In honor of Delaware's first 200 years, city officials today will rededicate one of the community's oldest gathering places.

In honor of Delaware's first 200 years, city officials today will rededicate one of the community's oldest gathering places.

At 3:40 today (July 27), Delaware officials and dignitaries are expected to join the Ohio Heartland Sweet Adelines singers to officially rename City Park.

The park, which historical records indicate was among the city's first public gathering locales, will be rededicated as Bicentennial Park. City officials said the name change will help to mark Delaware's heritage, as well as the year-long bicentennial celebration taking place this year.

"Bicentennial Park will be a reminder of the city's 200th birthday for generations to come," said Mayor Windell Wheeler. "The legacy of our city's celebration will last long after 2008."

Bordered by Park Avenue, Liberty Street, Rowland Avenue and Washington Street, the park covers three acres of public land and features a gazebo.

According to city records, the property was owned by Judge T.W. Powell and Samuel Rheems until 1836, when it was platted and brought into the city. City officials said it was the first significant addition to the city since its establishment in 1808, and likely was developed into a park between 1836 and 1866.

During that time, the city's population grew from 600 to nearly 6,000, in part because of the founding of Ohio Wesleyan University and development of land south of the Delaware Run. City maps from 1866 designated the area as a "public square."

"It was certainly one of the first, if not the first, public areas in the city," said Lee Yoakum, Delaware's community-affairs coordinator. "It's really been a key location and destination through all the city's history, whether it's recreation and leisure, or for municipal activities.

"The only thing it has lacked in its history is a more formal or prominent name. That is something the city is going to give it (today)."

In January 1972, the city opened its fire department headquarters on the park's northwest corner. The complex was named for former fire chief Wilbur Bills in 1980.

As part of the rededication festivities, the fire department will host an open house at the Wilbur Bills Fire Station, and ice cream and homemade desserts will be sold.

Additionally, several musical performances will take place from 3 to 8 p.m. as part of the Sweet Adeline's' "Harmony in the Park" series.

The Buckeye Brass, Heritage Dulcimers, Reflections, Olentangy Men's Chorus, Sean Kay and Jim Breece and Andrew Shaw are slated to perform.

"We are having an extra special event," said Diane Welker of the Sweet Adelines.

"Each group will have a connection with Delaware in honor of the 200th birthday of Delaware city and county."

nellis@thisweeknews.com