It used to be the shizznit, but is still pretty darn cool these days if you ask me.
The Epworth Association was formed in 1897 with ties to the Methodist Church and patterned after the program and meeting grounds at Lake Chautauqua, New York. A large area southwest of Lincoln, Nebraska, along Salt Creek was purchased and Epworth Lake was dredged near its center and filled by the creek. Buildings erected included a dormitory, hotel, four restaurants, post office, an amphitheater seating 500, and a huge, roofed, open-sided amphitheater which seated between 2,500 and 3,000 people. Many small cabins and 857 wooden, raised tent bases were also built to accommodate vacationing families. The park could provide accommodations for 2,500 and by 1910-11 it was in full swing.
The Burlington Railroad built a spur line from Lincoln to the park offering summer specials. Because evening programs and Chautauqua were popular, it was common for 25 railroad cars to wait outside the gates to return attendees to Lincoln after the shows. Daily admission was 25 cents or an 8-day pass for $1. Speakers included Booker T. Washington, Enrico Caruso, Theodore Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan, and Howard Taft. During the summer daily attendance ran from 2,000 – 2,500. With the advent of the automobile and the ability of city dwellers to go anywhere, in 1930, only 13,682 admissions were recorded for the entire year. In 1935 torrential rains nearly destroyed the camp grounds and in 1940 the Epworth League moved its programs to Bethany Park.
In about 1966 the land was willed to the City of Lincoln and became Wilderness Park. An unmarked reconstructed arched entrance which was the gateway to Epworth Park stands on the south side of 1st and Calvert Streets.