Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Images of Chautauqua

See the previous two posts for more history on Glenwood Park and Chautauqua.

Images provided by David Barksdale - Floyd County Historian.

The Chautauqua tent after a thunderstorm blew through town.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Chautauqua in Glenwood Park, New Albany

As promised, here is more history of Chautauqua in New Albany and Glenwood Park. The passage below is taken directly from “Glenwood Park, Chautauqua, Pageants”, by Bebe Cody, May 24, 1988.

Glenwood Park was inaugurated to be a resort area, a place for recreation and entertainment, but it also became a source for culture and education when Chautauqua was in session.

During the year the park opened, 1903, Dr. John Baldwin of Jeffersonville, envisioned the Park as an ideal location in which to introduce Chautauqua to the surrounding area. He, with 10 other prominent men from New Albany and Jeffersonville formed the Chautauqua Association.

Chautauqua was a traveling institution that flowered in the late 19th and early 20th Century, providing education, concerts, readings, dramatic performances, even magicians. It was founded in Chautauqua, New York – hence the name – and most often presented outdoors or in a tent. August 5 – 14, 1904, one year after the Park opened, saw our first Chautauqua, the beginning of a golden age of culture.

William Jennings Bryan, the silver tongued orator, and three times unsuccessful candidate for President of the United States opened the ten day assembly. Also on that first series was May Wright Sewell, one of the prominent women of the day in the country. At various times in the 1890’s she had served as the President of the National Council of Women, President of the International Council of Women, and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Women’s Suffrage Association.

As was usual in the Chautauqua movement local groups of merit would also be included, and that year The Treble Clef Club, a woman’s singing organization under the direction of Mrs. Henry Terstegge appeared one evening as part of a Grand Concert along with the Cleveland Ladies Orchestra and a noted female singer.

A noted magician and his company provided great entertainment for both young and old. But perhaps the most exciting presentation that year was the Edison Projectoscope, with scenes projected on canvas, some with figures in motion.

The 14 days that August were a huge success and every year thereafter through 1916 the Fall Cities and surrounding towns eagerly anticipated and experienced a happy, informative, entertaining vacation lifestyle in beautiful Glenwood Park.

A large tent seating 3000 (see below) and equipped with electric fans was erected in the athletic field, beyond the ball diamond, toward the creek. An area was set aside in the Park for “Tent City” (directly below the tent). Families would rent tents and camp out for the duration of the assembly. Clubs and organizations would have a tent and townspeople would rent one as a place of rest between programs. Wood floors could be contracted for with the park carpenters and stools, comforts, blankets could be rented. A list of boarding houses and hotels was available for those coming from the surrounding towns and not wishing to camp out.

A dining room would serve meals, but grocers would deliver orders placed by telephone on the grounds. Mail would be delivered daily if addressed care of A. Heimburger, Superintendent of the Chautauqua Association. Special police would guard the grounds day and night. Bells would announce the time of programs afternoon and night. At 11:00pm bells requested peace and quiet until 6:00am.

Chautauqua brought many prominent, nationally known speakers to Glenwood – Eugene Debs, the Socialist, Billy Sunday, the Evangelist, men running for State and National Office. Charles Fairbanks, a former Vice President of the United States, made a hit when he turned over the $200 check handed him to St. Edwards Hospital. He even refused to accept expense money. No doubt he was given the Chautauqua salute, instead of applause one showed appreciation by waving a handkerchief.

At times Opera Companies and Shakespeare groups added a touch of high culture to the programs.

During its hey-day our Chautauqua was thought to be the 3rd largest in the country, due to its size and number of people attending.

1916 saw the end of annual Chautauqua in Glenwood Park. There were financial troubles and the war clouds were gathering in Europe. An attempt was made to revive it after the war. In 1922 a 10 day assembly was held, July 29 though August 7. For weeks the papers carried glowing articles about the excellent groups and speakers to be presented, William Jennings Bryan among them, but that was the last of the Chautauqua in Glenwood.

Chautauqua was certainly a golden age in Our History in New Albany. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did.

This is the view today from Glenwood Court looking towards Silver Creek and the approximate location of the Chautauqua tent.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Glenwood Park Current and Past

I know Glenwood Park and Glenwood Court as two tidy streets east of Beharrell Avenue and north of East Spring Street. There’s one home, which I considered buying several years ago, that I’d swear was an exact replica of Beaver Cleaver’s home from the show “Leave it to Beaver”. I chuckle when I see it, expecting a dapperly clad Ward Cleaver to pop out the front door and give a wave and a nod.

But there’s much more there than meets the eye. That land had another life before the stately homes we see today were constructed. Our New Albany history is there.

In 1902 twenty five acres (the current site of Glenwood Park/Court) were acquired by the Louisville and Southern Indiana Traction Company. The Company ran the interurban rail line that connected New Albany, Jeffersonville and Louisville. Electric streetcars hustled passengers and freight between the cities at speeds up to 90 miles per hour.

As a marketing tool to help increase passenger traffic the entrepreneurs of the line wanted to create a destination spot. That’s exactly what they did at Glenwood Park. The site had a dancehall pavilion, ballpark, bowling alley, bandstand, tennis courts, amphitheater, refreshment stand (no intoxicants were allowed), Ferris wheel, and more. The map below shows the impressive scale of the Park and sports complex.

Thousands of people flocked there to enjoy a resort atmosphere. Picnics, pageants, outdoor opera, swimming, boating, dancing, music - you could call it the Disney of New Albany.

The pageants entertained the largest audiences (up to 25,000). They were monstrous productions involving hundreds of local performers and organizers. A photograph and sample programs are below.

Special thanks to Floyd County Historian, David Barksdale, for providing these wonderful images from the parks golden years.

By 1931 the park had been abandoned. Automobiles and alternate entertainment venues were the likely agents of the demise. In 1935 the park was sold to real estate developers and the homes we see today were constructed in the years that followed.

If this brief overview has sparked your interest in the history of Glenwood Park then please come to the Floyd County Historical Society Meeting Tuesday June 27th (7:00pm, New Albany Floyd County Public Library). A presentation on the park will be made. Following the meeting all guests are invited to stop by the Museum House at 509 W. Market where Glenwood Park memorabilia will be on display.

Oh yeah - there’s one more thing. I intentionally left out a large chunk of the history of the park. Chautauqua. Some of you probably know what it is/was. I did not. But I am quite enraptured by the Chautauqua concept and felt there was enough meat there for a separate post at a later day.

Research Source - Floyd County Historical Society presentation, "Glenwood Park, Chautauqua, Pagents", by Bebe Cody (May 24, 1988)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

St. Paul's Banners and a Jazzy Sunday

I thought it was worth noting that St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (one of my favorite churches in terms of exterior architecture) has added some very handsome banners along Main, East 11th, and Market Streets. The designs were approved by the New Albany Historic Preservation Commission several months ago.

It is also my understanding that banners will be added to the outside of the parish house located at East 11th and Main Streets.

This Sunday St. Paul’s is having a “Jazz on the Grass” service. Sounds like a fun way to spend a Sunday morning. Good job St. Paul's.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Preservation Month Review

May Preservation Month has come to a successful end. Nearly 300 people participated in preservation workshops, walking tours, forums and other activities. Ultimately, the goal of the month is to raise awareness of preservation issues. How do you think it went?

Please take this chance give your feedback to enable organizers to enhance the experience in coming years. Post your comment here or email me directly at

Below are a few pictures from various events during the month.