LUNCH & LEARN:
Rose Island Presented by Terry Chambers
Tuesday, June 18
Noon – 1:00 PM
The presenter for June’s installment of Lunch & Learn is novelist Terry Chambers. Chambers will be discussing the history of the now defunct Rose Island Resort and Amusement Park. Lunch and Learn is free and open to the public, but registration is required here.
Chambers became familiar with the park’s history while writing her fictionalized novel, Rose Island, An Almost Accurate Account of Days Gone By. The novel is set in the summer of 1936 and also touches on local legends and lore surrounding the Ohio River Valley including the Falls of the Ohio and the story of Prince Madoc. Copies of Chambers’ book will be available for purchase and signing after her talk.
The site of the former amusement park is now a part of Charlestown State Park in Charlestown, Indiana. In the late 1880’s, this site was called Fern Grove and thrived as a recreational site for families and church groups. In 1923, David Rose purchased the property for $250,000, which is the equivalent of 3 million dollars today. Rose developed the amusement park that eventually grew to 118 acres in size. At its peak in popularity, Rose Island drew about 135,000 visitors annually. Locally operated steamboats, including one that would eventually become The Belle of Louisville, and a swaying footbridge provided access to the park.
Rose Island boasted a number of amenities including what is believed to be the first filtered water swimming pool in the Midwest, as well as a hotel, cabins, a dance hall, ice rink, Ferris wheel, and a wooden roller coaster. A small menagerie of animals including wolves, monkeys, and bears were also part of the entertainment. The park was hurt by the Great Depression, but the 1937 Flood, which covered the park in ten feet of water, is what led to its closing.