EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is another article on Findlay area history adapted from a series written from 1959 to 1974 by the late R.L. Heminger, publisher and editor of The Courier. This is the first of a series of articles dealing with the history of Findlay’s Riverside Park.
By R.L. HEMINGER
The story of the evolution of Findlay’s Riverside Park is an absorbing one. It began early in the 20th century and has continued down through ensuing years. The park is 66 years old this summer (1972), having been opened and dedicated back in 1906.
(The late) Don E. Smith, 326 Osborn Ave., who has a hobby of putting together stories of early Findlay from through perusal of the files of the old Morning Republican, has just completed a study of Riverside Park, from an historical standpoint. He has furnished us with the results of his inquiry and for the next few weeks we will be telling the story of the park’s development.
Findlay had felt the need of a public park considerably before 1906. Back in 1888, there was a movement for a four-acre park on Tiffin Avenue, but it never materialized.
In 1890, the utilization of what is now Byal Park, at the foot of Hurd Avenue, as a municipal park was suggested, when the area which has been the county fairgrounds was sold by the court. This, too, fell through. On June 22, 1892, this item appeared in the newspaper:
“The Losantiville Club has leased the grove south of the city waterworks. They will improve it into the most beautiful park in this vicinity. The horse car track will be extended from Tiffin Avenue, direct to the new park.”
This is all we know about this matter. We had never heard of a club of this name. What it may have done towards carrying out its park plans is also unknown.
When the city built its new reservoir early in the 20th century along McManness Avenue adjoining the old waterworks plant, a movement developed to buy the tract of and just to the east of the reservoir and south of the waterworks for park purposes. It was know as the Hagerman tract of land.
The plans at the start envisioned including within the new park all the land between North Blanchard Street and the present park site and also the area on north to Tiffin Avenue. The Toledo, Fostoria, and Findlay streetcar line made plans to run a track extension from Tiffin Avenue into the park, with a streetcar station near the old McKee School.
At the same time council was weighing the park idea, it also was acting to have a dam built in the Blanchard River at the foot of Liberty Street, which would raise the level of the waterway through Findlay and to the new park, making watercraft possible on the river to add to the park’s appeal.
On June 6, 1905, city council authorized issuance of $5,000 in bonds to finance the park plans, including land purchase.
On Feb. 20, 1906, council adopted another $5,000 bond ordinance for park purposes. Mayor James Walker vetoed the legislation, however, but council passed it over his veto.
The city moved speedily to formulate plans for the opening of the new park. The name “Riverside” came from a newspaper contest.
The city prepared for the park’s opening by granting boating privileges about the waterworks dam to a company composed of A. C. Redman, F.B. Brewster, R.W. Poe, E.A. Dietsch and C.D. Foster. The city was to receive 10 percent of the company’s revenue. C.M. (Mack) Chain was given the privilege of building a pavilion at the new park for the sale of refreshments.
The park opened July 30, 1906. It was a Saturday and a very rainy day. However about 500 individuals attended the dedication ceremonies to hear speeches by Mayor Walker and Beecher W. Waltermire, a Findlay attorney and gifted orator.
Since automobiles were very few in number in the early 1900s, and watercraft on the Blanchard River to and from the park had yet to enter the scene, getting to and from the new park presented some difficulties. The Toledo, Fostoria and Findlay electric line, whose regular cars ran on Tiffin Avenue, put a special streetcar in service running between the corner at Center and North Main streets and the park area. It ran every 10 or 15 minutes. There was a hack line from Main Street to the park as well.
The Findlay streetcar system made plans to extend its service to the new park, but they fell through. Cost of such an extension was put at $60,000. The plan was to run the line out East Sandusky Street then north onto Osborn Avenue, crossing the Blanchard River on a new bridge and thence onto McManness, west on Cherry Street to Tiffin Avenue and on to Center and North Main streets.
The park’s first summer saw the community’s first Chautauqua, which was held at the park under a huge tent. There also were individual tents for patrons to rent so as to spend the whole week at the park, attending the entertainment programs provided by the Chautauqua.