History

History:

“The high point of Broad Ripple’s recreational development, however, was the opening of White City Amusement Park on May 26.1906. The park occupied land previously owned by the Huffman and subsequently Dawson families. It had served as a popular picnic spot, until building contractors Morton and Stanton bought the land and constructed the amusement park. In 1907 W. H. Tabb and Robert C. Light formed the White City Company of Indianapolis and obtained a nine-year operating lease for the facility. The park offered a variety of mechanical rides and amusements which rivaled those in New York’s Coney Island or Chicago’s 1893 Columbian Exposition (from which Broad Ripple’s amusement park took its name “White City”). White City provided not only a destination for visitors but also a source of employment for local residents. The streetcars and inter-urbans ran regular schedules between Broad Ripple and Indianapolis, primarily along College Avenue. The turn-around for the College line, completed in 1894, was located at the park’s front gate, which contributed to the growth and popularity of the site. Over the next two years, the park’s operators introduced new rides and attractions, completed a concrete-lined bathing beach along the river, and constructed a four-acre swimming pool, touted as “the largest affair of the kind in the country.” On June 26, 1908, the day before the pool was scheduled to open, White City Amusement Park burned to the ground. Owners estimated losses at $160,000, none of which was covered by insurance.

Three years after the fire the Union Traction Company, parent of the Broad Ripple Traction Company, acquired the park and worked to reintroduce rides and expand recreational activities. The company, which operated the park for 11 years, erected a new boathouse and 10,000-square foot dance hall to complement the popular swimming pool. The pool was the site of the National Swimming Event in 1922 and the Olympic tryouts in 1924, at which event Johnny Weissmuller, the future Hollywood Tarzan, won the 100-meter freestyle qualification. The pool hosted Olympic tryouts again in 1952.

In May 1922 organizers of the newly formed Broad Ripple Amusement Park Association filed a petition for articles of incorporation, proposing to purchase the park from the traction company for an estimated $200,000. The new corporation’s board of directors included James H. Makin, operator of the Ma-Lo Chicken Dinner House at 49th and Keystone, Denny Sullivan, Leo T. Hurley, George Christena, and Roy Byers. These investors planned several new improvements to the park, including athletic fields, bath houses, and a roller coaster. In 1927 the group sold the park to Terre Haute brewery executive Oscar Baur, who began an extensive modernization of the park. After several successful seasons in the hands of private operators, the Board of Park Commissioners for the city of Indianapolis announced the purchase of the 60-acre park and their plans to dismantle the amusement rides and develop the site as a city park amidst the rapidly developing residential neighborhood.[14] The only remnant of the old amusement park is the German-made carrousel, originally installed around 1917 and now housed in the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.”

SOURCE: (http://www.polis.iupui.edu/RUC/Neighborhoods/BroadRipple/BRNarrative.htm)