By Paula Green
Summer is packed with excitement and recreation. One place that draws gigantic crowds and offers tons of thrills is an amusement park. We have some in the area that have endured the passage of time and are still thriving today.
Idlewild Park, in Ligonier, was founded in 1878. This historical, recreational gem is the oldest amusement park in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Another Pittsburgh treasure is Kennywood Park in West Mifflin. Designated as a National Historic Landmark, this action-packed park has been around since 1878.
Amusement parks have drastically changed over the past 150+ years. Today, most parks feature French Fries, funnel cakes, and other tasty delights. Additionally, they have numerous roller coasters and other thrill rides. Picnic groves, boat rides, theaters, dance halls, and swimming pools were the norm years ago.
A few memorable amusement parks that have since closed include – Cascade Amusement Park, New Castle, which began operations in 1897. The park had a dance pavilion, outdoor theater, roller rink, and fun-filled rides. Unfortunately, the rides eventually met their demise, and they were permanently closed. Today, Cascade Park is a nature park used for concerts, events, weddings, and leisurely strolls.
Luna Park was a 16-acre hilly site in North Oakland that opened in 1905. This was a period in our history when Pittsburgh was spelled without the “h.” So the facility was known as Pittsburg’s Luna Park. The area showcased a roller coaster, a chute-the-chutes boat ride, a dance hall and picnic areas. Unfortunately, the novelty of the place wore off, and Luna Park closed for good in 1909. Kennywood pays tribute to Luna Park with their “Lost Kennywood” section. This park region features an area modeled after Luna and other “world’s fair” style parks.
Burke’s Glenn Park in Monroeville was a hot spot from 1927 to 1974. Rainbow Gardens in McKeesport welcomed patrons from 1924 thru 1968. In addition to rides, this amusement park showcased a swimming pool, roller rink, and drive-in theater.
West View Park was a trolley park that started in 1906 in West View Borough. The park featured two unique roller coasters – the Big Dips and the Racing Whippet; it also had a walk-thru funhouse called Boot Hill. West View Park was a popular place for school picnics. In addition, it featured a huge dance hall. Unfortunately, the park closed in 1977. The borough erected a shopping plaza in its place.
White Swan was a small amusement park on the border of Moon and Findley townships that ran from 1955 to 1989. The area had rides and a miniature golf course. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation purchased the park to relocate Route 60 to make it more accessible to the Greater Pittsburgh International Airport.
A few other amusement parks that closed include – Aladema Park, Butler, 1901-1935; Belvedere Park, Tarentum – 1927-1939; Coney Island, Neville Island, 1906-1909; Dream City/White City Park, Wilkinsburg, 1906-1908; Eldora Park, Carroll Township, 1901-1946; Junction Park, New Brighton, 1904-1946; Oakford Park, Jeanette, 1901-1930; Oakwood Park, Crafton, 1902-1906; Olympia Park, McKeesport, 1901-1935; and Southern Avenue Park, Carrick/Baldwin 1902-1910.
If you visited any of these parks, treasure those memories. If you get the opportunity to visit an amusement park, it will make you feel like a kid again. So have a happy and safe summer!
Sources: onlyinyourstate.com, phlf.org, amusementparklives.com, lostamusementparks.napha.org/, pennlive.com