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)


Brandon W. Smith said...

FYI to casual readers - the area is now part of the Silver Grove Neighborhood Association and, as Ted pointed out, has many impressive homes. In my opinion, it is one of the nicest locales in the city limits and a great alternative for those inclined to move to a distant suburb.

na girl said...

One account that I recall reading mentioned that one of the contributing factors to the demise of Glenwood Park was a drowning that happened there. According to the story the victim was a very popular young man and many people just couldn't bring themselves to go back to the park after his death.

I was told recently that this story is probably not true just a legends of sorts that developed over the years.

Something like that would certainly have had newspaper coverage so maybe someday when I have time I will go check into it at the library.

Jeff Lehman said...

This is awesome! I would never have guessed all that was in that area. This is what I love about New Albany history. It's a shame there's nothing left of it.

Karla Shawler said...

There is a lot left of it. We actually have a home for sale that was built in 1925 and is located on this land.