Sylvania Then & Now – Burnham Park

Gayleen Gindy

The 1982 Apple Festival is held­­ in the gazebo. Those who have a certain nostalgic love for the old gazebo in Burnham Park need to go there soon and get a photo of it, as plans are being made to remove it from the property to update the park.

Burnham Park was established in 1911 when Mrs. Celestia Phillips-Pomroy-Burnham, in her Last Will and Testament, willed to “the citizens of the Village of Sylvania” this land for park purposes.

Over the years history has credited Sylvania resident Henry Burnham with donating the property for this park, but the true facts prove that it was his second wife, Celestia, who donated this park property. Celestia’s grandparents Paul and Fanny Hawes purchased the property in 1837, then it was willed to her mother, Susan Hawes-Phillips, in 1841. Then, in 1873, Celestia inherited all of the park property east to include Phillips Avenue from Erie Street south to Maplewood and then south to Monroe Street and east to Judi Young Lane.

1926 – Photo by Tom Little

So, for the first time in Sylvania’s history, we need to set the record straight and thank Mrs. Burnham for donating this property to us.

From 1911 until 1916 the donated park property sat vacant. In 1916 Sylvania’s first water tower and two pump houses were constructed along the east property line. By 1924 the citizens approved a bond issue for park purposes. At this same time Prohibition was in full force, the time when alcohol was outlawed, and the Sylvania Mayor, Clifford Peck, was credited with being so strict on his liquor law enforcement that he made Sylvania rich. During these years he could handle liquor cases throughout the entire county, and he would bring the violators in front of his “Mayor’s Court.” This made the Sylvania community so much money in fines that they were able to purchase playground equipment, build a pool, a bathhouse and build a bandstand by 1926. Peck, years later, said that it was the “bootleggers” throughout the county that paid for Sylvania’s paved streets and Burnham Park improvements during the prohibition years.

In reading through the Sylvania newspapers over the years these recreational improvements at the park were enjoyed by all for many years to come. The same pool built in 1926 was used until 1962 when it was condemned. By 1968 a new pool and bathhouse replaced the original pool.

Over the years local band members gathered weekly at the bandstand to give the residents a concert all summer long. Everyone brought their chairs to the park and enjoyed several hours of relaxation into the night. A 1927 article reported that members of the Sylvania Band made an informal request to village council for a roof and screens on the bandstand in Burnham Park, where it was reported that band concerts were held weekly. The pool was also well used, especially during those Depression years when the people of Sylvania didn’t have extra money for entertainment. The local newspaper weekly reported on the hundreds of people using the pool during the summer months.


The pool in this park was always referred to as Burnham Park Pool until tragedy hit in 1968. The pool was being completely replaced and two City of Sylvania workers were installing the drainage tiles in preparation, when a ten foot wall of earth collapsed on them. Robert Currier received serious injuries, and survived, but 41-year old William Plummer, who was in a bending position when the wall caved in, was killed. The pool was renamed in his honor when the new pool opened.

After the water tower, two pump houses, pool, bathhouse and bandstand were constructed the following additional improvements are recorded for Burnham Park and Plummer Pool:

2020 bandstand gazebo

1927 – Two concrete tennis courts, ornamental lights around pool for night swimming;
1929 – A Burnham Memorial water fountain was built in the park to honor Henry Burnham.
1930 – A metal shed was added to the property;
1931 – The swimming pool is drained, cleaned and refilled every Wednesday in order to keep it clean;
1935 – Public seating, a seven foot slide, four teeter-totters, a Merry-Go-Round, an outside oven, and a bird bath are added. Along with showers in the boys and girls dressing rooms;
1936 – The first safety guards are hired at the pool;
1938 – The water softening plant was constructed in Burnham Park on the Maplewood Avenue side. The south pump house was demolished and a new pump was installed inside the new building. The 1916 pump house on the northeast corner of the park would remain.
1943 – Because of major leaks in the pool extensive repairs are made;
1946 – The Burnham Memorial Fountain was removed from the park because it was falling apart.
1947 – A chain-linked fence is installed around the pool for the first time;
1954 – The pool was in serious condition. Major repairs are made;
1956 – The pool is still being completely drained every Wednesday, cleaned and refilled;
1962 – Because of filter trouble, general deterioration and lack of funds for repairs to the pool, they were forced to close the pool at this time;
1966 – A new 500,000 gallon elevated water tank was built in the park;
1968 – The old pool and bathhouse were completely removed and a new 40 x 70 foot rectangle pool and kiddie pool were built, and a new bathhouse. William Plummer is killed during the pool construction. The pool is named in his honor;
1970 – Addition to bathhouse for concession sales;
1971 – An open-air shelter house was built in the park. A tot lot for young children is added;
1976 – A tall Bi-Centennial monument was placed at the point created by Maplewood Avenue and Erie Street, and marked the time-capsule that was buried there in 1977. The time-capsule is buried with mementos donated by area residents and included many bi-centennial items. To be opened in 50 years, now just five years away;
1981 – Carpentry Class at Southview High School built a new gazebo on the old bandstand foundation. The city purchased the lumber and materials. (This still exists today in 2022). New fencing was installed around the Tot Lot and a thick circle pad was added in the center of the park with new park benches donated by the chamber, flowering crab trees from the Welcome Wagon and a new drinking fountain from The Hope Village.
1982 – A new water fountain was dedicated in the middle of the park. All built by volunteers;
1984 – Shuffleboards are added;
1996 – The 1968 pool and kiddie pool were completely removed, and a new “L” shaped pool with two different waterfalls, were dedicated. Existing bathhouse was remodeled. Arbors are added around pool;
1999 – A second gazebo is added at the east property line;
2000 – A Peace Cairn was dedicated in the park in celebration of the new century. A time capsule was placed in the Cairn – scheduled to be opened in 2050;
2002 – Old playground equipment was removed and replaced with a new surface and playground equipment which complied with the ADA.
2022 – Very preliminary plans are being made to make changes to the park, but keeping it as a “passive park.”

One thought on “Sylvania Then & Now – Burnham Park

  1. Thank you so much for posting the history of this amazing park in the downtown Sylvania region. I was sad to learn that the gazebo will be removed within the next year. I would love to see the Gazebo stay and bring back some of the fun events that surrounded the Gazebo and the park. I have fond memories of listening to music in the park and watching the bands play in the Gazebo. I would love to have the Sylvania younger generations experience that type of community gathering! Thanks again for this article. It brought back some fun memories!

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