Nestled in Quakertown Park between the Civic Center Pool and the Senior Center stands a rather unique, large, concrete wall. There are no clues on the structure as to its purpose, only a plaque that reads “In Memory of Betty Jane Blazier, 1915-1964, Teacher and Friend of Children”.
Incorporated into its long length are what appear to be tunnels, stairs, and random geometric shapes. Is it an outdoor sculpture that should be admired from afar but not touched? That description just does not feel right. The structure seems to extend an invitation to come and play, and in actuality that is what it is, a play wall.
The play wall was built as a memorial to Miss Betty Jane Blazier, who was an instructor for the College of Household Arts and Sciences at Texas Woman’s University for 18 years. She specialized in child development and nursery education and served as the director for the on-site nursery school. She was also one of the founding members of the Denton Unitarian Fellowship. Miss Blazier died on July 20, 1964, at 48 years old, after a five year battle with breast cancer.
Funding for the project was organized by the Unitarian Fellowship who commissioned Dr. Richard Laing, then a member of the North Texas State University (now UNT), art faculty to create something that children would enjoy as a memorial to Miss Blazier. The play wall was specifically designed to help children develop a sense of mass and form and to encourage children to participate in active play.
The City of Denton Parks and Recreation Department built the foundation and the sand enclosure for the memorial. The structure itself was constructed by Alvin Ellis, under the supervision of Mount-Miller Architects. The project had the approval of the Municipal Complex architect O’Neil Ford. The play wall was dedicated in a public ceremony on December 13, 1970.
So, the next time you are at Quakertown Park, take a moment, and yield to the call of the wall, just stop and play.
Are you curious about the history of any other places in Denton? Stop by the Genealogy and Local History Department at the Emily Fowler Central Library and let’s see what interesting information we can find.
Emily Fowler Central Library