Since the late 19th century, there have been several private parks owned and operated by local German organizations. The Schützen Park/Shooters Park was founded in August 1881 by the Schützen Verein/Indianapolis Target Shooting Association. The park was located along West 21st Street between Fall Creek and Sugar Grove Avenue. The remote setting allowed for regular Schützenfests for its members.

Germania Park, 1911
Credit: The Indiana Album: Evan Finch Collection

By 1893 the area had developed into an industrial and residential neighborhood, no longer rustic and no longer conducive to target shooting. The group was reorganized as the German Park Association and renamed the park. It also redeveloped it as a country club with a clubhouse that included a restaurant, bowling alleys, playground, tennis court, baseball diamond, and other amenities, but no golf course. It emphasized exclusivity for its members, “free from any annoyances from the general public.” German Park hosted festivals, including the popular annual German Day celebration (see Germans).

While German Park functioned on the westside from 1893 to 1909, Germania Park, a completely different entity, opened in 1901 on the southside. The Germania Park Verein was incorporated in July 1901, and it immediately purchased the 5-acre former Lincoln Park on South East Street, a half-mile south of Garfield Park. Germania Park opened on July 21, 1901. The next year the park expanded to 15 acres and added amenities such as a children’s zoo, playground, park illumination, and a Wein Kneipe (wine bar).

By 1916, the park boasted a shelter house, dance pavilion, assembly hall, bowling alleys, and playgrounds. The annual German Day celebration of the Verband Deutscher Vereine/Federation of German Societies moved from German Park to Germania. The Park was a popular picnic and festival site for the many local German organizations, churches, companies, and family reunions.

The Ancient Order Of Hibernians used it often for Irish Day. It was accessible by streetcar and by special excursion trains. The railroad track ran along the park’s east side. The park was a busy venue up to World War I. In contrast, by 1908 German Park on the westside closed and the land was platted as German Park Addition on July 2, 1909, with 61 house lots and a site for Riverside Public School No. 44.

The 1920 city directory records Germania Park’s new name as “Columbia Park.” It was cleansed of its German identity during the war, as was Das Deutsche Haus (see the Athenaeum) and other buildings and organizations. Out of the cultural collapse of 1917-1918, 22 local German organizations formed a new Federation of German Societies in 1932 and revived the celebration of German Day that year in Columbia Park.

Two years later, in 1934, the Federation purchased 25 acres of land along Buffalo Creek at 8600 South Meridian Street. Over time the new German Park was improved with a fest pavilion, clubhouse with restaurant, gymnasium, and soccer pitches. The park is used by member organizations, rented to the public, but is most noteworthy since the 1970s for its annual Oktoberfest.

Columbia Park functioned as a private park into the 1960s when it was leased as a recreation center for employees of Detroit Diesel—Allison (see Allison Transmission). The controversial Indianapolis Baptist Temple purchased the park in 1972 and built its campus there. Since 2002, the site of Germania Park has been the playground and athletic field of Christel House Academy South, a Charter School.

Revised February 2021

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