Despite being known as “Dragon Park” for decades, the distinct sculpture in this public park is actually a 150-foot long sea serpent built around 1980. The official name of the park is Fannie Mae Dees Park, and the following is their combined story.
The park came into being in a most unusual way, so maybe it’s appropriate it’s now home to such an unusual feature. In the 1970s, the land between two universities (Vanderbilt and Belmont) was seized during a phase of urban renewal efforts and some residents were displaced. The move was heavily disputed by many locals, the most fierce opponent being a woman named Fannie Mae Dees who lived on nearby Capers Avenue.
As the city pressed on, Dees displayed a coffin in front of her home along with signs protesting the death of the neighborhood. After a lengthy battle with city hall, the home she had shared with her mother was demolished along with blocks of others. Some land was used for a new boulevard, some added to the Vanderbilt campus. But at the corner of 24th Avenue a large plot remained vacant. The development plan there had failed, but the homes were already scraped away. With some twist of fate the parcel became a new public park, and the city named it after Dees, who had died in the interim.
As a way to bring the remainder of the neighborhood together, a plan was hatched for a large sculpture, designed by Chilean artists Pedro Silva, to decorate the park. The creature was covered with mosaic tiles laid out by locals. Many people turned out for the project and their colorful designs coat the serpent; parents now show their children the parts they made. Included among them is a portrait of Fanny Mae Dees.
Know Before You Go
Though it's not easily noticed while driving, it's hard to miss the distinct serpent once you walk into the park. Street parking is available.