Huntington’s Ritter Park first opened to the public on September 11, 1913. Five years earlier, the city had purchased most of the current site for a municipal incinerator.
But neighboring residents opposed that plan, so Mayor Rufus Switzer converted the property into the city’s first major public park. It got its name from lumberman Charles Ritter, who donated an additional 20 acres, bringing the park’s total to 75 acres.
In the early years after the park opened, the city of Huntington made few improvements due to a change in mayors. The first public facilities arrived in the late 1920s and early ’30s. With funding from the federal Works Progress Administration, or WPA, the city constructed most of the park’s now-familiar roads and stonework. Later additions included a playground, tennis courts, an amphitheater, and a one-mile walking track. The Daughters of the American Revolution also maintains a historic log cabin in the park.
Today, it is one of the most popular inner-city parks in West Virginia. In 2012, the American Planning Association named Ritter Park one of the top 10 “public spaces in America.”