By Brooklynn Kelley
“Learning about the history of Tuhey Pool and the history of the Muncie community as a whole would help people want to stay here and live here longer.”A concerned citizen who has lived through and witnessed a lot of history at Tuhey Park stated this when discussing the importance of acknowledging historical moments and remembering the past in order to fuel the future of the park.
In the 1870s, what is now Tuhey Park, made up a small portion of Hackley Reserve. This flood-prone and undeveloped land was owned by John Marsh, a Muncie banker.1
In 1893, a suburb called Riverside was built west of this land.
In 1907, Riverside citizens petitioned the Muncie city council to condemn the small rundown area that was on the current Tuhey Park property, and suggested a park be built across from the river.
Riverside City built a small park in the southwest corner of what is now Tuhey Park.
In the 1920s, a baseball diamond was added to the park.
Muncie annexed Riverside City in 1919 and in the 1920s, the park became owned by the city of Muncie.
Edward Tuhey was a two-term Muncie mayor from 1899-1902 and 1910-1914. He died in 1933. Muncie mayor George Dale convinced the park board to rename the park (formerly known as Riverside Park, Riverside City Park, Northside Park, and Northside Ball Diamonds) after Tuhey in recognition of his efforts during his second term as Mayor. Tuhey had added Heekin as a city park and acquired the final addition of McCulloch Park.
In 1934, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration paid to build a public pool in Tuhey Park, which opened on July 15, 1934. Money and personnel from the Work Progress Administration built the rest of the park in the mid-1930s.
In the 1940s, the Army Corps of Engineers built the Muncie Northwest Levee System, and the flooding of the river and park stopped.
In the 1940-50s, although there are not written documents specifically calling for segregation, Black citizens were de facto not allowed to go to certain places, one of which was Tuhey Pool.
On June 9, 1956, Roy C. Buley, director of the Madison Street YMCA, led several Black Muncie community members to swim at Tuhey. After this, Mayor H. Arthur Tuhey (son of Edward Tuhey), declared all city pools, including Tuhey Pool, integrated, referring to the 1954 Supreme Court case, Brown V. Board of Education.
In December of 1958, the idea of an ice rink is brought to the city by the Superintendent of City Parks, Harold Collins. The ice rink was made of ice pond liner that was frozen over and the softball diamond’s stadium lighting allowed the rink to be open until 10 p.m. Benches were placed around the rink so on-lookers could watch and skaters could comfortably put on their skates.2
On Monday, January 5, 1959, the ice rink is opened for the first time, bringing a crowd of over 150 people.3 The Park Board supplied employees to work at the rink, and a small bonfire in the park to create a gathering place for those who got too chilly on the ice.4
In January of 1960, a semi-permanent foundation was laid for the ice rink that would be safer and longer lasting than the previous model.5
In 1962, the Muncie municipal rose garden was planted, containing 44 rose bushes.6 The flowers were donated along with the time of those who participated in the plantings, and who cared and provided the upkeep for the garden.7
In April of 1967, Mayor John V. Hampton discussed building a youth center at Tuhey Park for outdoor youth programs.8 This idea never made it to the park board, as funding for this project was unavailable at this time.
In 1969, Tuhey Park added a 40-foot tall, 120-foot-long slide to the park’s renovation plans.9 This caused a lot of uproar within community members because this large slide would “extend far above the tips of our houses” as one community member stated at a Park Board meeting.10 This slide was never built.
In 1973, the pool was closed by the order of the park board due to its inability to generate enough revenue to pay utility bills.1
In 1977, the Muncie Park Board approved Tuhey Pool to be open for “Night Swimming” from 7-10 p.m.11
In 1980, the city of Muncie requested federal funding to help them renovate the pool.12
In 1982, Tuhey Pool was reopened after several years of being closed due to disrepair.
In 1983, the Muncie Park Board decided to remove the baseball diamonds and create a SportsPlex that would be a better home to these facilities. Today, the Muncie Sportsplex is one of the best sports facilities in the Midwest.13
In 1991, the River Garden was designed and planted in the ovular lawn on the east side of Tuhey Park.7 This project included the planting of the trees, shrubs, and tall grasses14 along with the development of sidewalks that go throughout the garden.15
In June of 1991, Tuhey Pool closed for two weeks due to a worn circulating pump. This pump had caused Tuhey Pool to close a month prior to this event as well.12
In 2008, the skate park was closed. After this, the four tennis courts and the baseball diamond were removed.1
In 2011, Tuhey Park and Pool received much needed renovations including the building of Tuhey Towers by a local playground company—American Playground Company in Anderson, Indiana.16
In 2016, an Indiana Bison-Tennial bison statue was placed in the center of the ovular lawn of the River Garden on the northeast end of Tuhey Park in celebration of Indiana’s 1816 statehood. It was named Neolin, the Lenape word for “Enlightened One” in honor of Muncie’s Native American heritage. It depicts a Lenape Native American design that was created by artist Denise King.17
At a Park Board meeting on October 20, 2020, the idea for the Muncie YMCA to build at Tuhey Park was first proposed. This caused a lot of conflict between community members and fueled a “Save Tuhey” movement. This led to the creation of petitions, and community members writing to their local representatives to voice their opinions.18
In March of 2021, the City of Muncie officially stated that the YMCA would not be building on Tuhey Park’s land.18
What does this history say about public space in Muncie?
Throughout the years, Tuhey Park has changed dramatically. The facilities, equipment, and natural green spaces have all undergone major transformations from the 1870s until 2021. These changes within the park have caused the use of the public space to also be transformed. This relationship between the changing park facilities and equipment to the uses of the park shows how public spaces are utilized in Muncie. As times change, community members needs change.19 A city that was once primarily young families, switched to mainly middle-aged parents with teenage children. This transition proved vital to the updates in Tuhey Park. As the children in the community got older, their needs changed, which meant that in order to keep Tuhey Park as a local gathering place, it was important to update their facilities. This meant adding an ice rink that the townspeople expressed interest in, desegregating the pool so everyone in the community felt welcome, and adding Tuhey Towers to invite families with young children to come to Muncie to plant their families and expand the community. The ever-changing use of Tuhey Park in Muncie shows that community members are also ever-changing. What may work for one decade—one generation on Muncie citizens—may not be ideal for the next. This is proven repeatedly when looking at Tuhey Park’s history. When talking to Muncie community members, one stated,
This quote, although at first glance seems to be negative, was said in a very hopeful and positive tone of voice. The woman who stated this wholeheartedly believed that the Muncie parks were wonderful and had huge potential to bring more people into the City of Muncie—especially Tuhey Park because it is centralized and very convenient. This quote helps to focus the listener’s attention on the future. This is what the history of Muncie does as well—it shows the citizens of Muncie what worked and what didn’t work. This proves vital when looking to upgrade public space.
The history of Tuhey Park also encapsulates the need for funding within the Muncie Parks system and public spaces in Muncie. This park has repeatedly needed upgrades, renovations, and beautification because of the high usage, but because of the low funding, it was often unable to provide the much-needed upkeep that community members needed. The history of this lack of funding shows the members of this community the need for community-wide help keeping this park in pristine condition—whether that be by taking care of it when using the park property, providing donations to support this beloved community green space, or volunteering time to meet the needs of the community members19. Public spaces are able to be kept open to the public when they have proper funding, but when these funds are lacking, it is hard to provide community members with the experiences that they want. Because Tuhey Park is a public space, the public needs to take better care of it, or it will never reach their expectations and needs. Throughout the history of Tuhey Park, several people have donated financially or their time and energy, and Tuhey Park has been improved because of it.
1Flook, Chris. “Bygone Muncie: Take a Look at the History of Tuhey Park.” The Star Press. Muncie Star Press, December 22, 2020. https://www.thestarpress.com/story/news/local/2020/12/10/tuhey-park-muncie-indiana-history-ymca/6499247002/.
2“Unload Portable Ice Pond Liner.” The Star Press [Muncie], 25 Dec 1958.
3“Ice Skating at Tuhey Park a Reality, Maybe.” The Star Press [Muncie], 3 Jan 1959.
4“Ice Skaters at Tuhey Park Brave Cold.” The Star Press [Muncie], 6 Jan 1959.
5“Form Rim for Tuhey Skating Rink.” The Star Press [Muncie], 19 Jan 1960.
6“Rose Garden Started at Tuhey Park Site.” The Star Press [Muncie], 20 May 1962.
7Millard, Nancy. “She Enhances the Environment.” The Star Press [Muncie], 31 July 1994.
8“Youth Center is Considered for Tuhey Park Area.” The Star Press [Muncie], 27 Apr 1967.
9“Tuhey Park Slide Addition Announcement.” Youtube, uploaded by Ball State University Libraries. 1 June 1969.
10“Muncie Park Board Meeting and interview.” Youtube, uploaded by Ball State University Libraries. 7 June 1969.
11“Night Swimming Set for Tuhey.” The Star Press [Muncie], 12 July 1977.
12Yencer, Rick. “Pump Problem Closes Tuhey Pool.” The Star Press [Muncie], 19 Jun 1991.
13Muncie Parks Department, Recovery Action Plan (1983). Arch GV 191 42 I6 M86.
14Singer, Carol. “Tuhey Park Beautification: Community Foundation Has Matching Funding Challenge.” The Star Press [Muncie], 16 Dec 1990.
15“Bids Get Ball Rolling for New River Garden.” The Star Press [Muncie], 6 Mar 1991.
16Vincent, Karen. “American Playground and Tuhey Towers.” Minnetrista. Minnetrista Museum and Gardens. 14 Sept 2014.
17“Bison-tennial.” Muncie Delaware County Visitor’s Center. Visit Muncie. Accessed on 28 Nov 2021.
18“Save Tuhey.” Friends of Tuhey. Save Tuhey. Accessed on 28 Nov 2021.
19Austin, Glenn, Mitch J. Duncan, and Tanya Bell. 2021. “Codesigning Parks for Increasing Park Visits and Physical Activity in a Low-Socioeconomic Community: The Active By Community Design Experience.” Health Promotion Practice 22 (3): 338–48.
20Low, S. M., Taplin, D., & Scheld, S. (2005). Rethinking urban parks: Public space & cultural diversity. Austin: University of Texas Press.
21Jacobs, J. (1961). The death and life of great American cities: The uses of neighborhood parks. Random House Publishing.