Families throughout the area have pleasant memories of times spent at Cambridge City Park. Some have been here from childhood to adulthood and have seen many of the changes in recent years but those early years remain only a memory.
The area that we call Cambridge City Park today was once part of Col. Taylor’s thousand-acre estate. The home we know today as Taylor Bed & Breakfast was actually the first house to be built on the hill outside of town.
Not only did he build a beautiful home for his wife, but he had a nearby barn where he kept his horses, the only means of transportation at that time. Since the horses needed water, Col. Taylor built Taylor Lake. When the pond froze over in the winter, blocks of ice were cut from it and stored in an underground cellar. Usually, they had ice until sometime in July before it all melted.
Taylor Lake today is the duck pond at our Cambridge City Park. In January 1913, Taylor Grove and the lake were sold to the city by Col. Taylor’s heirs for $25,000. Our Cambridge City Park was about to begin.
In July, a Clean-up Day was organized. All men interested in the City Park were to line up at the Courthouse and march to the City Park being led there by the Cambridge Band. A Colored Band was also there to liven the day. Ladies provided a picnic supper in the evening.
The Cambridge City Band began playing at the park in July 1913 when they sponsored the Lincoln Chautauqua, which had previously taken place at Electric Park. The price of a season ticket to enter the performing tent for the six-day event was $1.50 for adults and $1.00 for children 8 -15. There were a number of seats, swings, and tents provided for the patrons. Anyone wishing to do so could pitch their tent there that week.
In July, a lifeguard was appointed to oversee the swimming in the former Taylor Lake with rules laid down for the conduct of boys and girls to be enforced. If the girls were highly interested in swimming there, arrangements would be made to set aside a particular time for them to swim as well as have a woman oversee during that time and give lessons in swimming. A bathhouse has been promised by city council in the near future.
At about the same time, the first baseball diamond was constructed which brought local teams and their families to the City Park. Money was raised by a group of interested citizens for a stadium called Lakeview Park that seated approximately 1000 people. Many baseball and softball games were played here each summer. It also was the perfect place for the annual Jaycee’s Fireworks on July 4.
By July of that year, families and organizations were already having their picnics there. Some of the first groups were the Mail Carriers Association of Southeastern Ohio and the Welsh-American Society, both of these on Labor Day.
Gravel walks were installed, rope swings, a bathhouse on the side of the lake, high and low diving boards, and the lake was enlarged. They wanted it to be the most beautiful recreation ground in Southeastern Ohio.
One of the early buildings to be constructed was the Big Pavilion, which served as a dance floor, concert hall, and speaker’s stand. Often there were six or seven reunions held there in one day.
In 1930, the local president of Cambridge Glass Co., A.J. Bennett provided funds to build a Children’s Wading Pool at the park so they had a safe place to swim away from the pond. There were two sides to the pool – a shallow side for wading and a deeper side for swimming. Lifeguards did not like children going under the bridge to get to the deeper side. It was closed in 1973.
In 1941, Cambridge City Pool was opened after being constructed through a federal grant by the WPA. In 1998, the pool had to be redone to meet current standards. Again, the community supported the project wholeheartedly.
By this time there were several concession stands throughout the park – at the big pavilion, baseball diamond, and swimming pool. One person recalls having keys to all of them and if he happened to be at the park would open whichever one had a crowd. His first summer he made $.75 an hour.
Pitching horseshoes was another important means of entertainment. There were several horseshoe pits at the park and many tournaments were held there usually accompanied by an ice cream social.
Most children have dreams of riding a pony. Someone helped make that dream come alive by bringing several of his ponies to the park and charging a small fee for a ride. Speaking of horses, in those early years, you could hear the musical sound of a carousel at the park. No wonder the park was such a busy place..and still is today.
Over the years, the playground has become an important part of the park. The largest section was begun soon after the park opened. A merry-go-round that parents felt was a terror device gave youngsters of all ages a chance to see how fast they could spin. The playground has been upgraded today through the generosity of the Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs.
An old fire truck that out-lasted its usefulness at the city fire department was stripped of all removable parts and placed in the park in 1957 for children to climb on. Not often did children get a chance to play on a fire truck.
In 1966-67. the Armstrong Bridge was relocated to the City Park. This bridge, built in 1849, originally spanned Salt Fork Creek near the town of Clio. When Salt Fork Lake development was announced, the bridge was moved to preserve it.
This is just a little taste of the history of our Cambridge City Park. This community has been so supportive of the park since its beginning through individual and business financial support and volunteering. May they keep improving and supporting the park to make it even a better place for future generations.