Marietta’s New Park Celebrates the Legacy of Elizabeth Porter
On August 31, 2018, the citizens of Marietta gathered together to celebrate the opening of Elizabeth Porter Park on 370 Montgomery St. NE. Every day since its opening, kids and families have filled the park, enjoying the picnic areas, trails, water fountains, and the city’s largest playground. The sight of the community finding joy at Marietta’s newest park would have no doubt put a smile on the face of the woman the park is named for. Elizabeth Porter was a person who deeply loved her community.
Who Was Elizabeth Porter?
Long before a playground or splash pad were on the site, a citizen-led initiative built a hospital to serve the African-American community of Cobb County during the era of segregation. When the integrated Kennestone Hospital opened just a few miles away in 1950, the hospital was turned into a recreation center. Elizabeth Porter, lovingly remembered as Ms. Porter by all who knew her, was the center’s first director.
At the time, the center — nicknamed the Canteen — was the only community center in Marietta open to African-Americans. A true pillar of the community, Ms. Porter created a place where young people felt safe and welcome. She worked to provide kids with everything they needed while at the Canteen, from basketballs and sewing lessons to help with homework. No task was too small if it meant serving her community.
In an interview with the Marietta Daily Journal, Ron Porter, Ms. Porter’s grandson, shared fond memories of this remarkable woman.
“My grandmother didn’t know the word ‘can’t,’” he said. “That is one of the things she would never say. She always told people ‘can’t’ isn’t in her vocabulary. It shouldn’t be in yours. It should be ‘can.’ Can do.”
After serving as director for 22 years, Ms. Porter retired in 1974 and the Canteen was renamed in her honor. When the city voted to create new parks in 2009, the decision was made to tear down the over 60-year-old building. But there was no question that the new park would continue to celebrate Elizabeth Porter’s legacy.
The next time you’re at this beautiful park, be sure to thank Ms. Porter herself by visiting the life-sized bronze statue that was erected in her honor.