Photo courtesy Mike Slate
Casino-housed the summer theatre
aka Woodstock ParkNashville, Davidson County, TN
by Ralph Decker, Jr.
Founded in 1887 as Woodstock Park, the name was changed to Glendale Park in 1890. It was the second trolley park to open in the City of Nashville, but the first to have mechanical amusements. Located on 64 acres south of downtown Nashville near the present intersection of Caldwell and Lealand Lanes, Glendale Park was at the end of the Overland Railway. Some accounts indicate that the Waverly Land Development Company, headed by James E. Caldwell and Oscar Noel, Sr., directed the construction of the trolley line, the park, and the nearby suburb of Waverly. The Nashville Tennessean of November 15, 1931, however, credits Frederick W. Hunter of Philadelphia with the construction of the park and the trolley line.
While a trolley park from the beginning, the original ride to the park was steam-powered. In 1887 mules pulled Nashville streetcars and the seven miles to the park was too great a distance for that type of conveyance. The solution was a “dummy” line with a small steam engine, disguised as a streetcar, pulling three coaches. The park proved so popular that people hung out the windows, of the cars that had windows, and even rode on top of the cars. The rail line to the park was electrified in 1893 and became known as the Glendale line. In 1903 the rail line came under the ownership of Percy Warner’s Nashville Railway and Light Company, as did the park. For a nickel a person could ride from anywhere in Nashville to the park, transferring, if necessary, at the public square.
|Following is a list of rides and attractions that were present at one time or another in the park.
At one time there was a diving horse. Then a zoo began with a few bears that lived in a cave. However, in 1912 Percy Warner (whose name is presently – 1998 – associated with a large public park in Nashville) opened a full-fledged zoo at the park. Clare Lovett, an English immigrant, built the facility into one of the best local zoos in the country, featuring a bird collection that achieved a national reputation. In addition to the bears there were monkeys, sea lions, raccoons, buffalo, alligators, prairie dogs, deer, elk, ostriches, pheasants, and cranes. Lovett managed the zoo until the park closed and, having trained some of the animals and birds, utilized them in shows at the park.
Traditionally the park opened with an Easter Egg Hunt. A pony was given to the person finding the golden egg. Vaudeville, balloon ascensions, concerts, and other events were e featured at Glendale.
|While various dates are given for the closing of the park, July 1932 seems to be mentioned most frequently. Glendale Park was a victim of the Depression and the automobile. Patronage on the trolleys, in general, decreased and little reason remained for a streetcar company to run an amusement park. Additionally, there was no way to provide adequate parking for automobiles at the park site. At that time the Tennessee Electric Power Company owned the park. TEPC offered to lease the park to the Nashville Park Board for one dollar a year but that body did not have the financial resources needed to operate the park.|
|Little remains at the site. Shortly after the park closed the bandstand was converted into a garage. The horses from the merry-go-round showed up as an Easter display at Harvey’s Department Store in downtown Nashville in 1942. Later they became a permanent part of the store decor, disappearing again when Harvey’s closed. It should be noted that while Harvey’s had a full-size carousel in its Monkey Bar restaurant it was not the Flying Jenny from Glendale Park.
The zoo animals were dispersed to various locations when the park closed and it would be the 1990’s until a zoo once again became a part of Nashville. In 1978 the entrance steps were in the backyard of one of the homes on the site, the foundations of the water tower were still visible in the backyard of another home, and still another home is said to have been built over the cave where the bears lived. Homes now occupy most of the site.
Image courtesy Jim Munford