Ft. Smith, Ar.
Present site of Kay Rogers Park on Midland Ave.
Submitted by Jack James
The Electric Park held its grand opening in the summer of 1908. The costs of construction was $100,000. There was a train of streetcars used for that happy occasion. The auditorium was first used for holding the Chautauqua in 1906 and became a gathering place for the people of both Fort Smith and Van Buren. The park was designed to generate business and revenue for the streetcar line.
There were formal gardens stocked from Electric Park greenhouses, and winding paths that were kept by several gardeners. Across from where the streetcars discharged their passengers, there were amusement rides for those brave enough to ride them, including a roller coaster.
The pavilion housed a grand ballroom on its second floor with large porches opening off either end. The lower floor of the building consisted of a restaurant and a confectionary. Covered porches on the ground floor were pleasant on a hot summer's day.
The architecture of the buildings ranged from "crystal palace" to oriental oniondome. Electric lights outlined the buildings in the night making it seem as if it were from a fairy tale.
The auditorium was used for many events, from local talent to nationally recognized speakers. The Fort Smith Cadet Band performed here many times. Speakers such as william Jennings Bryan and robert La Follette delivered their speeches in the open-air theatre. Songstress madame Schumann-Heink performed to a capacity crowd, Electric Park was THE gathering place for Fort Smith until the outbreak of World War I.
(Source: Reflections of Fort Smith. Julia Etter Yadon, Sue Ross Cross, Randall Ross Viguet. 1976)