Riverside Park 1883—1901

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Meander Stream

With the development of the electric railway, it afforded people a means to travel places they had never been before and gave people more opportunities for parties and amusement away from home. Promoters were quick to plan and construct amusement parks along their interurban lines, usually midway between two towns and frequently along side a charming stream for the pleasures of bathers, boat riders and fishermen. Picnic grounds, base ball diamonds, bleachers and dance pavilions, steam boats and rustic walkways were common features of these parks.

The trolley was an excellent means of getting away from the summer heat of the city and admission was free to those who arrived at the park via the trolley. And, after the sun set, the park, with electric lights strung along its rustic paths, and dance pavilions with large verandas, was very romantic and created much excitement for the young people.


Bridge and house


The Riverside Park was opened in Evansville during the summer of 1893. It was located on the southwest corner of Niles, off Route 46, going south toward Mineral Ridge. Turning right on Salts Springs Road at Evansville, the entrance of the Riverside Park was located on the south side of the street, just beyond the railroad tracks and before Meander Creek. . On opening day, the Mineral Ridge – Niles Electric Railway Company carried 4,000 people to and from the park. The fare was one nickel with free admission to the amusement park.

The manager of the amusement park advertised that the facilities included a large dance pavilion, which had a rambling veranda and a walking bridge across Meander Creek. This structure, with a dance floor 80 feet by 50 feet, had been built at a cost of $2,000. Other attractions included baseball diamonds, lawn tennis, swings, slides, and rowboats.

Riverside Park Quarry


Riverside Park steamboat


There was also a small steamer, “the Mayflower”, which would carry 75 passengers as it slowly went up and down Meander Creek. An announcement was made that the popular Leffingwell Orchestra would be playing at the dances.

At that time, five railroads connected with the streetcar line that ran directly to Riverside Park and the Niles- New Lisbon Railroad stopped at the gate of the park. A man by the name of E. L. Boynton of Niles was secretary of the park.


Meander Creek


Meander Creek boaters


The newspaper described the park in this way. “All around are mighty beech and oak trees with huge gnarled arms. At the bottom of a picturesque glen glides the Meander, which looks like a silver ribbon as it flows over the stones below. On this stream are placed many boats, and pleasure seekers find it possible to row as far as Ohltown, a distance of four miles. Rustic benches, natural springs- in fact all that one could imagine as belonging to a place of this kind, are among the many virtues of this romantic spot.”


Meander Creek


City National Bank


In 1890 the land upon which McKinley’s house stood on Main Street, was needed as a site for the City National Bank (later McKinley bank) It was not known who undertook and financed the project, but McKinley’s house was cut in two and the part in which McKinley had been born was moved to Riverside Park, some time after the park began operating, possibly as a museum attraction. The second half of the house was moved to Franklin alley and used as a shop where the Harris rotary offset presses were made.


Harris Offset press


Man on beach


In 1894 the Riverside Park Co. constructed a dam across the Meander Creek so as to enlarge the boating area. They stocked the water with fish in the hopes of attracting the serious anglers

Because the automobile was developed and more affordable, people traveled to other locations for their entertainment. By 1901 the Riverside Park proved to be unprofitable and the owners, William Allison, Clement Souder, Frances Thomas, E. A. Hartzell, Maggie Hartzell, S. S. Holeton, and Selina Holeton, sold the property to Buckeye Leather Company for $1,700.


McKinley Home half


McKinley Home 1908


With the demise of the amusement park, the McKinley house was occupied by tenants until 1908. In 1909 Lulu Mackey, first female member of the Trumbull County bar, decided to buy the house and restore it as nearly as possible. Miss Mackey had it moved by Frank Kramer to her property at McKinley Heights. She purchased the other section and had it moved as well, then proceeded to create a privately-owned museum which she operated until her death in 1934.



McKinley Museum 1930s


The museum was located where the McKinley Heights Plaza is today. After falling into disrepair, vandals burned the structure and it was destroyed.

In 2010 a new replica of the McKinley birthplace was constructed on the original site on South Main Street in Downtown Niles, Ohio. The building functions as a museum and research center.


Museum 1934

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