1896 Season

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1896 Season
Manager(s) Columbus Street Railway Company
Opening Day June 12, 1896
Closing Day By mid-October
New Attractions Dancing Pavilion
Bowling Alley
Band(s) Fred Neddermeyer's orchestra

Opening on June 12, 1896, was the first season the park operated after being named Olentangy Park.[1][2] There was one fare to the park on the city streetcar system at the cost of 25 for $1 ($35 in 2022), and admission cost 5 cents ($1.75 in 2022).[1] The streetcar that took riders to the park was called "The Electra."[3][4] The famous Gothic gateway entrance with its castle-like features welcomed visitors at the southeast of the property.[2] Those who chose to walk and bike were also accommodated, including an area to check in and secure their bikes. The park had 50 acres of woodland and open areas. A power plant was built prior to opening to supply electric power exclusively for the park grounds. Arc lamps were placed in sections of the park, and the grounds and entrance were lit with incandescent lighting. Security was provided by at least two officers in the park patrolling at all times.[1] Rides to the park were in such high demand that the Columbus Street Railway Company increased the number of North High Street cars, providing a car every 3 minutes during the season instead of every 10 minutes. The park closed by mid-October 1896.[5]

Naming Contest

The Columbus Street Railway Company bought the land on which "The Villa" tavern stood on January 20, 1896, from operator Robert M. Turner.[2] They announced a naming contest and the first to enter the chosen name would receive $50 ($1,740 in 2022) in transportation.[4] By March 1, they received over 5,000 names, 1,181 of which were unique. The winner went by the name "Volunteer," and since 30 others suggested the same name, they all received 100 rides in a leather-bound coupon book. The winner also suggested Whetstone Park, Iroquois Park, and Hiawatha Park. The highest number of names suggested by one person was 66 names by a 66-year-old woman. The park remained under this name until its closing season in 1937.[6]

Rides and Attractions

The Columbus Street Railway Company spent $30,704 ($1,068,400 in 2022) on construction for the park and $26,489 ($573,770 in 2022) in added street car equipment.[7] The earliest draw to the park was its natural forest and river scenery with winding paths and a bridge over the ravine. The Old Mill - an actual mill - was also still operating on the Olentangy River and could be visited.[2]

New Dancing Pavilion

See full article: Dancing Pavilion (First)

The Dancing Pavilion stood 24 feet (7.3 meters) high and had a hexagonal shape with 61 feet (20.3 meters) of dancing space. The floor was made of polished close-grain Georgia pine. Lit by incandescent lights along the arches, there was an arc lamp in the center. The band played from a kiosk of Turkish construction[1]

New Merry-Go-Round

See full article: Merry-Go-Round

The electric[2] merry-go-round was described as having "beasts and birds and dreadful-looking animals."[1] It was most likely built by E. Joy Morris.[8]

Boathouse and Bowling Alleys

See full articles: Boathouse & Bowling alleys

The Boathouse rented out canoes and Naphtha launches, operated by someone with boating experience to help visitors. The Naphtha launches were shaded electric boats, 20 feet long and cushioned. Their small motors could go 6-10 miles per hour. In the afternoon, the river was naturally shaded by trees and at night, lights were suspended at intervals across the stream.[2] First class bowling alleys were installed in the boathouse.

List of Rides and Attractions

Music and Performances

Fred Neddermeyer's orchestra provided music for the dancing pavilion and events, including with the Pugh Vidette Band for the Fourth of July.[3]

Al G. Field's Big Band played on Sunday, August 9.[9]



Once visitors entered and crossed the bridge, they would see a café offering light refreshments and soft drinks of all kinds. Alcohol was not permitted. At the time, it was thought too close to restaurants to offer a full restaurant in the park. The café was large and offered shaded porches and comfortable chairs for visitors to eat brought lunches. Toilets were available in rooms in the rear of the building.[1]

List of Actvities


  • Tub Races
  • Open-air preaching by Preacher Schuh
  • Sword contest by world champion Randolph
  • Swimming exhibition by Officer Richard "Dick" Owens of the Columbus police force


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 "Olentangy Park Opened." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 13 June 1896. Pg. 5.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Barret, Richard E. "Olentangy Park: Four Decades of Fun." Columbus and Central Ohio Historian. Vol. 1. April 1984. Pg. 5-8.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Columbus Evening Dispatch. 27 June 1896. Pg. 10.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Ad. 1896 Makio Yearbook. 1 January 1896. Pg. 346.
  5. Columbus Evening Dispatch. 15 October 1896. Pg. 4.
  6. "The Villa Named at Last." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 2 May 1896. Pg. 7.
  7. "Bitterly Cold Weather." Columbus Dispatch. 25 January 1897. Pg. 3.
  8. "E. Joy Morris - Philadelphia's Forgotten Carousel Builder." Carousel News and Trader. Published March 1989. Vol. 5, No.3. Accessed 1 June 2024. [1]. Special thanks to the members of the Carousel Figure Identification Facebook group.
  9. Ad. Columbus Evening Dispatch. 8 August 1896. Pg. 7.