Wednesday, June 06, 2007

White City Amusement Park

Old White City Hotel in center and the Moving Picture building (left) and shooting range (became the Post Office)
Old Hotel

Side of Hotel and fountain in center and Ferris Wheel (right)

The White City Amusement Park on Riverside Drive was founded in 1902. Its official name was Wagner’s Park, but the name White City was what most people called it. The park was backed by a brewery to sell liquors in there. The 1934 Theologue said that “the drunkenness and debauchery of the place was unspeakable. Conditions, in face, were so vile, degrading, and unlawful that a separate jail had to be erected on the property to make possible the immediate incarceration of those guilty of the more serious violations of law.” The property value of the area dropped because of the crime. The Streetcars that when by this area were scary to ride, but John A. Davis had to ride the cars because of where his home was on the West End Avenue of Binghamton. Going by the park with its 32 acres and the buildings on the property made ideas pop into Mr. Davis’ mind. Then one day in about 1908 John A. Davis went into the park after paying admission. He saw the possibilities of the property for PBTS since the Harrison Street was getting crowded. As he was making the walk around he saw the bar and the people that were becoming drunk in there. Mr. Davis so disgusted by the conditions began to leave and vowed to himself, “With the help of God I’ll smash this place.” He kneeled outside the admission gate and prayed to God to give him the Park for PBTS. Late in 1910 after much praying the Park went bankrupt. Mr. Davis was having a revival meeting in Pennsylvania when the park went bankrupt. “A Binghamton business man interested in the School, though not aware of Mr. Davis’ hopes regarding the park secured a short term option on the property and wired Mr. Davis and asked him if he would be interested.” John A. Davis was back within three hours. The transformation began and in June of 1911 (96 years ago) PBTS was moved from Harrison Street to Riverside Drive. The Park became reclaimed and transformed into God’s work. The Hotel to the Main Building, the Movie Picture-Shooting Hall became the Post Office, and the Old Merry-Go-Round became the Men's dorm. In only 11 years the park looked like this (below) from the way it was in the pictures (above) when PBTS first arrived at the Park. The first classes on the Park were held in Davis Hall (changed to King Hall). The building had been either the Roller skating rink or the Beer Garden, I have seen it both ways. While the class led by Rev. O.R. Palmer there was a terrible storm that took down 30 trees on the campus. Over the next decade the campus was changed as the student body continued to grow leading the school into the Golden Years of the Campus in the 1920s.

PS If anyone has any more pictures of the White City Park I would love to get them. These three are the only ones that I have scans of.

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