Madison Life and Times Summer 2016 - Page 31

LOCAL HISTORY STORY BY STEPHEN T. JACKSON T oday, visitors to Mounds State Park enjoy the quiet serenity of trails that wind through the beautiful landscape of the crown jewel of Madison County. But visitors to the park in the early 20th century found a much different look. Located on the scenic bluffs 75 feet above White River was an attraction that was the destination of people from not only the local area but also from Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and Muncie. Open during the summer months only, Mounds Amusement Park was first opened in 1897 when the Union Traction Company acquired the property and began installing the attractions. Foremost in everyone’s memory was the roller coaster called “Leap The Dips.” The famous ride began in 1908 on the ground between the Great Mound and the river bluff. Many who rode it tell of being able to see the river below as the cars raced around the track near the edge of the bluffs. The Mounds Amusement Park also boasted a two-story pavilion, situated on the bluff only a short distance from the coaster. A restaurant and large dining room were located on the first floor of the pavilion, while the second-floor dance hall hosted events on Friday and Saturday nights. A miniature railroad encircled the Great Mound and was very popular with children for years. Later, another miniature line was laid to encircle a greater part of the grounds. Numerous attractions were clustered near the Great Mound, including a motor dome, merry-go-round, roller skating rink, shooting gallery, bowling alley, penny arcade, tub swings and a monkey cage. All of this was on the upper level. Down by the river, a rock dam had been built to collect water to a depth to allow rental canoe rides. The canoes were launched from a large wharf. Today’s visitor can still see traces of the old dam; a few stones mark its location. Later, flat-bottom boats replaced the canoes to correct the problem of tipping over and providing occupants with FOREMOST IN EVERYONE’S MEMORY WAS THE ROLLER COASTER an unwelcomed bath. There were special CALLED “LEAP THE DIPS.” THE FAMOUS RIDE BEGAN IN 1908 ON THE events, too. On July 4, GROUND BETWEEN THE GREAT MOUND AND THE RIVER BLUFF. MANY 1908, a grand celebraWHO RODE IT TELL OF BEING ABLE TO SEE THE RIVER BELOW AS THE tion for the benefit of the CARS RACED AROUND THE TRACK NEAR THE EDGE OF THE BLUFFS. associated charities and industrial school was conducted. A year later, on July 18, the old fiddlers of Madison County had a contest. And on Aug. 15 that year, an estimated 20,000 people Stephen T. Jackson is the Madison attended the old settlers’ meeting to witness a County Historian. His articles on local sham battle between “Indians and settlers.” The Fourth of July festivities always featured fireworks history are published in Madison and in The Herald Bulletin. and band concerts. In the late 1920s, business declined and the traction company discontinued service to the park and began to sell the equipment. What could not be sold was torn down near the end of the decade. If you know where to look, there is evidence scattered around of the once-popular Mounds Amusement Park. These are silent reminders of a time in our county when simple pleasures were the delight of all who attended. ❚ If you know where to look, there is evidence scattered around of the once-popular Mounds Amusement Park. MADISON MA M AD DIISO SON 29 SON 29