Where men wearing hard hats now work at the Port of Muskogee, children used to look at the caged bears, teens rode the rollercoaster and families played.

The area was Hyde Park.

“It was kind of like a miniature Disneyland,” said Scott Robinson, director of the Port of Muskogee. ‘There were bears in cages. There were gorillas in cages. There were swimming beaches. It was like Coney Island.

“It was a big amusement park for this region at that time. I joke with people that it still is, the toys have changed,” Robinson said.

Hyde Park began before statehood. Grant Foreman, in his “Muskogee, Biography of an Oklahoma Town,” wrote that Muskogee’s fair was being revived and advertisements touted “a great new State Fair at Beautiful Hyde park on the Arkansas River.”

The park included manicured gardens that had been laid out by G.W. Palmer, who later became Muskogee’s city park superintendent.

The park was developed by the owners of the Muskogee Electric Traction Co., the local street car company. They began operation in 1905.

The park was built so that those using the street cars would have another destination they could go to by street car. The fare for the five-mile trip from downtown to the park was 10 cents, according to Phoenix reports.

In his “Turning Back the Clock” column for the Phoenix, C.W. “Dub” West reported that “as many as 5,000 persons rode the cars to the park on special occasions, as it was “the place to go.”

Hyde Park also developed as a community over the years. There was a school, several houses, a church, a small store and the Hyde Park Cannery.

The school closed about 1913 after some rowdy students “ran off” the principal, West reported. The students were transferred to Harris-Jobe Elementary.

The amusement park closed in about 1925 or 1926, West wrote.

Josephine Jones, a resident of the area for many years, said in a 1996 Phoenix interview that her family had to move out once because of a flood. There was four feet of water in the house.

“We had to watch the river pretty close before the dams came in,” she said.

Flooding wasn’t Hyde Park’s only enemy over the years.

A tornado that roared through Muskogee on April 12, 1945, destroyed 50 homes and 100 barns and the Hyde Park Cannery.

The Port of Muskogee has acquired most of the property in the old Hyde Park area and has plans to buy up more parcels as they become available, erasing the last signs that the area was ever more than an industrial site.

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