Many Butler County natives are familiar with Armco Park, yet the park’s history is often unknown to those who enjoy it. The park has undergone a huge transformation since its opening, and therefore is a fitting representation of the development of the entire county, as well as a source of many fond memories for locals.
Armco Park gets its name from a steel-works known as Butler Armco, founded in 1900. Armco was an acronym for “American Rolling Mill Company” and quickly became a source of pride for many of the hard-working people of Butler. The company had high ideals of “faith in men, cooperation and honesty.” With these ideals the company developed Armco Park.
Butler Armco constructed the park in 1934 as a place of recreation for the men and women employed by the company. Encompassed in the 65 acres of land, the company built tables, grills, and pavilions for dances and other events. The park’s development occurred during a time when the United States was desperately trying to recover from economic collapse, and people needed respite from the stress of daily life more than ever. Annual company picnics boosted the park’s popularity and soon the park was also full of non-work-related activities. Veterans often held picnics to commemorate their service at Armco Park. The family-oriented park also offered training classes, retiree picnics, and promoted employee socialization.
Loyalty to Armco was established through community events such as these picnics. This idea of employee unity was intended to decrease unrest amongst workers during a time when unions were not guaranteed. However, in the end, the programs were designed to produce company loyalty so as to prevent steel workers from forming unions. Employer’s attempts to satisfy the demands of workers varied, but during the 1900s many corporations sought to win loyalty in hopes to subdue militancy.
Armco families never stopped visiting the park - as the company reached its peak in the 1970s, so did the park. In 1956, Butler had the swimming hole in the park replaced by a pool. In the 1970s, Armco Park became a major attraction, drawing an amount of visitors that would be hard to imagine today. An estimated 20,000 persons attended the annual Butler County Music and Arts Festival in July of 1970. Sponsoring theatre, art, and music required a vast amount of effort by the community. The impressive display of arts was a huge indicator of Butler County’s art community. In 1972, over 500 works were submitted for the annual festival.
Each July there would be a weekend of togetherness, all due to the efforts of a steel company. Anyone could come and participate in activities like candle making, jewelry making, and oil painting.
However, as the United States steel industry weakened, so did the Butler Armco steel mill. The company merged with a Japanese steel company in 1999, due to the lower costs, and Armco changed its name to AK Steel. The people of Butler County still visit Armco park, as it is now a part of their local YMCA, donated by Butler County in 2007. What started as a simple few picnic tables and a swimming hole turned into a large part of the area’s culture and a reflection of its community.