of Rees Park
by Alan Anderson, Archivist Sumter Historic Trust, Inc.
Rees Park, beautifully situated in the southeastern portion of the city, has a long and distinguished history. Originally it was the property of Dr. Albert Rees, who sold off building lots in 1846. The home built by James K. Daniel in 1847 still stands at the northeast corner of the park, one of the oldest in Ameri- cus. It served as the residence of William A. Wilson during his tenure as president of the Furlow Masonic Female College in the late 1860's. The small structure on its north side was one of the many private academies that pre-dated the advent of the pub- lic school system. At the southern end of the same street, now a funeral home, was the farm residence of Alfred J. and Amelia Bar- low Lester. Their daughter would marry an up and coming young businessman named John T. Windsor, for whom our hotel is named. The three homes in between were built chronologically by Malcolm B. Council in 1890, at the southeast corner of Parker, across Parker from it, Dr. Robert E. Cato's in 1895 and, between Coun- cil's and Windsor's, Brown C. Hodges' in 1905.
The street fronting the park's east side was the Lewis Ferry Rd. in the 1850's because it was the major route east out of Am- ericus to the Flint River. After the Civil War, the city's roads were renamed for Confederates; thus, Felder St. became Doles St. (one of the Americus units was in the Doles-Cook Brigade).
On the park's west side, Elm Ave. was at first Variety St. because it went south to a variety works, a manufactory of build- ing materials. In Americus' 1869 directory it was Park Place. By the 1880's it had become Smith St., but now commemorates the trees which for many years dominated the cityscape.
Bosworth St., on the park's south end, preserves the name of the last 19th century family to occupy its only residence. Land records indicate the house was built ca. 1858 by Dr. Wade J. Bar- low, brother of Mrs. A.J. Lester across the street. In 1862, it was the home of Perry H. Oliver, Americus' first mayor, just be- fore his tour of the crowned heads of Europe as promoter of the slave "Blind Tom", a musical prodigy.
At Rees Park's northern extreme, for almost a century the William M. Jones family's domicile, records indicate McGilbria F. Albritton built the one-story structure ca. 1861.
Anchoring the park's west side are the remnants of two promi- nent educational institutions. At the northwest corner of Elm and College, sits the Rylander Academy for boys. Its teacher and namesake, Rev. Maj. John Emory Rylander, was a casualty of the Civil War. Shortly after contractor Chas. M. Wheatley removed the second story in 1878, the public schools' arrival caused the academy's demise. It has ever since been a private residence. Near the park's northwest corner stands the 1910 Americus High School, Little & Phillips, of Cordele, architects. Immediately on its north side, the old Taylor St. Grocery, built by J.T. War- ren in 1938, served the neighborhood for about half a century.
Rees Park itself was donated to Americus by Dr. Albert Rees in memory of his son, Lucius, another victim of cruel war. The family's only proviso was that it always be maintained as a park, with a reversion clause if that status ever changed. In fact, the doctor's heirs tried twice, unsuccessfully, to sue for the property. As late as the 1880's and 1890's the city built cement fish ponds connected by a bridge, with appropriate landscaping. Nowadays, with the addition of the Confederate and "Spirit of the American Doughboy" statues in 1947 and the relatively recent do- nation of the bandstand by the Trust, Rees Park has fulfilled the good doctor's dream. The only fly in the ointment was pointed out by Mrs. Albert Rees in a 1916 letter to the T-R applauding the Rees Park Civic Club's improvements, while noting on "...be- half of my husband and children and in memory of Dr. Albert Rees, would suggest that the club have the name of the park spelled correctly."