Phillip Matter moved at an early age from Pennsylvania to Marion. According to his grandson, Bob Matter, “His primary interest was to own farms.” Matter owned about six farms in and around Marion. In addition to farming, Matter was involved in banking and construction. He owned a construction company which built several brick streets in Marion. Additionally, he organized the Marion State Bank, and was a partner in a Hartford City bank (Kingery).
Beginnings of Matter Park
Donation of the Site
The Next White City?
River Road Entrance
Until 1934 there were only two ways to get to Matter Park. “One of these was along the main street and the route of the principle state highway through Marion. The other took in part of a state road and a county road with some hills and sharp curves.” In 1934, however, the riverfront roadway that would come to be known as River Road was finished under the Federal Works Program. River Road stretched four thousand feet, from the residential area northward along the west bank of the river towards Matter Park.
The plans for River Road were drawn up in 1921 by L.V. Sheridan, Consultant of the Indiana Planning Board, at the request of Marion’s City Plan Commission with Henry L. Erlewine as Chairman. Erlewine requested a plan for a system of roads to connect the city of Marion to Matter Park by both banks of the river. Due to a lack of funds, the plans for the road system were not put into action. The plans were given another chance at being carried out by the government’s work relief program, which provided free labor to the city in order to build the road. The project began in December of 1933 with between one hundred and fifty and two hundred workers, beginning at the edge of the city and working their way to the park. The workers used a forty-foot pile of sand and stone to fill in the hills over which the road was to run. They used many wheelbarrows and 18 trucks to remove approximately thirty thousand cubic yards of earth. The road was finished in eight months, and was completed entirely by the laborers provided by the CWA and its successor, the FERA. The City only paid for the maintenance of some trucks, top gravel, and six culverts. Plans were then made to cover the roadway with blacktop or another, similar material (Oatis).
Matter Park Attractions
However, as a result of poor maintenance and a lack of funds many of the attractions of the park fell into disrepair, and had to be removed.
In the following years Matter Park’s appeal began to diminish. The zoo had been shut down, the pool had been demolished, the rides had all been removed, and the bandshell was falling into disrepair. There was neither enough money nor time to maintain the park in the way it would need to be maintained to keep it in the condition it was in during its prime. By the mid-1980’s, the central attraction of Matter Park was the cluster of softball diamonds. Matter Park was still the primary park in Marion, but it was not the same as it had been in earlier years (Smith 1).
Steps Toward Renewal
Matter Park is beginning to return to the place it was in its heyday, a place where a family can go for a weekend outing, or one can go to escape the monotony of everyday life. There are also an increasing number of annual events and festivals taking place at Matter Park during the summer months. The end of June signifies the annual car show, Crusin’ in the Park. The fourth of July ushers in the beginning of Riverfest, a festival a raft race and a fishing contest, the Ethnic/International Festival is also held on the fourth of July, this celebration of diversity enables the community to learn about the different cultural groups that live in Grant County, the fourth of July celebration ends with a concert by the Marion Philharmonic Orchestra and a fireworks display. A recent addition to the park is the Riverwalk, a paved path for walkers, joggers, rollerbladers, and bikers that runs from downtown Marion to the center of Matter Park. The park also has several programs for children from tenths lessons to a summer playground program for children from ages five to twelve (Smith 4).
Matter Park came from a very simple beginning to being one of the most innovative parks in the state. However, after many years of neglect, the park diminished to not much more than a large open field with several softball diamonds. Now, through great community involvement, Matter Park is beginning to regain its past glory. The parks department is beginning to start programs through the park to bring the city of Marion together and instill a sense of community.
- Allen, Glen: “A Touch of Nostalgia” Chronicle-Tribune Magazine, December 7, 19?? Barnes, Amy J.: “Council Oks park pool removal”. Chronicle-Tribune, May 2, 1990.
- Barnes, Amy J.: “Pull Plug at Matter Park pool, says Slattengren”. Chronicle-Tribune, January 7, 1990.
- Clime, Mike: Title Unknown. Chronicle-Tribune, Date Unknown.
- Kingery, Tammy: “Matter Park: 100 years of memories”. Chronicle-Tribune, Date Unknown.
- Oatis, William Nathan: “The River Front Boulevard at Marion”. The American City, September, 1936.
- Smith, Sherie: “Parks: A look at Marion’s recreation facilities”. Chronicle-Tribune Magazine, June 23, 1985.
- Smith, Sherie: “Pool sinks into city’s history: 60-year-old Matter Park Pool has seen Its last summer”. Chronicle-Tribune, June 26, 1990.
- Smith, Sherie: “Sunday in the park: Circa 1900”. Chronicle-Tribune, Date Unknown.
- Smith, Sherie: “There’s something here for everyone”. Chronicle-Tribune, May 2, 1999.
- Author Unknown: “River, zoo, parks, pools make fun for the kids”. Publication Unknown, Date Unknown.
- Author Unknown: “Scenic Spots”. A Century of Development, Date Unknown.
- Author Unknown: “White City out of Matter Park”. Marion Leader, June 13, 1906.
This article was written by Jared Eib and submitted on January 9, 2002 for Mr. Lakes' and Mr. Munn's class.