Fairmont Park: A summer escape near the city

Posted July 30, 2013 at 11:00 pm

By MICHAEL BUSHNELL
Northeast News
July 31, 2013

pcFairmont-Park

This week’s postcard offers a look at Fairmount Park from Independence Avenue. This view would have been from the vantage point of the old A&P (now Piggy’s Market) location, just east of the Fairmount Shopping District in Sugar Creek.

From this position, the diving tower is visible in the right-center part of the photo. Aurthur Stilwell created the 50-acre recreation area as an attraction to build traffic on his railroad, the Kansas City Terminal Railway. It offered a number of entertainment venues, including Shakespearean drama, band music, Swiss bell ringers, a zoo, a nine-hole golf course and an eight-acre lake complete with a bathing beach.

Historic Northeast native and internationally renowned equestrian Loula Long Combs made her debut at Fairmount Park as a young girl competing in her first horse show.

Cottages were built there, too, for those wishing to have “summer” homes but still be near the city. Cottage owners and guests gathered at the huge dining hall and enjoyed fellowship, community sings and guest lecturers, such as William Jennings Bryan and Sen. James A. Reed, who was the regular Labor Day speaker at the lake.

During the late 1920s and early 1930s, a series of fires destroyed the park, little by little. In 1936, a final fire destroyed six of the nine remaining summer cottages. In the 1940s the lake was filled for the Sugar Creek baseball fields. New cottages sprung up and still stand today along the former shoreline.

The visionary Stilwell died in New York on Sept. 27, 1928, at the age of 68. He left an estate of just $1,000.

The card was sent from Oak Grove on Feb. 18, 1914, to Miss Velma Fishback of Kansas City, Mo.