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Reservoir Park June 1916
By Randy Harter
Fort Wayne Reader
Fort Wayne celebrated Indiana’s 100th birthday in 1916. As part of the centennial event, which began the second week of that June, the largest temporary construction project in the city’s history was completed at Reservoir Park to host an ambitious historical pageant. Designed to hold 14,000 people, the seating for the historical pageant rose from the edge of the artificial lake to the top of the reservoir hill. A noted dramatist was brought in from Chicago to write the play, and lighting was rigged so that the performances could be presented at night. Over 1,000 local costumed citizens participated in the six-act play named “The Glorious Gateway of the West” on the pylon-flanked stage. Tickets to the pageant were fifty cents each. Some of the play’s highlights included a large replica set of the fort as a backdrop, an Indian village complete with wigwams, the actor playing Anthony Wayne arriving on stage uniformed astride a white horse, and the rousing finish with all the participants and audience jubilantly singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” as a giant American flag slowly rose over the stage. The play was performed six times during the two weeks of the celebration and was seen in total by an estimated 50,000 people. As well as the pageant, the stage was used on the first Sunday afternoon of the celebration by 600 choristers from local churches and singing societies performing to the packed amphitheater for a free-admission concert of religious and inspirational patriotic music. The city also celebrated with a visit and talk by former President William Howard Taft, a giant parade thorough the gaily festooned downtown, and an industrial and business exposition featuring 200 booths just north of downtown near the League Park baseball stadium (in today’s Headwaters Park) which included adjacent free rides and amusements.
Randy Harter is a Fort Wayne historian and author of two books on local history.