Thursday, January 13, 2011

Part 1--100 years on Riverside: Harrison and the White City

47 Harrison Street Johnson City

47 Harrison Street Johnson City

The entrance to the White City Park

The fountain and Roller Coaster in the center of the White City

One hundred years ago when the midnight arrived on Sunday, January 1, 1911 the Practical Bible Training School was preparing for a move and transition. The transition had already begun the previous summer in 1910 when the White City had gone bankrupt. From the 1934 Theologue the events happened like this:

This brewery-backed resort was a separate organization for the purpose of selling liquors. As such, it had the backing of the brewery and liquor interests, and any effort to obtain the grounds for other purposes would naturally meet with the determined resistance of those financially interested.This resistance was felt keenly. There was many a struggle and many a prayer. For two years John A. Davis waited for the manifestation of the hand of God. It appears that some of the stockholders, desiring to obtain an advantage, started a fight within the amusement organization which resulted in finally throwing the “White City” corporation into the hands of a receiver. At this time Evangelist Davis was holding a campaign in one of the larger cities of central Pennsylvania.
Between 1907 and 1908 John A. Davis began to pray for the grounds of the White City as the next location for PBTS. The 47 Harrison Street location had been outgrowing its location since soon after moving into the grounds in 1901 (only a decade earlier). In the summer of 1908 John A. Davis went onto the ground of the White City. The 1934 Theologue records it like this:

Mr. Davis, always keenly alive to the needs of the School and realizing the possibilities of this place, if it could be secured, one day paid the admission fee through the gates and visited the grounds. He saw the beautiful oak trees, the elms and other trees, among them evergreens, and visualized the possibilities of the place as a permanent home for the Practical Bible Training School. As he walked about the grounds he happened to glance into the bar-room and saw the men and women lined up three-deep around the bar, some of them in an advanced state of intoxication. As he turned to leave, he vowed to himself, “With the help of God I’ll smash this place, “ and with that resolve in his mind, as he was outside of the gate, he knelt beside the high wire fence and prayed to God to give him this place for His work.
God answered John's prayer two years later with the park going bankrupt. As mentioned earlier he was at a campaign in Pennsylvania when the sale occurred. It was bought by "a Binghamton business man [From what I can tell this Binghamton business man was Mr. Kilmer (though it is unclear which Kilmer it was)] 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 rushed back, and within three hours had called his board together and exercised their option, which gave them title to the property with all the buildings on it, one of the which was a large and roomy hotel" (1934 Theologue).

Thus began the change from The White City Amusement Park to Bible School Park, NY

To be continued in part 2 (100 years years on Riverside: The transformation and move)

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