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  Courthouse Courthouse Greene County Historical Society    
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Located in the Missouri Ozarks  

For more information, contact:

Greene County
Historical Society
P.O. Box 3466 GS
Springfield, MO 65808

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This site was last
updated on
September 13, 2008


A Century of Fun --

The History of Doling Park

This article was published in the October 2007 issue of the Greene County Historical Society's newsletter. Information was supplied by the Doling Park Museum and taken from the Springfield-Greene County Library website. To see more images of Doling Park, we suggest you visit The Library Center's online historical postcard collection. The History Museum for Springfield-Greene County also has an extensive online photo collection.

For over a century, Doling Park has been a popular attraction in Springfield. Located in north Springfield at the intersection of Talmage and Campbell, the site was first homesteaded by Alexander Giboney, who received a land grant from President Millard Fillmore in 1852. The original 40 acres were purchased at $1.50 per acre and the property was home to the Giboney family for 30 years. The family's log cabin was located near the site of the current museum. Water flowing from the cave supplied the family's needs and served as a cool cellar for storage of food. The Giboney family raised horses, cattle and "…a little bit of corn."

In 1882, Alexander Giboney's son, John, sold the 40-acre tract to James Marshall Doling for $2,500. Doling, a prominent businessman, had arrived in Springfield in 1866 and was instrumental in the development of north Springfield. Among his commercial interests was the Doling Dry Goods located on Commercial Street. He reportedly purchased the property from Giboney "…for a summer home."

Doling's improvements to the property included building a lake and general beautification of the area. Later he built additional buildings, including a bathhouse and penny arcade. By the early 1900s, the Doling Park had become a popular amusement park for the area.

In 1907, Doling sold the popular amusement park for $50,000 to several businessmen who had formed Springfield Amusement Company. They were W.H. Jezzard, Ben Meyer, and Charles E. Brooks. This purchase marked the beginning of Doling Park's heyday. Among the attractions added in the next decade were two bandstands, rental boats, a professional baseball park, an Indian Camp, a dance hall, a penny arcade and pony show. There were a total of 19 amusement park rides, including a roller coaster, a merry-go-round powered by water from the spring at the cave, and the extremely popular "Shoot the Chutes" ride.

There was swimming, fishing, boating and a theater which seated 2,000. Ice cream was sold in homemade waffle cones, a recent invention from the World's Fair of 1904 in St. Louis. Tours of the cave were available for ten cents and it was widely thought to be worth the money to see the waterfall. Large crowds gathered by events such as the annual Fourth of July swimming races. A bridge was built across the east end of the lake. The streetcars had a regular route from center city to the park.

Early photos show the popular roller skating rink, but exact details about the construction and popularly of this feature are unknown. The first rink burned in 1929, but the attraction was rebuilt and completed in March 1930. It was in that year the Springfield Park Board purchased Doling Park from the Springfield Amusement Company for $85,000. The Park Board, which had been established in 1913, was responsible for over 230 acres of city parkland by this time.

From post-WWII through the 1960s, the Doling Park roller rink was THE place to be. It was the site of queen contests, follies-type shows and revues, figure skating and pairs competitions, as well as the social gathering place, particularly for teens. The rest of the park was on the decline, however, and by the 1970s all of the rides had been removed.

Today, Doling Park includes a swimming pool, picnic grounds, a walking trail, a small lake, and the "Underground Classroom" in Giboney Cave, as it is now known. There is the Doling Family Center, as well as the Northview Center, which focuses on programs for area residents age 55 and over.

The Doling Museum is located on the site of the Doling Skating Rink. The museum contains memorabilia of Doling Park, including items from the amusement park and skating rink, two touch screen kiosks to tell the story of Doling Park and other historical information of the Park Board and our community. An ongoing endeavor, the Memories Project, works to capture community members' memories of Doling Park on video. There is no admission fee. For hours or more information, call 417/837-5808.


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