History of Fountain Park Chautauqua
The history of Fountain Park Chautauqua really began in 1874 in Chautauqua, New York. John H. Vincent, a Methodist minister, originated the idea of establishing Chautauqua, New York as a training camp for Sunday School Teachers. The Chautauqua movement was very successful and expanded to bring education and culture to the people across America. The movement spread quickly and reached its peak in 1924-1925. The Great Depression caused many Chautauquas to fail. Fountain Park Chautauqua is one of the three Chautauquas that have remained in continuous existence since its establishment. The other two being Chautauqua, New York and Lakeside, Ohio.
Fountain Park Chautauqua was the dream of Robert Parker, president of the Bank of Remington, Indiana. In 1893 he purchased the land from a glass company in Kokomo, Indiana as a site for the Chautauqua. Unlike most Chautauquas Parker planned for permanent structures to be built at Fountain Park. By the first session a tabernacle and restaurant were built. In 1898 a summer hotel was constructed and is still in use today. In early years a dam was built across Carpenter Creek forming a small lake for swimming and boating but in 1918 the dam was removed. By 1905 the number of cottages totaled forty. Now there are seventy-three. There is also a campsite available for camping and recreational vehicles. Structures inside the circle of cottages are a fountain area with flag poles for American, state, and Fountain Park flags, six hundred seat tabernacle complete with dressing rooms, double art buildings for adult and youth art classes, museum, recreational hall, shelter, food stand, gazebo, playground equipment and basketball court.
Fountain Park has continued to promote the concepts and values of the early Chautauqua movement. There are nondenominational Sunday worship services and daily devotions. Also afternoon and evening programs or speakers provide cultural education and family entertainment.
Some of the notable people who have appeared at Fountain Park Chautauqua include William Jennings Bryan, Billy Sunday, George Ade, Paul Harvey, and Earl Butz. We continue to enjoy live, varied entertainment programs that appeal to all ages. A Kick-off Chicken Dinner, cake auction, cake walk, watermelon feast, ice cream social, Sunday band concerts in the gazebo, annual auction, Fountain Park Olympics, bowling on the green, local talent show, teen dances, bike riding, eating at the stand and hotel, and “kids” still being able to buy penny candy at the popcorn stand have all become some of Fountain Park traditions.
The many volunteers and the Women’s Improvement Association have all helped to make the grounds beautiful. Their hours of assistance with the upkeep of the park has been a labor of love.