One of the things that makes Ann Arbor the city it is are the numerous and diverse parks within its boundaries. West Park is a crown jewel of that parks system, having been for decades a home to recreation of all kinds for the citizens of Ann Arbor. West Park's popularity with people of all types has also brought clashes and the park's history is not without it's dark stories.
West Park's most distinctive feature is the bandshell, constructed in 1938 with partial funding from the Works Progress Administration. The bandshell was a political football within city council for a period, with aldermen changing their minds about its necessity and the city's portion of construction costs, before it was finally approved and constructed in the first half of 1938. 1800 people attended the bandshell dedication on August 14, 1938, with a concert by the University Summer Session Directors' Band.
The band shell would become the most identifiable features of West Park, both as an architectural form and as the premier location for outdoor performances. Concerts in West Park, particularly Sunday concerts, would become a core part of Ann Arbor's cultural landscape for the next several decades.
The late 1960's saw a controversy over music in West Park. Complaints over the noise of amplified music, "desecration of the American flag," and obscenity were representative of the larger cultural clash between generations that typified Ann Arbor in the period. The attempt to balance the desires of neighbors with those of the concertgoers and organizers led to a great deal of discussion in city council meetings and in the press. Concerts spread from West Park to the entire city in a program that would eventually allow for events like the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festivals.