Indianola Park was an amusement park that operated in the University District in Columbus, Ohio from 1905-37.
The entrance to Indianola Park was at N. 4th St. and E. 19th Ave. The park itself covered approximately 30 acres (121,406 m2) and extended from E. 18th Ave. north to E. Norwich Ave. and east from N. 4th St. to the Big Four railroad tracks.
Indianola Park was established in 1905 by dentist-turned-developer Charles Miles (1866-1939). Miles was president of the Summit Land Company, which developed residential neighborhoods in the former farmland across High Street from The Ohio State University.
The success of Coney Island’s new Luna Park and his own experience using recreations to draw buyers inspired Miles to go into the amusement park business.
Indianola Park opened its gates to the public on Thursday, June 8, 1905.
1900s & 1910sEdit
In its original configuration, the park featured a dance pavilion, a mammoth swimming pool, an Ingersoll Figure 8 Roller Coaster, a carousel, a scenic railroad, a band shell, a restaurant and snack stands, picnic grounds, and athletic playing fields.
In 1908, a theater was added to the park and Indianola began presenting vaudeville for its patrons. For the next 15 years, the park entertained visitors with everything from Shakespeare plays and Grecian dancers to circus animals and diving horses.
Events like balloon ascensions, high wire acts, outdoor motion pictures, live presentations of distant sporting events, baby beauty pageants, and massive fireworks extravaganzas were also part of the park’s draw.
For the 1909 season, the park underwent major renovations. A shoot-the-chutes ride, The Blue Streak roller coaster, and a “Human Laundry” funhouse were added. The band shell area was also expanded. From 1909-15, Indianola was home field for the Columbus Panhandles, an early professional football team.
Indianola enjoyed sustained popularity through the 1910s. Crowds as large as 10,000 flocked to the park on summer weekends. As many as 5,000 people could be found enjoying the pool on hot summer days. Buoyed by the national dance craze launched by Irene and Vernon Castle, the dance pavilion did brisk business all year round.
In 1923, the park underwent a change in management. The new owners invested thousands of dollars in renovations. For weeks before opening day, advertisements trumpeted “A Greater Indianola” and “The Biggest Year of All.”
The dance pavilion was remodeled for The Jazz Age. Repairs were made to the swimming pool. The locker areas were expanded.
New amusements were added: The Thriller roller coaster, seaplane circle swings, a caterpillar ride, and Custer Cars.
Indianola also became much more aggressive in advertising and promotions.
The park gradually dropped vaudeville and band concerts. The dance pavilion orchestra was replaced with local and touring jazz bands favored by flappers and their beaus. The Phil Baxter’s Texas Tommies and Tom Howard’s Melody Lads were the two most popular bands.
The park continued to do well into the mid-1920s but the days of the urban amusement park were numbered. Radio and motion pictures were growing in popularity and costing parks visitors. The greater mobility offered by the automobile increased consumers’ recreation possibilities at the expense of the amusement parks.
In 1927, perhaps in response to changing conditions, the park sold its land north of E. 19th Ave. to the Columbus Board of Education for the construction of a new school. Indianola Junior High School opened in 1929 and remained a school until 2009.
Reduced to just its core of the dance pavilion and the pool, Indianola soldiered on into the 1930s.
The Great Depression made a challenging situation even more so. Few people had money to spare for a day at the amusement park.
The record hot summers of the early 1930s helped keep the park afloat during the lean years. Temperatures in the upper 90s for weeks on end convinced people to take a dip in the pool who otherwise might have passed
The hot summers only delayed the inevitable. After the 1937 season, Indianola closed for good.
After Indianola ParkEdit
In 1948, Indianola Park was converted into a shopping center. The pool was filled in and paved over for a parking lot. A dozen or so shops and restaurants were built around its perimeter. The former dance pavilion became an Ohio Food Giant supermarket.
The mall thrived for decades but by the 1990s, it had seen better days. By the early 2000s, most of the storefronts were empty and the mall was deteriorating.
In 2006, Xenos Christian Fellowship purchased Indianola Park Shopping Center. The mall was massively rehabbed and the old dance pavilion was converted into a worship center, which opened in 2007.