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Roots Revealed Blog




The End of the Ride

Posted: 9/11/2013
Posted By: Judith MacKeigan


Image courtesy of Cleveland State University Cleveland Memory Project

Full disclosure . . . this little girl on the miniature turnpike ride at Euclid Beach in 1964 is NOT me, but it could have been.  Yes I am old enough to remember summers at Euclid Beach before it closed in 1969.  Now that Cleveland Metroparks has acquired the old Euclid Beach land, I have been doing some research into several defunct amusement parks whose land is now part of, or adjacent to one of our reservations.

Many of our readers will remember the mid to late 20th century fun at these parks, but the beginnings of the American style amusement parks go back to the late 19th century. Early parks were often owned or promoted by street car companies to encourage riders to ride their cars further afield than local businesses and homes.  Without the street cars, and later the automobile, these parks would not have become so popular.

What could you do at an early amusement park?  You could listen to a band concert or join in the dancing at huge pavilions designed to hold hundreds of guests.  Merry-go-rounds, Ferris Wheels and Scenic Railways (later known as roller coasters) were in existence as early as 1890. Fun houses and penny arcades offered their diversions, too.  Large roller rinks were as popular as the dance pavilions.  “Exotic” animals, ethnic villages, (complete with “natives”) provided the pre-movies, pre-TV, pre-internet crowds with glimpses of other cultures and lands. (Although, sadly, they often perpetrated stereotypes and xenophobia)

New inventions such as the phonograph, moving pictures and electric lights were highlighted and promoted.  And, the rides themselves became ever more intricate, larger, faster and higher as technology advanced. On the flip side, natural elements such as rivers, creeks and lakes (manmade or natural) provided the same chance to relax and enjoy nature as we do in our parks today.

Euclid Beach was one of the best known and longest running of these Cleveland area amusement parks.  Owned and operated by the Humphrey family from 1901-1969 they pioneered several ideas in amusement parks.  Admission was free, guests purchased tickets for individual rides, allowing those who had no desire to spin around or plummet up and down to accompany family and friends and enjoy other activities.  An important aspect of Euclid Beach was the prohibition of any type of alcohol.  This was a change from the other, earlier parks.  Unfortunately, segregation was also a policy at Euclid Beach.  African-Americans were admitted, but banned from some of the facilities, and the dance pavilion was partitioned.  This situation led to protests and conflict over the years.


Image courtesy of Cleveland State University Cleveland Memory Project

On the west side of Cleveland, Puritas Springs Park was a smaller park than Euclid Beach, but was a popular choice for locals. The park itself was created by the Gooding family in 1898 on the grounds of the mineral spring water company.  John Gooding brought one of the first steam powered carousels to the area.  The big draw at Puritas Springs for most of its existence was a roller coaster named The Cyclone. Puritas Springs sat on the top of the Rocky River Valley and the Cyclone plunged on a steep drop down into the valley.  The Cyclone was the highest and fastest (80mph) roller coaster in Cleveland and it thrilled guests from 1928 until 1958, when a disastrous fire led to the closure of the park.


Image courtesy of Cleveland Public Library Digital Gallery


Cleveland Plain Dealer May 1935



Image courtesy of Cleveland State University Cleveland Memory Project

Two other parks operated on land that is now part of Cleveland Metroparks in the late 1890s and early 1900s.  While these parks are less well known today, they drew hundreds of guests during their brief existences.  On northeast of today’s Washington Reservation was Forest City Amusement Park. This park also featured a stadium where an early Cleveland football team, the Panthers, played.  I have not been able to find photos of Forest City Park and would love to hear from anyone who has some!

At
 the northern entrance to Rocky River Reservation was Scenic Park, the site of one of the first “Scenic Railways” in the Cleveland area.  This roller coaster was very tame by our standards, but it included scenic tunnels showing murals and sculptures lit by electric lights activated by the wheels of the train. For riders in 1895 this was an amazing novelty.  Today the Marina sits on the land once occupied by Scenic Park.


Image accessed at Cleveland Historic Maps at http://peoplemaps.esri.com/cleveland/



The Scenic Railway included replicas of far away places like Port Arthur in Manchuria (northern China)

Another disclosure . . . I do not miss the rides at Euclid Beach as much as I miss the taffy.  The Humphrey family started out as a candy and popcorn makers and they made the most unique, delicious taffy in the world.  Luckily, although the park is no more; the taffy is still made here in Northeast Ohio by the Humphrey family and is now for sale at local stores, including occasionally at our own Earthwords.


Image courtesy of Cleveland State University Cleveland Memory Project





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