During the hot days of this summer many people have found rest, relaxation, and relief from the heat at the Warsaw city park on Center Lake. During the early history of Warsaw no city park was thought necessary. The pioneer had little time for rest and the recreation he did enjoy, he made himself.
It was not until 1920 that enough people were sufficiently interested in a city park for Warsaw that action was taken. The history of the acquiring of the park site and its subsequent development is well known to many of the readers of this column. We are including part of this story in the column today, hoping that our readers will send us more information.
In the early days of Warsaw's history the area which is now the site of Junior High and Center Ward schools, the Armory, Fisher Field, the softball diamond and the city park proper, was swamp land.
Changing the course of the Tippecanoe river (which used to run through a corner of Center Lake), and other engineering projects has lowered the level of the lake somewhat and a constant program of filling has made the area a fine school and park site.
On some relatively high ground near the lake Charles A. Rigdon built a number of houses for rental purposes. In time the area became a sub-standard residential area known around Warsaw as "Rigdon Row".
On January 17, 1920, the city of Warsaw purchased these houses from Mr. Rigdon for $4,000 for the purpose of developing a city park on the lake front. The residents had to move out and on a subsequent Saturday afternoon the houses were sold at public auction. Spirited bidding caused all of the houses to be sold for more than their appraised value as the city realized $818.50 from the sale.
The buyers moved the houses from the area, the city city began grading and filling, and in 1921 the park was officially opened with "Zeb" Hughes in charge. although the city park has been added to a number of times, this area purchased in 1920 is now the central park area.
One unfortunate obstacle to the city park's growth has been the Big Four freight tracks, which run through the park and recreational area. The irony of the matter is that the residents of Hickory street backed by the sympathy of all the people of Warsaw practically forced the Big four to build the freight spur through the then-swamp area to make it possible to stop the switching which was being done on Hickory street. No one realized at the time that the relocated tracks would soon be in the way.
Warsaw Times-Union Tues. Aug. 26, 1952