Many Butler County natives are familiar with Armco Park, yet the history of the park is often unknown to those who enjoy it. Having undergone a huge transformation since its opening, the park represents the development of the whole county along with being the source of many fond memories.
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 ideals of “faith in men, cooperation and honesty” and it was under 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 with the company., The company built tables, grills, and pavilions for dances and other events, all encompassed in the 65 acres of land known as Armco Park. This was during a time when the United States was desperately trying to recover from economic collapse and the opportunity for recreation was needed more than ever in a person’s life. Annual company picnics helped the park’s popularity and soon the park was also full of non work-related activities. Veterans would often hold picnics to commemorate their service at Armco Park. The family-oriented park also offered: training classes, retiree picnics, ad promoted employee togetherness.
Loyalty to Armco was created because of efforts like these picnics. This idea of employee togetherness was meant as a way to decrease unrest amongst workers during a time when unions were not guaranteed. In the end, however, it was the programs design to produce loyalty that was supposed to prevent unionization in steel workers. Employers attempts to satisfy the demands of workers may vary but during the 1900s there is a theme of corporations seeking to win loyalty in order to subdue militancy.
Armco families never stopped visiting the park and 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 becomes a major attraction, getting more foot traffic than anyone today might expect. An estimated 20,000 persons attended the annual Butler County Music and Arts Festival in July of 1970. Having theatre, art, and music requires vasts amount of effort by the community. The impressive display of arts is 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 started because of a steel company. Anyone would come and participate in activities like candle making, jewelry making, and oil painting.
However, as the United States steel industry weakened, as 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 often was a reflection of the community surrounding it.