Central Park
An Early Amusement Park West of Helena
Now the Site of the Green Meadow Country Club


FROM "VALLEYS OF THE PRICKLY PEAR" ©1988 LITTLE RED SCHOOLHOUSE, INC. -- NOW OUT OF PRINT

Built by brothers Joseph and Frank Mares between 1892-95, Central Park on Ten Mile Creek was for decades a popular leisure destination. Since 1946, the site has been home to the Green Meadow Country Club.

The immigrant Mares brothers made their fortune first through mining investments, then in the meat trade. They purchased the acreage along Ten Mile Creek in 1892, for use as a combination feed lot, pasture, and processing facility. The lake was to be their source of ice for refrigeration. The Northern Pacific tracks bisected the plot, providing handy access to shipping.

The brothers saw the opportunity to use the land south of the tracks for an amusement park, and constucted a wonderful complex that was a popular leisure destination for a quarter-century.

 

A recent satellite image of the Green Meadow Country Club

 

Central Park Gate, 1904


COLLECTION OF KENNON BAIRD • CLICK ON IMAGE TO OPEN A LARGE VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW

 


FROM "VALLEYS OF THE PRICKLY PEAR" ©1988 LITTLE RED SCHOOLHOUSE, INC. -- NOW OUT OF PRINT
CLICK ON IMAGE TO OPEN A LARGE VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW

Central Park boasted a zoo, a saloon, the grand pavillion, boating on the lake, a bowling alley, stables, an aviary, a baseball diamond and more -- all set on beautifully landscaped grounds with broad walks.

An electric streetcar line ran from Helena to the park, making for an easy excursion. The streetcar route from town was north on Benton Avenue, west on Hollins to Central Park, then west to the Broadwater Hotel and Natatorium.

The Mares brothers entered into a promotional agreement with the Northern Pacific Railroad to display beside the tracks a kind of living tableau of the west, featuring elk, bison, deer and even some Native Americans, who lived in tipis just east of the park. The trains would slow down while passing through the area, giving passengers an opportunity to see these novelties up-close.

 

The Pavillion


FROM "VALLEYS OF THE PRICKLY PEAR" ©1988 LITTLE RED SCHOOLHOUSE, INC. -- NOW OUT OF PRINT

The ornate pavillion was a multi-purpose facility for large gatherings and special events.



Central Park Beer Drinkers


FROM 'HISTORIC HELENA' ©1964 BY THE HOME BUILDING AND LOAN ASSOC. -- NOW OUT OF PRINT

The odds are good that these folks were sipping Kessler beer, which was brewed nearby.


Central Park Was a Popular Venue



Central Park trade token





 

Carousel


FROM 'HISTORIC HELENA' ©1964 BY THE HOME BUILDING AND LOAN ASSOC. -- NOW OUT OF PRINT

The carousel at Central Park. Your editor is fairly certain he saw one of these horses when he was a youngster, probably about 1955. It was stored in a barn in the Seymer Park addition, west of the Central Park site. The barn was near the home of Eliza Whyte, on what is now Terrace Ave. Eliza's son, Everett Whyte, was a groundskeeper at the Green Meadow Country Club, and may have aquired the horse there.

 

Central Park Lake, 1904


COLLECTION OF KENNON BAIRD • CLICK ON IMAGE TO OPEN A LARGE VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW



Gentry Bros. Circus Elephant Bathes in Central Park Lake, 1907


 

Alcohol Prohibition and Elimination of Steetcar Service Hurts Business

Prohibition in 1920 and the elimination of Helena streetcar service in 1928 put a damper on business at Central Park. The saloon was opened as a restaurant, the Dixie Inn, but it soon changed hands to become the Three Mile Cafe...


The Three Mile Cafe operated until about 1937.



Central Park Land Purchased for Golf Club, 1943

 

 

Green Meadow Country Club Opens, 1946

 

Back to West of Helena