Falls Park Then to Now
Chances are you've been here or know someone that has. This is no surprise. Falls Park has been here, as a public park since 1920. It is said that Mr. B.F. Phipps, hardware store owner in Pendleton, felt the falls area should be more than the town dump. His vision was to clean it up and create a beautiful place for the town folk to relax, gather, and swim below the falls.
Mr. Phipps, being on the town board, brought his idea of transforming the town "eyesore" into a "jewel" of the town to the table. The other board members were impressed with this idea and voted to create a tax levy to fund the development of a park.
The work began. The creek was cleared of rubbish and discarded implements of all sorts. The banks smoothed and made suitable for lounging in the sun. A dam was built to form the pool below the falls. Land was donated by the Fall Creek Cannery along with more land purchased by the town board. The stone quarry was cleaned, a bath house built and the "new" park opened in 1920 with the name, Falls Park.
The swimming hole proved successful. Enough revenue came in to make improvements each year. The dam was removed and a new one was constructed downstream to allow a larger swimmer capacity. Other improvements include a tourist camp, cast iron fountain, and playground equipment. The Lighthouse was constructed in the pond in 1928. Falls Park was established and growing.
The 1930s brought rock planters built by the Works Projects Administration (WPA), a part of Pres. Franklin Roosevelt's "New Deal" and more sidewalks through the park. Despite the fighting of World War II Pendleton residents were able to construct the shelter on the south end of the pond.
Little league baseball came to the park in the 50s. More property was acquired for this exciting addition. Falls Park had become a destination and a useable location for local events.
By the end of the 1960s little league baseball was well established and growing each year. The Century and a Half Club was formed to plan Pendleton's Sesquicentennial to be held in 1970. But what was about to happen to Fall Park was a total shock to the local community. The pool below the falls was closed to swimming forever. Harmful bacteria were found in Fall Creek so swimming had to stop for the health of the public.
The 70s proved to be very progressive in the park. The property at Water and Pendleton Avenue was purchased. The site of a DX filling station it was landscaped, benches and lights were added and it transformed into what we call "Charlene's Corner". A Weeklong celebration was held to commemorate the 150th birthday of Pendleton. Much of the celebration was held in Falls Park. The Century and a Half Club carried on this excitement created by the sesquicentennial celebration and in 1976 they forged the beginnings of the Heritage Fair. As the decade closed, the park board addressed the need for a new swimming facility. They worked long and hard to put the pieces together to build Alvin Brown Memorial Pool. The Town of Pendleton and Fall Creek Township funded the new facility with opening the summer of 1979.
The next 10 years also proved to be progressive as well. More equipment was added to the playground, a full time superintendent was hired and talks of Pendleton Baseball running out of room began. In 1981 The Pendleton Historical Museum Board was established and the old bath house overlooking the Falls was converted into the Museum. The new Pool was deemed a huge success. The crowds were unbelievable and deck space was too small. The fence was moved outward and more concrete poured to the present configuration. More activity was needed to entertain the mass amount of bathers. So park board members approved the addition of a water slide.
Each decade in Falls Park has shown the love and dedication of community members to have the best park ever. By continuing to improve existing facilities and adding new attractions the "Roaring '90s" proved no different. Important property acquisitions were made. The 40 acres north of Fall Creek were added. The park department built trails and bridges throughout this new addition. Plans began to add more trails with spanning Fall Creek a priority. The park rental buildings, the Community and Conservation, were updated. The 55 acres east of the CSX railway was purchased and talks began to build a new Baseball/Softball/Football/Soccer facility. Much of Pendleton was added to the National Register of Historic Places with the earliest areas of Falls Park included in this prestigious designation.
Eighty years have now passed. Falls Park has grown each year. The acreage is up to 144 now. The trails were extended and the sports complex completed. The lighthouse restoration, funded by the Pendleton Historic Settlement and IDNR was completed. The MOM'S Club raised funds to replace most of the old playground equipment. Renovations were done at the pool and a major leak repaired in the pool floor. The Boy Scout troop 232 made trail improvements. As in the past many organizations participated in Falls Park improvements.
The present is no different than the past decades. The restoration of the J.W.Fiske ornamental fountain was completed. A new concession stand at the football fields was built. Twenty acres of property was purchased with four of it dedicated to a new park office, storage building and tree farm. Twenty acres of forested wetland was purchased from South Madison Community Foundation with a Bicentennial grant through Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Total Park acreage: 184.
Two Thousand fourteen has started with a bang! The sports complex parking will be paved. The park office and storage building will be built. And the Town has transferred the Fall Creek Golf Club to the park. This brings the total area to 284 acres!
Over the past 94 years Falls Park has been, and continues to be home to many festivals, sporting events, and family reunions. The birthday parties are countless as well as weddings. So many personal events filled with emotion make this a special place. The pride and love of Falls Park by the Pendleton Community truly shows. If you've not visited, please take some time and spend it here. We are sure you'll agree Falls Park is the "Jewell of a Wonderful Community".