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Israelite House of David - Amusement Park

The Israelite House of David Amusement Park was world famous -- drawing visitors from everywhere.  For many, summer wasn't complete without a visit to the Amusement Park.  The entertainment, train rides, goldfish ponds, souvenirs, etc. pleased both young and old for many a season.

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(1) This picture was taken between Bethlehem on the left and Jerusalem on the right.  The front of the cars faces Britain Avenue. These cars were made at the Israelite House of David. John Whilborg improved the steering in our machine shop. Occupants of the cars back row left to right is Florence, Pete Jeffery, Loma Jeffery and front row is Charles Martin or Turner; Don Martin and Charles Martin. This photo was not taken from inside the park.

(2) Movie footage available This is at the bottom of the ravine to the West. A small Gold Fish Pond was just before the entrance. This was a circular track that was pored by Victor Larson for the Midget Autos. There were two men who started and built the cars: Clauson who started the project and later Hans L. Dalager ... behind the wheel in this photo. Hans traveled with the baseball team and was Lloyd's father, When the baseball came to an end Hans took over the cars and improved the engines. Many young boys got a job helping out. Every boy knew which car was the fastest. They loved to race on the circular track. It was a great attraction in the park.

(3) This is a view of the Israelite House of David baseball field from the gate near the Trailer park office. This was the beginning of night baseball. The grand stands were behind home plate. We sold our bleachers to a new auto speed way down at Plymouth, Indiana. As baseball declined the field was used for thrill shows, soccer games and rodeo and Grand Old Opry singers. We also enjoyed the St. Joe football team using the field for practice.

(4) This picture is the Auditorium that was where the relatively new foundation surrounding the beds of flowers and trees are now. The building was used for preaching during the park season. Before the roof was in place, we had long strips of shading for the people. In the early days, motion pictures were shown here and Nick Carealis would make candy in the basement. Nick would often open the windows and as the smell of the fresh made treats would drift over the crowds, this was a great sales draw.

(5) This is the South Entrance to the Park. The ladies band is standing next to the park hotel and across on the right near the railroad station. The entrance to the zoo plus a small green house is in the background. There were many lovely plants in the middle between the various buildings.

(6) As you entered the zoo you would find this row of bird cages on your left or the South side or near the ravine. We had parrots, small birds, eagles, cockatoos and emus. There were three people who had charge of the zoo - Tapping, Billy Harrison and Chic Bell. Mr. Tapping was associated with the birds in the beginning.

(7) This picture of the lighthouse is just after you cross the West train bridge. The lighthouse was built by John Herron who is the conductor on the early train in this picture. The engineer is Lloyd Dalager our present president. Mr. Herron did a lot of stone work for the colony in flower pots etc.

(8) When you walked from our free parking lot one of the first buildings on the South side was the Jam and Jelly Stand. Oscar Wade and his wife Agnes used to run this stand at the North end of the park. Oscar had a jelly plant at 109 Broad St., St. Joseph, Michigan. He shipped the Israelite House of David Jams and Jellies all over the world. The Jam and Jelly Stand also had two later people by the names of Rueben Jeff and a lady who was a former preacher called Violet Tucker. The member of the Israelite House of David in the foreground is John Boone and a former member George Hannaford.

(9) This stone house was built by John Heron during the early days of the zoo. We also had a wooden doll house previous to this but it is no longer in existence. Unfortunately vandals have destroyed much of this little house. The people in the picture going from left to right are John Heron, standing, Edmond Bulley, sitting, Billy Wright, designer of various buildings, and far right Chic Bell, manager of the zoo.

(10) This Fountain was constructed in the Mid 50's by the Bank Construction people. It had colored lights on the water spray. In the summer evenings it was run daily. Chic Bell was its founder. The fountain superseded the Auditorium which had been torn down. In this picture the three men on the right are William Robertson, printer, Alec Robertson, forester and road maintainer, & George Wackym, business man. The children in front of the fountain are Margret, Alec Jr., Bruce and Irene. The three men left to right at the wall are Percy Minchington, souvenir stand operator, Dominic, florist, and Charlie Jeff, printer, garden supervisor.

(11) This picture shows Merlin Perkins in the early days of his tenor of the St. Louis zoo. Chic Bell of our zoo was presenting Mr. Merlin with an eagle. The talented Mr. Perkins went on to fame as producer of The Wild Kingdom on television. The talent of the Israelite House of David members is also well known. Mr. Chic Bell was a talented musician -- he played the coronet.

(12) The Park Grandstand in the 20's and 30's. The upper tier of the grandstand was considered the ladies part while the lower half and bleachers were for the boys and men. We have a Baseball book which will give you more information.

(13) Our Bowling Alleys are now in the St. Louis American Bowling Museum. Tom Dewhirst donated the alleys when the park closed. The bowling balls were small and you used three shots per frame. We also had a billiard and pool table parlor right next to the alleys. It was a great meeting place for the young. The Bowling Alleys and Pool Hall were situated in back of the Stage and Band Stand.

(14) This Submarine made out of stone was built during the first world war. It sits on the South road of the park. The people in the picture were park guests. Flowers were on the topside of the submarine.

(15) This is a picture of the Lion and Tiger House. These cages were built to modernize the zoo and stand to this day, but were converted to agriculture pursuits. In the 50's we filled in the inside floor and made a small fruit packing shed and later a cider mill with the conversion of the basement. We have since sold our cider mill and pulled out our orchards. We currently use this facility for storage. The building sits on the East side of the railroad tracks near the East railroad bridge.

(16) This is an earlier picture of the bird cages. The one on the right was round and beyond that was a turtle pond. Over to the extreme right was another pond by the railroad tracks. This pond had fish in it and was built by David Caudle our baker. A monkey house was built just inside the entrance to the zoo.

(17) There is a dance floor immediately in front of the stage. This is during the summer months before we put up a roof. We had dancing every night with vaudeville in the afternoons and evenings. The acts came from Chicago usually two in number and mostly family entertainment. The waiters served refreshments during the time the Garden was open. The week went something like this:

  • Monday and Tuesday were small crowds
  • Wednesday was amateur night usually a larger than average crowd
  • Thursday was resort night when our local resorts brought their guests
  • Friday was polka or square dancing night
  • Saturday was sometimes very large
  • Sunday afternoon could be heavy with people especially when the boats from Chicago were running.

Manna Woodworth was leader of the band while Chic Bell was the master of ceremonies on Wednesday.

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Israelite House of David
Post Office Box 1067 • Benton Harbor, Michigan 49023-1067



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