Northland News

Forest Park history displayed in photos, video

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

The history of the Forest Park neighborhood, with its various parades, will be on parade when a photo exhibition is unveiled on Wednesday, Nov. 14.

"The Half Century Gallery of Forest Park Memories" will debut at Epworth United Methodist Church, 5100 Karl Road, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The gallery includes 21 framed photographs from the very early days of the subdivision that will be on display, along with various photo albums for visitors to look through, according to George Schmidt, a past president of the neighborhood's civic association who helped gather the collection.

"It just kind of shows the history of people," Schmidt said.

The photos show the very first plot of Forest Park being staked out, images from Christmas parades and the Northland community's first Fourth of July parades, as well as signs that show Karl Road was then called Hamilton Pike and other street names that were completely different. In addition, the exhibit includes a video of interviews Schmidt conducted with some of the first Forest Park "settlers" from 1961 and '62.

"They recall early on getting the first traffic light put in at Morse and Karl," Schmidt said. "They recall Karl Road not being a very good road, and it would freeze over in the winter and they'd ice skate down Karl Road."

Others he interviewed had fond memories of the man who built a railroad in his back yard that was large enough for children to ride on and the neighbor who built a boat in his back yard that was so large, a crane had to be employed to lift it out.

Still others, Schmidt said, remember a petition drive in Forest Park that sought to block construction of Northland Mall, which opened on Aug. 13, 1964, with Sears and Lazarus as the anchor stores.

"It's kind of amazing, considering how everyone was when they tore the mall down," Schmidt said.

Forest Park West was the initial phase of what would become a 2,900-home subdivision between East Dublin-Granville and Morse roads. It was one of the first self-contained communities in the country.

"The whole community just talked about how when the Metzger Brothers designed it, it was a design that was kind of unique and it was copied all across the country," Schmidt said. "Everything you needed was all self-contained. You could walk and take care of all of your needs, whatever you needed."

These were in two commercial nodes, one at Tamarack Circle and the other where Sequoia Pro Bowl is now located.

Gathering the photos -- and he's still on the lookout for more -- has been fun for Schmidt, who moved to Forest Park two decades ago.

"It's been great," he said. "I've had talks with about a dozen 70-, 80-year-olds. It's just been fun to sit and talk and hear the stories.

"With most everyone who moved in early, they had kids. They did amazing things for the parades. Each street built a float ... and they were very detailed.

"It was all about families and everybody raising their kids together," he added. "They all talked about how good the schools were and they all walked to schools."

The former longtime Forest Park Civic Association president added that he thinks residents of the neighborhood today can learn some lessons from the words of those who were among the first to arrive.

"Building the community and getting to know your neighbors, socializing with your neighbors -- when problems come along, you have a natural path for solving problems," Schmidt said. "They didn't have to call people together to deal with problems. They were already together. When an issue came along, they were already organized, based on community and fellowship. Citizens were already kind of united.

"I think that's a lesson to be learned."

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