Paris teenagers flocked to the Teen Dance Hall at Twin Lakes to dance all the latest crazes. (Special to The Prairie Press)

Twin Lakes Park evolves

Popular destination has changed through the years

Every child wants to spend the day doing nothing more than playing at the park. Swinging back and forth on the swings, going up and down on the teeter-totter or a quick pick-up game of baseball. They frolic in the sun enjoying themselves day after day waiting for the fair to come to town to ride the good rides.

Then there are those towns across the U.S.A. that have an amusement park at their finger tips everyday.

In 1895, Charles P. Hitch designed a park with a lake on the west side of state Route 1 north of Paris. He envisioned a great pleasure resort snuggled right here in Paris.

The lake was planned as the city’s water supply. Hitch owned and operated two boats on the lake. Patrons rode on The City of Paris or The Mary Martha on any given Sunday or holiday if the weather permitted.

Officially named as Reservoir Park Jan. 7, 1896, the Paris City Council wanted the park to be a place for everyone and plans were made for a bandstand, dance pavilion and gravel foot paths.

Reservoir Park has played host to many things over the years. Company parties and family reunions filled the park grounds day in and day out.

An especially big event was the arrival of the Chautauqua Aug. 5, 1904. The annual week-long Chautauqua was an adult educational event with tents set up in the park featuring a variety of options. Residents dressed up and headed to the Chautauqua everyday where they found something to do from sitting in a tent with a book club to listening to a preacher preach the gospel.

After a severe drought, the city decided to build another dam east of Route 1, thus creating the Twin Lakes. Another drought occurred in the 1950s and by the late 1960s a third dam was built creating the 163 acres of water for Twin Lakes and 40 acres for a park.

Many things changed in the 1960s. The beach dance craze swept the nation, and the perfect harmonies of The Beach Boys along with groups like Jan and Dean were blaring from radios of teenagers everywhere. Paris, in keeping up with the times, built a teen dance hall. Teens flocked to the dance hall to hear the beats of groups like New Colony Six, The Eye and Take a Turtle for Dinner. The first band hired by Mrs. Valerine at the Teen Dance Hall was the Silvertones. Many teens made this their home away from home.

One of the things people remember the most about Paris and the Twin Lakes was the amusement park rides that were a constant for many years at the park. From the roller coaster to the high swings, there was always something for everyone to do.

Jim Pope and many others worked day in and day out for many years to maintain the rides so that all could enjoy them. The park contained a carousel, bumper cars, an umbrella ride, a train ride, goofy golf, an arcade and many other things.

Overtime the rides were deemed too expensive to keep up and were sold off one by one. The carousel, which was the park treasure, was sold to a park in the South. It was eventually parted out for pieces and one horse named “Chief” made its way back to Paris and is on permanent display at the Edgar County Historical Society.

Throughout the years there have been some constants at Twin Lakes, although the rides are long gone.

Each summer the Paris City Band hosts a summer concert series and until last year Twin Lakes was the site for the city’s Fourth of July fireworks display. A scheduling conflict moved the fireworks to another day, and the independence celebration this year will again be on July 7, rather than July 4, but still in the park.

The park has experienced a resurgence in the last few years. Building the miniature golf course and the batting cages created hope the park could return to its former glory. Then with the efforts of many the Twin Lakes became home to the Tiger Falls Splash Park and the All-Abilities Playground, giving the young children something fun to do at Twin Lakes.

Looking back, many people spent many good times at Twin Lakes Park ­– riding the rides, playing golf, hanging out in the arcade or dancing the latest dance craze on the beach. Everyone had fun in one way or another.

In the last few years, many have started to revitalize Twin Lakes, but as far as a total return of the park’s amenities, that is a story that will have to tell itself.

The Prairie Press

101 Central Avenue Paris, IL 61944