Fountain Park History and the Chautauqua Movement
President Theodore Roosevelt called the Chautauqua Movement, "the most American thing in America." William Jennings Bryan believed it to be a “potent human factor in molding the mind of the nation.” During World War I, President Woodrow Wilson deemed it an “integral part of the national defense.”
The Chautauqua Movement started when John H. Vincent, a Methodist minister, and Lewis Miller, a businessman, originated the idea of establishing Chautauqua, New York as a training camp for Sunday School Teachers in 1874. The success of these educational camps led to an expansion in their scope and purpose. These early "Chautauquas," as they were called, soon grew to include a wide variety of educational instruction for adults focusing on art, music, literature, science as well as cultural, inspirational and political lectures.
These many independent learning congregations would travel the country in the summer months. Some attendees would travel long distances to participate in the Chautauqua and set up camp for the duration of the event. The extreme popularity of these traveling Chautauquas led to a social movement that brought a stirring mix of education, culture and entertainment to all classes of people across the nation. Small, farming communities, who otherwise may not have had the opportunity to be exposed to the culture and ideas presented by the Chautauquas, benefitted greatly. Indeed, Chautauquas are believed to be the inspiration for community colleges with their emphasis on bringing education, civic involvement, and self improvement to average Americans.
The Chautauqua Movement reached its peak in 1924-1925, when it is estimated that 45 million Americans had attended a Chautauqua (the population of the United States in 1925 was about 116 million). Sadly, the Great Depression caused many Chautauquas to fail, as did the rise in the use of cars, radio, and movies. Our Fountain Park Chautauqua is one of the three Chautauquas that have remained in continuous existence since their 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 land in Remington, 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 the United States, Indiana, and Fountain Park flags, a 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. Afternoon and evening programs provide musical, cultural, spiritual, educational and family entertainment.
Some of the notable people who have appeared at our 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 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 have been a labor of love.
Historical images of our Fountain Park Chautauqua