Throwback Thursday – How WKU, Oil, and War grew Forest Park Neighborhood

A Bowling Green neighborhood on the northwest side of the city has an interesting century-old history. The spot’s story is fueled by turn of the 20th century oil tycoons, post-WWII booms, and a growing university with unlimited opportunities.

The Forest Park neighborhood of Bowling Green runs along Old Morgantown Road, and is made up of the many small neighborhoods stretching from the western side of the university’s campus toward Glen Lily road. According to the American Oil & Gas Historical Society, more than 50 Kentucky counties were showing signs of oil field discoveries and refining petroleum by the late 1910s and early 1920s. Warren County and its neighbors were part of this boom.

In previous Throwback Thursday segments, we’ve shared how the Hobson family, especially Margaret Hobson, played an important role in the oil strikes in this area—as she was a representative of the Bowling Green Refining Company and was part of over 100 oil wells. By the early 1920s, oil investors from around the country poured money into potential refining efforts in Bowling Green—like the Kentucky Midland Pipeline and Refining company and the Oak Line Pipeline Company.

The American Producing and Refining Company proposed a “Forrest Park” subdivision near the Western Kentucky Normal School, with plans submitted by G.T. Womack. The area grew by 1924, but slowed when the oil fields ran dry and the Great Depression hit. It didn’t grow again until returning WWII G.I. men came home to take advantage of an education and good living conditions for their families.

Forest Park blossomed thru the mid-1970s, but has been shrinking since the city’s neighborhoods and amenities grew eastward toward the interstate. The currently active Forest Park Sunrisers neighborhood group has tried to host cleanup efforts and applied for city aid in grant funding over the past couple of decades.