Century of Fun --
History of Doling Park
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
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 "
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 "
a summer home."
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.