Milwaukee and Indianapolis investors established the Wonderland Construction Company in 1905 to furnish amusements on Indianapolis’ eastside. On Saturday evening, May 16, 1906, the company opened its Wonderland Amusement Park, located at East Washington and Gray streets, the former site of Washington Park, an Indianapolis baseball field. Over 8,000 people attended the opening festivities.

The "Shoot the Chutes" waterslide, 1906.
Credit: Indiana Historical Society

The park, led by president E. I. Fisher of Indianapolis, included 24 buildings and amusements surrounding an artificial lake, landscaped gardens, and a 125-foot electric tower. Among the most popular attractions were the half-mile scenic railway, the “Johnstown Flood” that employed special lighting effects to describe the disaster, a giant “Shoot the Chutes” waterslide, a funhouse, and other rides. 

One of the park’s most incredible spectacles was “Kann’s War Air-Ship,” a dirigible the size of two streetcars, which floated over the park. The park also sponsored “special attractions” such as trick cyclists, acrobats, bands, and an Igorrote tribe from the Philippines. The use of the Igorrote group represents a common trend for the time of displaying non-white, non-American groups as exhibitions.

The Wonderland Amusement Park, ca. 1906.
Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society.

In 1909, management sought a beer license for the park’s proposed German Village, but neighborhood women protested. The Indianapolis Brewers Exchange, seeking to minimize public opposition to the liquor trade, helped to force the withdrawal of the application. Two years later, the park opened a “Blind Tiger” (a place that sells intoxicants illegally), which the police raided.

On Sunday, August 27, 1911, Wonderland Amusement Park burned to the ground. Fisher estimated losses at $20,000 and decided against rebuilding. The grounds later became the site of P. R. Mallory And Company.

Revised March 2021
 

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