Wellston & Jackson Belt Railroad train at Lake Alma
Bridge going out to the island at Lake Alma
Lake Alma located on the east side of St. Rt. 349 north of Wellston was conceived in the fall of 1901 by Charles Ketterer Davis, a wealthy coal operator. He named the lake in honor of his wife. Initially the lake was referred to as "Alma Lake" and "Davis Island Park." Plans called for about a hundered acres of land to be covered with water by building a dam 1,500 feet long and twenty feet high across Raccoon Creek. A driveway was to be constructed a 1 3/4 mile long around the lake. In the middle of the reservoir was an island contain about 25 acres. A bridge was built to connect the island to the roadway. The Hocking Valley Railroad used by the Jackson-Wellston Belt Railroad was extended along the west side of the roadway to Hamden to carry passengers to the lake resort. The Hocking Valley Railroad offered a one-dollar round trip fare from Columbus on Sundays. Income was to be generated by sale of water to Wellston, the sale of ice that would be cut in the winter from the lake and gate receipts.
The "Alma Lake Park" was opened on Saturday, June 27, 1903 but because of the rain the crowd was limited. Sunday, a special train of three coaches was kept busy transporting passengers to and from the resort. Crossing the bridge to the island, a visitor was able to view thirty-two kinds of trees and a variety of wild flowers. There was also rustic benches and swings. It was estimated 3,000 people could find seats in the shade. Three steel towers with some twenty arc lights lighted the area at night. A dancing pavilion 50 x 85 feet provided a dance floor on the upper level and food could be obtained on the lower floor. Below the dance pavilion was located a carousal or merry-go-around. A summer open-air theater provided a seating capacity of 1800. To the south of the theater was a bowling alley 30 x90 feet with four alleys and a seating capacity of 500. On the southwestern shore of the island was a boat house with initially twenty six row boats, two or three gasoline launches, including Davis" Charles K" and a sail boat. There was also "the chute" a forty five degree angle surface along which small cars with passengers were sent down and out into the surface of the water.
There was a walking path, paved with crushed cinders, three feet above the water level all the way around the island. Across from the island on the eastern shore was the site of the bathing beach. The natural sod had been removed from the bottom of the lake and replaced with gravel. Bath house for changing were also located on the shore. The depth of the water of gradual requiring bathers to go out as much as a 100 feet before reaching a depth of four feet.
Mounting personnel problems caused Mr.. Davis to abandon the Park in 1910. The lake with its island was purchased by the city of Wellston in 1926 for a municipal water supply. The city of Wellston leased the property to the Division of Conservation, the predecessor of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, in 1931 for 99 years. Still under a long-term lease, Lake Alma was designated as one of Ohio’s state parks in 1950.
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