We had an interesting talk with Elmer B. Funk the other day concerning the early history of Winona Lake. From 1884 until 1895 the park was called Spring Fountain Park and was operated by Beyer Brothers, a firm which bought and sold butter and eggs.
Mr. Funk was the last gatekeeper for Spring Fountain Park and the first one for Winona Assembly.
During the Spring Fountain period a little railroad ran from the entrance to the rear of the park. The tracks ran along the west side of what is now park drive. A zoo, which was usually called the "deer park," was located about where the Tabernacle is now. Besides a number of deer there was a monkey and a boa constrictor in this "zoo." A rather thrilling ride, called the "switchback" ran from the zoo to the present location of the Auditorium. One of the first buildings was a restaurant which was located about where the administration building is now. Another early building was Eagle lake hotel, forerunner of Winona hotel.
One of the big attractions at Spring Fountain park was the Cyclorama. It was located between the present sites of the Winona hotel and the tabernacle. It consisted of 15,000 square feet of canvass on which Professor Harry A. Kellogg had painted a Civil war scene. Later on the scene was changed to a picture of :The Life of Christ: painted by a Captain Pine who lived on East Center street in Warsaw.
For a number of years exhibitions were held at Spring Fountain park. The exhibition grounds were located on what is now McDonald island. After a few years a race track was constructed, the track following about where Administration and Auditorium boulevards are now. Mr. Funk recalls that there was a grandstand and a ball diamond located there at one time.
The Knights of Pythias held several state encampments at the park. The Knights used the exhibition buildings for their barracks. The captain of the group was a man by the name of Carnahan.
A chautauqua was started at the park in 1890 and was successfully conducted by the Spring Fountain group for several years before the Winona organization took over. The programs consisted mostly of religious lectures and musical entertainments.
Warsaw Times-Union Sat. Jan. 23, 1954