History Happened Here
The City of Montgomery built this public park on one of the
lots occupied by the Montgomery Fair Department Store.
Rosa Parks was an assistant to the tailor for Montgomery Fair.
On December 1, 1955, Mrs. Parks left her seamstress work,
boarded a city bus and helped set in motion events that
would undo segregation in the South and uplift human rights
for people all around the world.
Montgomery Fair began operations in 1868 as Pollack's
Dollar Store at Perry Street and Dexter Avenue. A new four-story flagship store opened in 1907 and become a regional shopping destination. It had entrances on Court Street
(Photo 1), Monroe Street (2), and Dexter Avenue (5)
as documented by The Department Store Museum
In the Dexter Avenue '"Arcade" shoppers could find
cosmetics, gloves, leather goods, hosiery, umbrellas,
silverware, records and Teen Town departments (3). The
annual holiday decorations and parades were festive.
Photo 4 is of a Christmas Parade in 1967.
The façade was updated in the 1940s with distinctive white
and blue vitrolite (a pigmented, structural glass) and large
glass blocks indicative of the art-deco style of architecture
popular during the early 20th century.
Montgomery Fair closed downtown operations in the late
as shopping centers across America were relocating
to suburban malls. The Court Street section burned down in
1984, leaving behind the two damaged annex buildings
The City of Montgomery purchased many historic buildings
on Dexter Avenue to help stimulate private rehabilitations.
Unfortunately, what remained of the Montgomery Fair at
29 Dexter Avenue was deemed structurally unsound. From
this setback, the opportunity would emerge to make a new
City park and to re-use carefully salvaged materials from the
distinctive façade (Photos 6 and 7, 2014).
Rosa Parks Worked at Montgomery Fair
During Rosa Parks' life, segregation in the South was rigidly
enforced by law and custom, including at the Montgomery Fair
where she worked between 1954 and 1956. While the Alterations
Department was on the upper floors of 29 Dexter Avenue, she
sewed in the basement level. Mrs. Parks' commitment to stand
against the injustice of segregation was galvanized here. Two
extraordinary notes that she wrote on Montgomery Fair stationery,
now housed at the Library of Congress, document the indignities
of living and working in segregated conditions. Mrs. Parks also
recorded details to support the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the
lawsuits that would ultimately end segregated public transit.
Mrs. Parks' story is stitched into the making of this
The City of Montgomery hopes this unique park will provide new
opportunities to celebrate Mrs. Parks' life work and wishes.
Vision For A New Urban Park
The renovation of adjacent Dexter Avenue buildings
presented an opportunity to create Lower Dexter Park and
to preserve and celebrate a piece of Montgomery's history.
The salvaged vitrolite tile and glass block façade provides
a gateway to this special public park designed to enhance
civic life and dialogue across differences. The floating deck
is built with sustainable materials and planted with native
grasses. This pocket park opened in 2018, creating an
intimate community space for downtown residents, workers
and visitors. Seating and lighting throughout the park
provide a special place to mingle, read and even perhaps
reflect on the history of Montgomery and Dexter Avenue.
"Everyone living together in peace and harmony
and love... that's the goal we seek, and I think
that the more people
there are who reach that state of mind,
the better we will all be."
- Rosa Parks Rosa Parks: My Story, with Jim Haskin, 1992