When the circus came to town...
June 16, 2004 7:21 AM   Subscribe

Defunct amusement parks. It has postcards and historical photos. It also has relatively current photos of parks in various states of disrepair. A great site for fans of entropy, like myself. (via Linkfilter)
posted by jester69 (27 comments total)
I post from time to time pics about "entrop," and I wondered why so many people are interested in the topic/subject? What draws one to this sort of thing?
posted by Postroad at 7:26 AM on June 16, 2004

Fantastic post. Postroad, for me at least, it's confirmation of the difficult fact to accept that the places that I know and that are so full of life will one day become defunct and useless. I think of these pictures as a preview of the future rather that a look into the past.

Bigwin Inn in Muskoka, Ontario was a jet-set favourite in the 1920's, but had closed by the 1970's and remained unused and dilapidated for decades in the midst of cottage country until a recent re-opening. It was my favourite place to go when I was a kid, scavenging for old 7-up bottles and receipts, and avoiding the lone watchman and his dog.

Again, great post...
posted by loquax at 7:43 AM on June 16, 2004

I have no idea, but count me in as one of the fans. Abandoned amusement parks, resorts in the off season, hulks of ships...they're all utterly fascinating to me.

Perhaps it's a relatively safe way for us to confront our mortality?
posted by Vidiot at 7:45 AM on June 16, 2004

Good to see that you're a fan of entropy, jester69, because I hear we'll be having more of it.

Nice post.
posted by spazzm at 7:51 AM on June 16, 2004

Perhaps it's a relatively safe way for us to confront our mortality?

This is pretty close to what makes stuff like this so compelling to me. The stark fact of impermanence, the ultimate insignificance of even the grandest human endeavours - but without immediate consequence or danger. Some might think this is a bleak thing, but I prefer the Buddhist notion that confronting these facts of existence is a key step in finding some sort of peace of mind.

Out here on the Canadian prairie, I've recently discovered a similarly fascinating beauty in delapitated rail hubs and grain elevators.

Fantastic post.
posted by gompa at 9:02 AM on June 16, 2004

Great post!
posted by mischief at 9:12 AM on June 16, 2004

For some reason, I find this stuff endlessly fascinating. Perhaps it's a memories of my youth thing, I don't know. So many of the parks I recall hearing about or going to are gone: Freedomland, Rye Beach, Rockaway Beach, Palisades Park, Coney Island (though not completely). They all seemed to have a character that the modern parks don't have.
posted by tommasz at 9:13 AM on June 16, 2004

As soon as I saw this post I followed the links hoping to see pictures of Playland at the Beach, which was in San Francisco. Playland is listed, but sadly, there are no pictures or descriptions. Playland had a classic Fun House, a rollercoaster without drops called, I believe, the Mad Mouse (there was a similar one at the Santa Cruz boardwalk), and also had a hole-in-the-wall joint where the ice cream and cookie confection, the It's-It was invented. It was great to go to The City on a foggy, dreary summer day in the 60's and hit Playland, and eat an It's-It. Fucking condos are there now.
posted by gnz2001 at 9:16 AM on June 16, 2004

Confronting our mortality. Thats a good way to describe it. It's strange to think about a place that was once vibrant and lively and see it 10, 15, 20 years later; tattered and in ruin. Kinda like me turning 40.

Is it just me or did those Chuck Connors pics rock?
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:21 AM on June 16, 2004

Seeing these pictures and stories really takes you somewhere warm in yourself, don't it?

(loquax, I scavenged at Bigwin as a kid too! Every damned summer from, god, pretty much through the '80s. That's wild.)
posted by chicobangs at 9:36 AM on June 16, 2004

The Forest Park Highlands. It then became the home of the Arena/Checkerdome. Which was razed and is now home to a semi-occupied office building.
posted by pieoverdone at 9:36 AM on June 16, 2004

Kind of off-topic, because it's still in operation and not defunct, but if any of y'all ever make it to Huntington, WV (and I know that's unlikely), you really owe it to yourselves to check out Camden Park. It's a totally old-school amusement park that's been open since 1903.
posted by Vidiot at 9:54 AM on June 16, 2004

That does it chicobangs. I'm adding you as a contact. If you haven't been back to Bigwin in a while, you wouldn't recognize it. Golf course, condos, everything torn down or rebuilt. I think even the water tower is gone now.

Damn progess and shifting demographics!
posted by loquax at 10:10 AM on June 16, 2004

I miss the great old wooden roller coasters from Elitch Gardens in Denver. They moved the park downtown and abandoned the Wildcat and Mr. Twister. The Wildcat is still my all-time favorite roller coaster. None of that boring going-around-in-a-big-circle-while-slanted crap, just stomach-turning hill after hill. Short and sweet.

Six Flags Over Texas in Dallas has a pseudo-copycat of the Wildcat called the Judge Roy Scream, but it's just not the same. :(
posted by beth at 11:02 AM on June 16, 2004

Japanese Deer Park (no rides) Buena Park, Ca
Cars of the Stars - Buena Park, Ca.
The Aligator Farm - Pottery House (no rides) - Buena Park, Ca.
Knott's Independence Hall park (not sure the name) - Buena Park, Ca.
The Dancing Stallions (no rides) - Buena Park, Ca. (now Medieval Times)
posted by thomcatspike at 11:06 AM on June 16, 2004

Alligator Farm
posted by thomcatspike at 11:08 AM on June 16, 2004

Mr. Twister isn't there anymore? It was the best wooden coaster I've ever ridden. Creaked and shimmied when it went around the turns...scary as hell.
posted by Vidiot at 11:08 AM on June 16, 2004

Have they made that land Disneyland yet?
posted by thomcatspike at 11:10 AM on June 16, 2004

Have you been to Rye Playland tommasz? Seems like that place would look the same if left alone for a few decades.
posted by dr_dank at 12:05 PM on June 16, 2004

Rye was the place to go when I was in grammar school (early 70's). The bus ride from Long Island was a pain, but that's where we went. The last time I was there had to be May of 1971, when I graduated 8th grade.
posted by tommasz at 1:24 PM on June 16, 2004

Nostalgia plus entropy equals Southern California...
Pacific Ocean Park (with a map).

And whatever became of Marineland? Well, except for a few scenes in "Pirates of the Carribean" being filmed there, Disney is not involved with the original site (they were talking about building a SeaWorldish park, but I thought the site would be in Long Beach, about 20 miles away).
posted by wendell at 2:13 PM on June 16, 2004

Does anyone here who grew up in the Chicago area remember Dispensa's Kiddie Kingdom? The haunted house ride (in the back of the park, on the left) and the upside-down ferris wheel (middle of the park on the left) were my favorite rides. Funny how I remember every inch of that place.

They had a song on TV:

Kids are KING! at Dispensa's Kiddie Kingdom
Fun's our THING! at Dispensa's Kiddie Kingdom
Exciting rides, they'll make you hell and holler
Every ride a quarter, six for a dollar (later became "five for a dollar", then four...)
Kids are KING! at Dispensa's Kiddie Kingdom
Let's GO!

I had an interesting experience there when I was about 5 years old -- this would have been in 1976 or so:

I was waiting in line to go on a ride where little cars spin you around in circles, two children to a car. Suddenly there was a jam at the front of the line and the two or three kids in front of me weren't moving forward to get on the ride. They stepped aside and the ride operator (a chubby, grandfatherly character) motioned for me to come ahead. I didn't understand what was going on, but I went ahead and took the last remaining open seat on the ride, next to a little girl.

When the ride was over, the ride operator called me over and apologetically gave me my ticket back, so I could use it to go on another ride. That's when I realized that all this was happening because the little girl I sat next to was black.

What draws one to this sort of thing?

For me it helpfully externalizes feelings of grief over the loss of a simpler, happier, and irrecoverable childhood past that probably only exists as a nostalgic, wishful projection on my part while simultaneously reminding me of the utter impermanence of everything I value in life, which I find comforting in the Buddhist sort of way that gompa describes above.

Am I dropping some heavy adolescent shit on you today or what?
posted by boredomjockey at 5:20 PM on June 16, 2004 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the post, jester. It reminded me of one of my favorite videos, Coney Island, by Ric Burns. Although it's a documentary, it's really a gorgeously eerie mood piece. But be warned, there is a horrorific scene near the end concerning the fate of Topsy.
posted by marsha56 at 6:17 PM on June 16, 2004

Another, similar site is Lost Parks, devoted specifically to forgotten Florida attractions and amusement parks. There aren't very many photos of the attractions today, though.

I moved to Fort Lauderdale just in time for the end of Pirates World; while it was technically open for a few more years, its reputation for crime scared my parents enough that I wasn't allowed to go.

Once it was closed, though, my friends and I would go and sneak in to scavenge loot from the collapsing rides and carny games.
posted by mkhall at 9:04 PM on June 16, 2004

The Pike in Long Beach, California is the abandoned amusement park I'm closest to, I guess, since I grew up in Long Beach in the seventies. I was never allowed to go -- by then the Pike was a dangerous, dilapidated shadow of what it once was. My mom told some stories about going there, though.

I found out not long ago that they're actually rebuilding the area and calling it The Pike at Rainbow Harbor. Mostly dining and retail, and big chains at that, but they're apparently rebuilding the Pike's famous Rainbow Pier. No rollercoasters, though.
posted by atholbrose at 12:17 AM on June 17, 2004

As someone born in the Truman administration, it was wonderful to see historic photos of old Whalom Park in Massachusetts. Pity that the group trying to save it doesn't have a snowball's chance . . .
posted by ahimsakid at 9:28 AM on June 18, 2004

Does anyone here who grew up in the Chicago area remember Dispensa's Kiddie Kingdom?
Yep. My sister had her birthday parties there for many, many years. I loved the haunted house and upside-down ferris wheel too, as well as the spider and the tilt-a-whirl.

Anyone remember Old Chicago? It wasn't around long...it closed when I was 8 years old or so. I loved going there...my favorite rides were the teacup-type ride (which I called the "Wowee ride") and the Four Seasons ride. (the heat was blasted in the summer room and it was really cold in the winter room. When you're a kid, that's pretty amazing.) The building sat empty until 1986, when it was torn down and now Arena Auto Auction is there.
I still think Old Chicago was just way ahead of its time (witness Camp Snoopy in the Mall of America) and if it had been able to get some decent stores in the mall area, it might still be around today.
posted by SisterHavana at 10:35 PM on June 18, 2004 [1 favorite]

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