When the reservoir was completed and the standpipe erected on what is now Sylvian Park, the Paris Beacon felt the surrounding area at Reservoir Park could be made into an attractive park area.
Please visit the Parks Department page for information on park hours, concession hours, camping fees and boat licenses.
The city’s oldest and principal recreation center is Twin Lakes Park, the development of which began back in 1895, when the dam impounding Paris’ first reservoir was completed. West lake reservoir was constructed in 1895. Those were the days of the gay nineties and of the Paris Fishing and Boating Club, directed by the late Charles P. Hitch, who, even before the turn of the century, made Reservoir Park, as it was then called, a widely known pleasure resort. Charles P. Hitch was the publisher and owner of the Beacon newspaper. He was also active in state politics.
The first two boats were steam propelled and named “City of Paris” (the larger one) and the “Mary Martha.” The “Mary Martha” was owned by Charles P. Hitch, and was named after his granddaughter. The boats were usually operated on Sundays and holidays between a dock near the present pumping station and a dock just east of the railroad bridge and near the log house at the west end of the lake.
Much later after the Paris Fishing and Boating Club was disbanded, an electrically propelled large flat bottomed boat was built by the McGuire-Cummins Car Factory (where Midwest is now located) and given to the city and named for C.T. Biddison, who was the manager of the car factory and was instrumental in obtaining the gift from his company.
The water area in Twin Lakes Park is as follows:
- West Lake area is approximately 60 acres
- East Lake and “third lake” area are approximately 163 acres
- Total of 223 acres of water area.
The facilities of Twin Lakes Park include:
- Large shelter house
- Miniature golf course
- Picnic areas – plenty of picnic tables and Benches
- Professional league baseball diamond
- Lighted horseshoe courts
- West Lake Boy and Girl Scout Camp
Twin Lakes Timeline
The Paris Beacon offered a year’s subscription to the winner of a contest to name the new dam and reservoir.
In this issue of the Paris Beacon, were pictured sketches of the dam and lake, looking west, the powerhouse and a view looking west from the first bend of the lake. Three large tablets were placed on the face of the dam, listing the Councilman and the Mayor and others who had to do with the construction.
Over 600 persons had signed their names to a petition circulated by Alderman Granville Cretors asking that the new water supply system and surrounding land be named “Alexander Park and Lake” for the late Colonel J. W. S. Alexander, who lost his life in the Civil War and was a pioneer of Paris.
The Paris Council chose “Reservoir” and “Reservoir Park” for the development north of Paris, and 200 shade trees had been ordered to be placed in the new park. The trees were planted on Arbor Day.
Plans were made for the erection of a bandstand, a dancing pavilion, new gravel walks at the west part of Reservoir Park, west of the railroad bridge. During an extended drought several years later this first reservoir with a capacity of 200 million gallons, the chief source of Paris’ water supply, became almost dry and a serious water famine threatened. Then it was that another dam was built and additional water impounded in a second reservoir, (which will be referred to later) to the east of the first reservoir.
Mrs. Amelia Johnson remembers as a child, that she planted many trees in Reservoir Park. The schoolchildren in the late 1800’s, planted trees all over Reservoir Park. Each child placed a glass jar with his name around the roots of the trees. How interesting it would be today to locate some of those glass jars and find out who planted the trees.
East Lake Reservoir was constructed about 1916, with a capacity of about 200 million gallons. It was about this time that the park and lake area became known as Twin Lakes Park.
A dancing pavilion was located on the south bank of West Lake where the first bayou flows into the lake west of the railroad.
Sunday dancing was prohibited at the park.
A 20-mile speed limit was placed on the roads through the park.
The State Game and Fish Commission officially designated the lake as a fish preserve.
The last year for streetcars in Paris. The streetcars used to run down Main Street to the park.
Due to lack of funds, the City of Paris decided to lease a portion of the park, which lies west of the right of way of the CCC & St. L. RR Co., south of the lake, leased for the purpose of maintaining a Boy Scout and Girl Scout Community Camp. The first lease began May 10, 1928, and terminated May 10, 1938. The lease has been extended as the Boy and Girl Scouts are using that area today. The city shall not permit the sale of intoxicating liquor or permit the establishment of any gambling devices.
Commissioner Bridgman moved the passage of a resolution that all automobiles be prohibited from driving on the ice of either or both of the lakes at Twin Lakes Park due to the danger involved. Resolution was adopted.
An ordinance to prohibit the use of powerboats on the East Lake of Twin Lakes was passed.
Back in the depression years of the early thirties, a group of citizens, headed by U. Rae Colson, met with a dual purpose in view — to provide work for the unemployed of that period and to further develop Twin Lakes Park. The original plan was to raise $5000.00. So successful was the meeting that $10,000.00 was subscribed providing work for a force of 75 men during the summer months of one year. Drives and walks were constructed, needed fills made, shrubbery cleaned out, and general cleaning of the park area.
The supervising of the construction of drives and land fills was under the supervision of the city and the Garden Department of the Women’s Club. Landscaping was provided by the Garden Department Committee headed by Miss Kathryn Bishop and Mrs. Paxson Link.
An elaborate American Colonial type curved entrance to Twin Lakes Park was erected at a cost of $6000.00. The expense was borne by Max B. Wilson. The two main pilasters, 18 feet high, on each side of the entrance, numerous smaller pilasters and the brick wall are capped with Indiana limestone. Williamsburg hand wrought lanterns decorate the front of the two main pilasters.
The inscription on the plaque on the left pilaster as you enter the park reads “Twin Lakes Park 1895.”
The inscription on the plaque on the right pilaster as you enter the park reads “This park entrance was erected in 1943 as a gift of Max B. Wilson in memory of his wife Emma and his son Dudley.”
An extreme drought occurred in 1954 with the result that the water supply was almost exhausted. East Lake became dry and the volume of storage in West Lake was reduced to about 6 million gallons.
The southern part of Illinois suffered an unusually severe drought and Paris, along with some other southern Illinois cities, experienced an extreme shortage in water supply. It was necessary to restrict the use of water and, even with rigorous restrictions, the supply was inadequate. In an effort to supplement the lake supply, the city drilled five wells, which were capable of producing about 360.000 gallons of water per day, but the mineral quality of the water was inferior and the use of the wells was abandoned as soon as it was possible.
Winter rains of 1954-55 broke the drought and there was sufficient replenishment of the reservoirs in January and February of 1955 to completely refill West Lake by March 1st and East Lake by March 26, 1955.
The new “third lake” that was completed in 1961 has given assurance that adequate water will be available for Paris.
Statistics show that such a drought as occurred in Paris has a frequency of about once in 70 years, and therefore, it was a rare occurrence. 1954-55 would be called a 95 percent dry year, meaning that the water supply requirements for such a year would be adequate in 95 years out of a hundred and conversely would be less than adequate in only 5 years out of a hundred.
The following is an interesting story about Reservoir Park which was published by the Commercial Club of Paris, Illinois, 1903-1904:
“Reservoir Park, comprising the grounds adjoining the city reservoir, one mile north of the city, is without exception, the finest pleasure resort within a radius of one hundred miles. Although open to the public only a few years, it has already become the Mecca of summer pleasure seekers throughout a large section of Illinois and Indiana.
For a place of rest and recreation, it is unrivaled. The lake, covering an area of sixty-six acres (as of 1904) abounds in black bass and other game fish. Bass weighing as much as six pounds have been caught. An average weight of four pounds is altogether common. Row boats are to be had at a reasonable rental-rate, while a steam-boat and a naphtha launch with a combined capacity of 175 passengers ply the lake on all occasions.
The park grounds, encircling the lake, are of ample extent and furnish an ideal place for camping, parties, and picnics. They are covered with a natural growth of forest, with trees, which are picturesque in the extreme, being interspersed with romantic glades and glens, hills, and ravines, where ferns and flowers grow wild and refreshing mineral springs flow perpetually.
The park is well supplied with swings and merry-go-rounds, dining halls and dancing pavilion, which are available at all times.
Reservoir Park is reached from the city by the C.V.C. railway, and two wagon roads. A street-car line, connecting it with the city, will also be in operation in the near future.
A summer Chautauqua will be held in the park in August 1904, and annually thereafter, some of the best talent in the country having been already engaged.” That is the end of the Paris Commercial Clubs story.”
In West Park, presently the Boy and Girls Scout Camp, between 1910 and 1920, wooden-pegs could be found in some of the trees where the Indian squaws hung their papooses. The Indians were of the Kickapoo tribe. Some of the children of the Means family used to play with the Indian children. In the early days the walking paths were neat, and the woods were clean and well kept. In the beginning, the virgin forest was a beautiful wooded area. At one time in the park, there was a spring and springhouse, with seats and canopy top. There were 2 springs in the northwest part of West Park, one was a clear spring and one that the Indians used. It is said the Indians used the one with mineral water.
Miss Elizabeth Huston, now living in Paris, remembers spending summers in a cottage located on land adjoining the west park (just east of the railroad bridge). She remembers that in the same area Dr. W. A. Buchanan built a beautiful log cabin on a point nearer the lakefront. The Buchanans would from time to time have groups of their friends visit and spend many happy vacations in this cabin. The cabin still stands today, and is used as a private home. Getting back to the Chautauqua again, Miss Huston remembers attending the Chautauqua, which was held in the West Park. Special trains carried passengers from the Paris railway station to the West Park. A picture on the back cover of the Paris Chautauqua program for 1905 shows the disembarking of passengers entering the Chautauqua grounds.
Mr. Emil Taflinger of Paris remembers the early ice business and relates the following information:
“It may be difficult for people of today to think that some of us still living, remember days when there were no electric refrigerators, and that ice used to keep food from spoiling, was obtained from the first lake that furnished sprinkling water to the town of Paris.
One day after school, a group of us went out to the lake, for we had heard they were cutting ice, and we wanted to see it. It was very cold after several nights of sub-zero weather and the ice was real thick and per¬fect to cut. It was frozen solid and clear and it was a good eighteen inches or more thick.
We arrived at the icehouse just as they had chipped a hole in the ice with an axe. It was large enough to place the ice saw, a man was sawing in a straight line, and he did not stop until he went some twenty or more feet. Then he removed the saw, went back to the hole, and sawed another line eighteen inches to one side and he sawed it in a parallel line to the original. Then he sawed it into chunks about three feet long. These were pulled out on the ice and slid over to scaffolding. A hook would descend on a rope and the piece was hoisted to the platform at the top and then lowered into the large elevator like storage house where it was buried in sawdust alongside similar chunks of ice. This kept the air away and the ice would not melt while it was stored. The icehouse was on the north bank across from where the present amusement park now is located. The scaffolding made an ideal place to climb up above the lake and to dive in for a swim. We did that on many occasions.
When summer-time came, the ice wagons began making daily delivery of the ice all over the town. It was a familiar scene to see the wagon being followed by boys and girls who hoped to get small pieces of ice as the large chunk was cut into smaller pieces at each stop. The iceman kept an alert to discover the ice card hanging from a customer’s porch. One side of a card stated 25, and the other three sides had the numerals, 50, 75, and 100. That told him how big a piece of ice to deliver. When he would place his delivery in an icebox on the customer’s porch, or in a kitchen, he would bring his tongs back to hang in their place alongside the scale he used to weigh the ice pieces. He would have to shoo the children away but by the time he got in his wagon, there would be some bold ones hop on for the ride and to save running to the next house. An accident happened when a boy fell and got hurt and city authorities discouraged the practice. They were never entirely successful.
During some winters, there was no extremely cold weather and in those years, only the wealthiest families could afford ice that was shipped in from a distance. People always were glad to have one “cold-snap” as they said, for then they would be able to buy the cheaper home cut ice from our lake.
When the electric refrigerators came along, the Paris Ice Company gradually reached the place where it could not continue.”
Mr. Emil Taflinger also relates this interesting story about the SINKING OF THE LUISITANIA OR THE SHIP THAT WOULD NOT SINK.
“The Fire Works Factory was west of the C. V. and C. Railroad on the north bank across from the Park. An Italian family, experts in their business, ran the going concern for a span of years. They shipped their products to far places, but Paris was one of their best customers. With the band giving a concert each Thursday night during the season, and that being followed with the fire-works was enough to make a gala event to bring thousands of people to the Court House Square. The band played one week on one corner and moved to the other corners consecutively each week for the customers who flocked in for refreshments, to the door that was open on that particular corner. The fireworks displays were magnificent and the Paris Band was the pride of our town.
No better fireworks anywhere, and those who witnessed, still remember.
At picnics and celebrations at the Park, there was usually a display of fireworks. The family always attended to the firing and everything about the performance went “just like clock-work.” It was interesting to watch the man with the torch, as he went about the field to light each fuse at the right time to keep the show going with true professional timing.”
Mr. Taflinger states that he never missed any of the fireworks displays, but there was one that never went according to the advertising. It had been history that the United States was being drawn into THE WAR for the Lusitania had gone down in the Atlantic. Right with perfect timing, it was advertised everywhere that the Lusitania would be sunk by fire works at the Lagoon just west of the dance pavilion at West Park. A structure extended from the bank where thousands watched. It ex¬tended almost over to the other bank of the bayou, not exactly a ship, but certainly a framework of one was there, ready for the bombardment. Giant crackers and ex¬plosives, high and low, were tied everywhere and once the fuse was lighted, there would be no end until the Lusitania would be completely blown to bits and went to the bottom. Blast after blast shook the Lusitania and jarred the earth and every¬thing and everybody on it for a great dis¬tance. The smoke thickened and the bom¬bardment gathered in momentum until it was a dense atmosphere of noise and smoke and the smell of gunpowder. Finally, after the most terrific of the blasts, a small firecracker went “pip” and all was quiet. Like the flag on Old Fort Sumpter, the ship was still there, battered but unsunk!”
Eventually, the Fireworks Factory was destroyed. Mr. Taflinger, as well as many other Paris residents, remembers being awakened by loud explosions one night and after several hours the fireworks factory was blown to bits and burned. It was never rebuilt after that fire. Explosions sounded for many hours during the catastrophe.
For the record, the cost of the Shelter House at Twin Lakes Park was paid by public subscription and named Spicer Shelter. Mr. Ray Spicer was the largest contributor, having donated $5000.00. Prior to his death in 1950, he was President of the Paris Park Board.
A plaque was erected on the Spicer Shelter in 1954, with the in¬scription: SPICER SHELTER DEDICATED 1954
The plaque included the names of the members of the Paris Park Board at that time.
Mr. Arden Pratt, Earl Pratt and Miss Elizabeth Huston of Paris remember visiting a small zoo in the park. The zoo had ostriches, six prairie dogs, goats, raccoons, one big black bear, one small bear and monkeys. The Zoo Manager was C. E. Pier¬son, who was also the Game Warden.
Balloon ascensions were held on the Fourth of July and other holidays from the West Park area. Mr. Carl Stacy of the Paris Park Board remembers the balloon would ascend and the operator then would jump out in a parachute, sometimes he would land in the park and sometimes he would land in the lake.
Miss Elizabeth Huston remembers swimming in the lake with moss floating around and with being covered with leeches and moss. (Where was the Environmental Protection Agency in those days? How did the people survive with so much pollution? Very well)
Mrs. Frank Meehling of Marshall, Illinois, remembers when she was a small girl in the first or second grade at St. Mary’s school in Paris (Mrs. Meehling was born near Redmon in 1898) and she had gone for a surrey ride with a family of a playmate. We were supposed to be riding on the lake bottom. It was hard, dry and cracked, and which lake it was, was undoubtedly Reservoir Park lake bottom. Mr. Paxson Link also remembers riding a horse across the lake bottom a couple of times.