Cianfrani Park is an oasis and gem in the heart of Bella Vista. At 8th and Fitzwater, the green space plays host to a myriad of important events that build and strengthen the community. We will look back on it’s history and understand how Cianfrani Park became the hard-won, cherished public space it is today.
Many believe the park is named after former Pennsylvania state senator Henry J. “Buddy’ Cianfrani who lived from 1923 to 2002. Cianfrani was well known for many services to his country. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II and was awarded the Purple Heart and the Silver Star. However, after winning political office, he also became known for scandal. Cianfrani Park is actually named in honor of Henry’s mother. While Cianfrani’s life was cluttered with drama and headline-making news, the park has also had a tumultuous historical path.
Cianfrani Park sits on land that was once occupied by the Campbell Elementary School. The Campbell School is where Joe Venuti, the proclaimed Father of the Jazz Violin, attended grade school. A plaque at one of the entrances to the park marks this important factoid. Sometime in the 1960’s the school was demolished, thus bringing birth to the park. Neighbors carefully attended and took care of the space. However, by the early 1990’s, the park became a neglected wasteland and eye sore. A home for the homeless, both dogs and human beings, became the park’s sole purpose.
In 1993, neighbors banded together and created the organization Friends of Cianfrani Park to quickly rehabilitate the park. Raising funds themselves, these upstanding citizens spent countless hours working towards the common goal of bringing life back to the land. Local architect David Morse observed Friends of Cianfrani Park’s goal was to make the park, “the green heart of our community, everyone’s front yard and urban living room.”
The website for the park reads, “With the financial help of many neighbors, small business people and supportive city and state officials, we have accomplished much of it. Gardens fenced with attractive wrought iron, urns overflowing with flowers, benches filled with seniors engaged in conversation, mothers with children playing with pets are all now a reality. Through our efforts, Cianfrani Park is once again the green heart of our community.”
Cianfrani thrives to this day having most recently received First Prize in the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society 2012 City Gardens Contest. Some widely attended events that take place year round include a Summer Concert Series, Spring Festival, and Holiday Tree Lighting, It’s good to know that when people band together and work towards a common goal, great results can be produced. Cianfrani Park is a perfect example of that.