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By Randy Harter
Fort Wayne Reader
In 1890 the Fort Wayne Land Improvement Company held a contest for the naming of a new housing subdivision they were preparing to develop east of the Columbia Street Bridge. Mrs. Lillian Pierce won the $25.00 prize and thus the subdivision and later adjoining park became known as Lakeside.
That same year, the marshy low-lying areas that are now Delta Lakes were dredged out to supply the dirt to build up the riverbanks along the future St. Joe Boulevard and Edgewater Avenue. These lakes were later deepened again for the same reason. In 1908 another developer, The Forest Park Company, started laying out the Forest Park Addition just north of Lakeside Park. With gifts of land from each of the two developers, and the purchase by the city of one small section, today’s Lakeside Park was born.
The streets in the Lakeside addition were soon graveled and the street car line run across the Columbia Street Bridge to Delta Lakes by the end of 1892. The Lakeside School at Oneida and Tecumseh was then completed in 1896. The main Delta Lake became a popular swimming hole for folks from all over town with diving boards, a diving tower, and changing rooms. Four cents would get you a trolley ride from anywhere in the city to Lakeside Park. In 1902 a separate ladies bathing area was added. In the winter the lake became a popular spot for ice skating and curling competitions
By 1912, the plans for the park that had been drawn by Henry Doswell (landscape architect for Lindenwood Cemetery) had been implemented. These included planting 400 trees, extensive floral gardens, islands in the lake connected by rustic bridges and landscaped paths. In 1917, Adolph Jaenicke designed the sunken gardens, Greek pergolas and rose gardens which were completed about 1920.
Today large areas of the park look much different than they did in the early 1900’s as the main park area north of Lake Avenue included a series of islands and lagoons stretching nearly to California Avenue. During the Mayor Hosey Administration in 1917, a large two-story pavilion was built on the center of the western three islands.
In 1926 under a joint venture with the Izaak Walton League, City Council appropriated $5,000 for construction of a fish hatchery to be contained within the park’s lagoons. In 1930 this resulted in over 110,000 bluegill and largemouth bass being raised and
distributed to more than 40 northern Indiana lakes and rivers. Also in that year a concession stand was built along Lake Avenue, which in the winters became a skating hut.
The onset of the Depression closed the fish hatchery in 1931. With the lagoons being a safety hazard and mosquito breeding ground they were finally filled in in 1958, and in 1964 the deteriorated 1917 pavilion was set afire and burned down by the fire department for firefighting practice.
(Images courtesy ACPL and Parks Department Annual Reports)
Randy Harter is a Fort Wayne historian, author of three books on Fort Wayne and the history/architecture guide for Fort Wayne Food Tours.