Saturday, April 26, 2008

Postcard of Dancing Pavilion Robison Park, Fort Wayne, Ind.

I started collecting postcards of Fort Wayne about 4-5 years ago. I don't know what prompted me to start however, it has turned into a full-blown obsession of mine.

A couple of Christmas's ago, I gave my aunts, grandmother, and mom, their own, framed set of Fort Wayne postcards. They were all pleasantly surprised as each of their sets contained very specific postcards of places that they had mentioned to me before - in fact - many years before. In some cases, the postcards were of buildings and recreational spots that no longer existed.

If you ever want to get a good story out of your relatives - bring up a place that no longer exists! That's a history lesson that you can't get from a book.

Such was the case with the Robison/Robinson Park series. This first postcard, "Dancing Pavilion Robison Park," had me perplexed.

When I attended IPFW, I lived on the north side of Fort Wayne - living at apartments that were near Shoaff Park, so I was pretty familiar with the parks on the north side.

But I never heard of Robison Park.

All I had to do was ask.

And guess what I found out?!

Well, before I can tell you about the park, I have to tell you – I think I won some sort of lottery. You see, this is how I found out the following (and this all pertains to my mother’s side of the family).

BOTH of my great-grandfathers were married to someone else BEFORE they married my great-grandmothers.

How did I get through decades of life without anyone telling me this?!

And – back in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s – how often do you think that happens?! I just think that it couldn’t have happened often (that people were on their second marriage) so this is why I realized that I must have hit the come-hell-or-high-water-you-will-be-born-lottery.

Now back to this park.

It turns out - that this park - which no longer existed - was quite "the place" to hang out in the late 1800's, early 1900's.

Here’s a description of it from Volume 1 of the History of Fort Wayne and Allen County, Indiana.

Fort Wayne Consolidated Railway Company purchased a tract of land in St. Joseph township which drew 35,000 visitors on its opening day, July 4, 1896. Known initially as Swift Park, it was later renamed Robison Park and became a popular recreational spot for Fort Wayne residents for the remainder of the decade.

Visitors were treated to music played on orchestrion, located in the park's ballroom, observed hot-air balloon launches and a variety of traveling acts, played baseball, and ate picnic lunches. Rides such as the Dentzel carousel were added to the park at a later date.

In 1897, the Projectorscope, one of Thomas Edison's devices that showed pictures that moved, became a part of the park's summer theater season.

It just so happens that my great-grandparents - Walter G. Roy and Helena Starost - became acquainted with one another at Robison Park. They were both fond of dancing, picnics, and baseball games.

And all of this history was facilitated through the visual of a postcard. Imagine that! Pictures do speak thousands of words.

Side note: Walter was previously married to Rosina Breer and according to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette (August 7, 1920 - reporting on her death), "To many she will be remembered as someone who for the past three seasons made many balloon ascensions at Robison park."

That means that this park really was special to my great-grandfather and that were it not for its existence - perhaps I wouldn't be here today.

Hummmmmmmmmph. Sort of puts things in perspective. And it makes me love and appreciate special spots like this all the more.

P.S. A few years ago, I found a web site that had documented what had happened to Robison Park. It was quite devastating for me to see. But then, I'm a sucker for a good romance.


Anonymous said...

My Great Grandparents' little pink house and property on Leo Rd. (now North Clinton) backs up to where Robison Park existed. My Dad took me back there, telling me stories of what he found when he was a kid. I don't recall finding much of anything. Unfortunately, when I did get interested in exploring most of the evidence had been removed for a housing addition.

Kristina said...

So so sad :(. But I guess that some of the rides were rescued ands omeone emailed me that the carousel (?) was now at Logansport? I have to see if it is still there. And then I knew that some of the rides were moved to Swinney Park (Trier Park) but I'm not sure what happened to them.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kristina,
On June 22, 1953 a fire burned a good part of Old Trier's Park. This included part of the rollercoaster from Robison Park(called 'The Cyclone'), the fun house, and the dance hall. That was the end of that park and the beginning of Swinney.
Sad to see these old parks go away. From the sound of things, the park was nearing its end with or without the fire. I guess 50+ years of service is pretty good.


Anonymous said...

Kristina -
Yes, the carousel is located in a pavilion at Riverside Park in Logansport. It is completely enclosed, beautiful and well maintained. Check with the Logansport Parks Department for hours of access.
(The carousel used to be located behind our back yard in North Pointe Woods)

Pete said...

I grew up near that area and can vaguely recall poking around the ruins (circa mid- to late-1960s).

Anonymous said...

In the late 70s/early 80s it was a place to take your 4-wheel-drive and dirtbike :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this really helpful and intriguing post!

Anonymous said...

I grew up on Swift Drive (park orignially was named Swift) which led back to the park area up until the late 70's. I recently returned to see what was left that I had no appreciation for when I was younger. Not much left to find, but using a map I was able to locate ruins of the old dance hall and pavilion. My memory recalls the path of the trolley line as well. I always wondered why there was so much cinder on the trails that I rode my dirt bike on, but that's why. Nice blog about a cool old park!

Lora said...

My mothers Aunt, Mlle. Leontine Vegara, performed here along with her fathers (Leonardo Vegara) company back in 1897. So cool.

kurt krueckeberg said...

Enjoyed viewing the post cards and hearing how your own history is connected to a place now long gone and unknown to those of us today.