You are looking out across Ripley Square. Over a hundred years ago, it was described as one of the most beautiful miniature parks on the Santa Fe railroad system. But it wasn’t always so.
In eighteen-ninety-eight, this area was comprised of unsightly shacks and dumps, right in the heart of the city. It did not offer a good first impression on visitors or folks just passing through.
The newly elected mayor of Marceline, Walter Cash, early on began a campaign for civic improvement. Bonds in the sum of five-thousand dollars were approved. Part of the park property was purchased by the city and cleaned up. The president of the Santa Fe railroad, E. P. Ripley, donated 10 lots owned by the railroad on which stood a large grain elevator.
The grain elevator was removed at no cost to the city, the plot was graded, trees planted, and walkways built. Fountains were installed and a beautiful lake constructed. It was named Ripley Square, and by nineteen-oh-two it had become a showcase for the city of Marceline.
In the early days, the park pond was twice the size it is now. There were swans living there, and canoes to rent. It is said that in the summer time, many a young person would rent a canoe and take their sweetheart for a ride. It is also said that many a young person received their first kiss or slap at the park pond. Walt and his brother Roy along with their friends would go skating at the pond in the winter.
Looking off towards Main Street, you can see the Gazebo. There has been a gazebo on that very spot since the park was built. Old-timers talk of big bands playing there on Saturday nights during summer months. On Sunday afternoons, Elias Disney and his family would hitch up the wagon and come into town to attend band concerts at the gazebo. Flora Disney would spread a quilt and the family would spend the afternoon visiting friends and listening to music. Sometimes Elias would join the concert and play his fiddle. The current gazebo was constructed for the city’s centennial celebration in Nineteen-Eighty-Eight. The columns came from an early-Nineteen-hundreds house here in Marceline.
Just to the right of the Gazebo, stands the Veterans Memorial dedicated on July 4, Nineteen-Ninety-two. It honors those who served from Marceline and the nearby area.
The bridge you are standing on was built by Hurtt Fabricating in two-thousand-and-fifteen. It is designed to be reminiscent of the iron fence surrounding the Disneyland train station.
Since its beginning, Ripley Square has been been used for carnivals, celebrations, picnics, or just a stroll in the cool evenings. It has always been here for Marceline.