: This photograph shows a group of sailboats cruising around Buckeye Lake in Licking County, ca. 1960s or 1970s.
Buckeye Lake began as a small pond that Ohio's American Indians called “Big Swamp” or “Big Pond.” In the 1820s, the state of Ohio developed it as a water source for the Licking Summit of the Ohio and Erie Canal, and engineers dammed the north and west sides of the swamp. This part of the canal project was completed in 1830.
After the summit level of the canal became inactive in the 1890s, the State developed Licking Summit Reservoir (Buckeye Lake) for recreation. The Columbus, Buckeye Lake, and Newark Traction Company developed an "electric park" here, bringing in excursionists on inter-urban cars between 1904 and 1929 and creating one of the region's most popular resorts. Hotels and summer cottages proliferated on leased ground.
The Great Depression changed the environment of Buckeye Lake significantly. The rail line went out of business, which meant that many people could no longer afford to travel to the park. A number of families began to live in their summer cottages year-round because they could no longer afford their more expensive homes in the cities. The amusement park continued to operate during this era, constantly working to add features that would attract more visitors, such as a roller coaster, a roller skating rink, a nightclub, and the Crystal Ballroom and Pool. The ballroom attracted a number of famous performers, including Guy Lombardo, Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, and Duke Ellington, among others. Grand entertainments continued throughout the 1940s, and the amusement park attracted as many as fifty thousand people each day.
In 1949 the state of Ohio designated Buckeye Lake as the first state park. The amusement park began to decline in popularity by the late 1950s and continued to deteriorate in the 1960s. The crowds that had once flocked to the park had disappeared, and buildings were torn down one by one.
Visitors to Buckeye Lake today can find only one remaining remnant of the old Buckeye Lake Amusement Park, a fountain that is located at the Buckeye Lake State Park's North Shore.
The lake has 3,800 acres of water, 35 miles of shoreline, and twenty islands. Today the lake area has become the water recreation center of central Ohio, providing boating, swimming, fishing, water skiing, golfing, picnicking, and ice sports. The lake extends into three counties: Fairfield, Licking and Perry.
View on Ohio Memory.
: AL06653 Subjects
: Sailboats; Sailing; Lakes & ponds; Buckeye Lake State Park (Ohio); Buckeye Lake (Ohio)--History; State parks & reserves; Amusement parks Places
: Buckeye Lake (Ohio); Licking County (Ohio)