Once upon a time a family drove to a little amusement park in their home state and joined all of the other families and people wanting a day of smiles and laughter. They rode rides and ate hot dogs and cotton candy. What a great memory in the making. Years went by. Families grew and found something else to do. Bigger and better amusement parks opened. Families now saved their money to take the once in a lifetime trip to Disney, Six Flags, or Sea World.
Soon, most of the little amusement parks had to close their doors for various reasons. Some of these lesser known parks had thrilled people for more than a century. Some mom and pop operations were sitting on valuable pieces of real estate. An offer far more than the small profit made yearly with admission tickets made their operations come to a close. For others, a lack of visitors forced some small amusement parks to sadly shut their gates and turn off the lights. And, sadly, the laughter.
I can think of two parks that were close to where I live that are no longer in operation. Both closed to make way for a new road. One was Rock Springs Park in Chester, West Virginia. The other one was a more contemporary park called White Swan. White Swan closed to make way for the new road to the enlarged Pittsburgh Airport. Defunct.
1. Rock Springs Park- Chester, West Virginia. This park opened in 1897 and closed after its final owner died in 1970. It sat vacant for several years until the state of West Virginia bought the property for its re-routing of a main road. My grandmother used to talk about this park and we visited it often when I was quite young. And now it is just a memory. It was a beautiful park.
2. White Swan Park-Near the Pittsburgh airport- Operated between 1955-1989. It was a small roadside kiddie amusement park that had a roller coaster that jerked at each turn. I do remember that.
But, although dismantling and tearing down buildings and erasing its past is sad, the abandoned and neglected amusement parks are creepy and dismal. Vines and trees are reclaiming the space once used to bring joy to all those who entered its gates. Now, rust and rotten wood are all that is visable. The echoes of laughter are gone. The only thing that remains is an eery, ominous sight, creepy really. And quite sad.
Chippewa Lake Amusement Park-Ohio
Rocky Point-Rhode Island
There are many amusement parks that have been left to decay with time. Bulldozers have left these grounds alone for one reason or another. And none of them compare to the Six Flags Amusement Park in New Orleans.
We all witnessed the horror of what hurricane Katrina did to the Gulf area. It wasn’t until some time later that I saw pictures of Six Flags. I thought maybe, just maybe, as the water receded, the park would be able to re-open. I was wrong. I have read several trip reports from people who have sneaked inside the locked gates to take photos of its untimely demise. How sad.
Flooded after Katrina
photos via lovethesepics.com
Six Flags New Orleans is currently owned by the city of New Orleans. Plans were announced this past March to build an outlet mall in its place.
Another ill-fated amusement park was Heritage USA. You remember that cry-baby evangelist Jim Bakker and his mascara infused wife, Tammy, right? Well, Jim opened a water park and theme park where you would be closer to God and spend money on rides. Problem was, old Jim sold more partnerships than there were rooms in one of the towers. Oh, he had other problems as well. And Heritage USA closed.
Another abandoned amusement park is located in Wichita, Kansas. Joyland closed and was abandoned in 2006. It would be sad to have to drive by this every day.
In the end, I would say it is better to bulldoze a closed amusement park to make way for a road or another commercial venture than watching it decay year after year. To watch the grass grow high, and graffiti overtake a once brightly painted building would be painful, especially if youth was spent at these parks.
The thrill is gone.
The eery echoes of laughter remain, however, and memories do linger on. So, the next time you visit your favorite amusement park, make sure you take a lot of pictures of your family enjoying themselves. Because, you just never know. You may arrive one summer to find this-
Related blog posts- http://rockspringspark.blogspot.com A fantastic site from Joseph Comm, who has authored a book on the subject