Nature Slowly Reclaims Abandoned Amusement Park
June 23, 2007 2:55 PM   Subscribe

Chippewa Lake Park is a former amusement park in Ohio; opened in 1878, it closed in 1978 due to lack of attendance. During the decades since then, the ballroom, roller coasters & other rides have lain abandoned as the surrounding forest reclaims them.
posted by jonson (40 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
two days ago
posted by nax at 3:13 PM on June 23, 2007 [3 favorites]

This is really cool, thank you.
posted by headspace at 3:19 PM on June 23, 2007

posted by Mblue at 3:22 PM on June 23, 2007

Love the shot of the trees growing through the roller coaster tracks.
posted by hifiparasol at 3:22 PM on June 23, 2007

Great post. I would so give anything to wander around there. Sic transit gloria...
posted by MarshallPoe at 3:31 PM on June 23, 2007


Yes, fascinating and sad. Especially comparing pictures of the ballroom then and now.
posted by jouke at 3:37 PM on June 23, 2007

See also.
posted by rob511 at 3:40 PM on June 23, 2007

Great post. Abandoned amusement parks are fascinating on multiple levels. It also reminds me of the Enchanted Forest in Maryland that I used to visit as a wee one, only this is even cooler.
posted by dhammond at 3:42 PM on June 23, 2007

Very nice.
posted by languagehat at 3:43 PM on June 23, 2007

Hey nax, that Scientific American article you link to is fucking awesome! Thanks!
posted by jonson at 3:47 PM on June 23, 2007

There's something a little forlorn about it all. If you have a Shinto-esque belief that all things (even constructed things) have souls, then seeing those old coasters sitting there, rotting away, makes you wonder if they might be lonely.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 3:47 PM on June 23, 2007 [3 favorites]

two days ago
you read my mind - always wondered about that.
posted by chrispy at 3:55 PM on June 23, 2007

Has anyone checked the premises for any supervillains? I hear they like this sort of place.
posted by kosher_jenny at 4:18 PM on June 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

This is great, by the way. I'm torn between two emotions over this. On one hand there is that melancholy similar to what SCDB has mentioned, at seeing these rides left to rot out of sight of almost all. But on the other hand, there is something oddly beautiful about all that decay slowly being retaken by nature. Time, as always, moves steadily forward.
posted by kosher_jenny at 4:24 PM on June 23, 2007

This is actually less creepy than many existing traveling carnivals.
posted by brain_drain at 4:56 PM on June 23, 2007

This reminds me of Union Park, which was just outside of my hometown of Dubuque, IA. It was a popular amusement park in the early 1900s until 5 people died in a catastrophic flash flood there in 1919. The large theater in the park was built across the narrow valley and acted as a dam across the swollen creek that flowed through the park. The valley is now part of the YMCA camp and lucky school children are given fieldtrips to the ruins where they can see the remains of the park in a quiet forest setting.
posted by TrialByMedia at 5:00 PM on June 23, 2007

Lincoln Beach, once New Orleans' segregated negro amusement park.
posted by localroger at 5:12 PM on June 23, 2007

Purged by the sword and beautified by fire,
    Then had we seen proud London's hated walls:
Owls might have hooted in St Peter's choir,
    And foxes stunk and littered in St Paul's.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 5:30 PM on June 23, 2007

This has got to be a hoax. It says the fire melted and bent steel girders, which we all know to be impossible.
posted by dhartung at 5:35 PM on June 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Very cool pictures - I wish I could find a high-res shot of the giant tree growing through the ferris wheel.
posted by Zephyrial at 5:40 PM on June 23, 2007

I totally agree, Zephyrial. I found a brighter shot, but not a larger one. The "most interesting" select on a Flickr search for Chippewa Lake Park had some other great shots.
posted by jonson at 5:44 PM on June 23, 2007

Great post.
posted by sellout at 5:46 PM on June 23, 2007

this reminds me of my high school ... which is suffering from the same fate.
posted by lester at 6:10 PM on June 23, 2007

There's something a little forlorn about it all. If you have a Shinto-esque belief that all things (even constructed things) have souls, then seeing those old coasters sitting there, rotting away, makes you wonder if they might be lonely.

To me, the rides seem more at peace than lonely. That clown train seemed really sad and lonely though, even though I hate clowns.

... reminds me of the Enchanted Forest....

The Enchanted Forest reminds me of Children's Fairyland, a theme park that is still in operation about two blocks from me at Lake Merritt. It's interesting that that Enchanted Forest site says that the Enchanted Forest is "the second oldest Theme Park in the USA (Disneyland is the oldest)." Fairyland was actually visited by Walt Disney in 1950. A newsreel of the visit includes Walt's declaration: "This is it." No one quite understood what he was talking about at the time, but in hindsight it's pretty clear he was talking about his plan to build Disneyland.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:23 PM on June 23, 2007

Once there were parking lots
Now it's a peaceful oasis
you got it, you got it
posted by hangashore at 6:59 PM on June 23, 2007

It looks like the setting for a Scooby Doo episode.
posted by smoothvirus at 7:09 PM on June 23, 2007

See Also
posted by mrzarquon at 7:45 PM on June 23, 2007

Up in the Old Hotel
posted by vronsky at 8:39 PM on June 23, 2007

not that the entire rust belt isn't good for it, but ohio's pretty rife with remarkable abandoned/overgrown buildings and complexes.
honestly, it's like you can't go more than twenty miles anywhere in the damn state without running into something that was left to the elements, in varying states of overgrowth.
to say the least, it's really pretty striking to actually physically walk through.
posted by vellocet at 3:56 AM on June 24, 2007

Here's another writeup (from a nearly-defunct site for defunct amusement parks) of a visit to Chippewa Lake Park in 1997. The last picture in the photoessay at the bottom of the page shows a souvenir cup advertising "a century of fun." Chippewa Lake saw a century, but didn't live to see far beyond it.
posted by Spatch at 5:52 AM on June 24, 2007

This is why I hang out here. Thanks.
posted by randomination at 8:16 AM on June 24, 2007

Nature finds a way...

Somehow the trees are more beautiful with that abandoned ferris wheel adding stark contrast to their loveliness.
posted by misha at 8:43 AM on June 24, 2007

Shame I won't be around to see it, but I bet a world without us would be spectacular to behold. Alas, I am addicted to air conditioning, so I'd be miserable anyway.

In my backyard there's this roll of orange plastic fence like stuff that my landlord left on the ground about eight years ago, presumably to use it someday on some project he had in mind. It's been left there and now a small tree is growing through one of the holes, making it impossible to move without either killing the tree or destroying the plastic fence material. More probably both.

Eventually, either the tree will grow large enough to break through the plastic, or the plastic will strangle it, stunting its growth. Since I have a very laissez faire attitude towards my backyard (I tend to only go out there and mess with it when my landlord mentions he might get a citation from the city soon), it's become very much the experiment in nature overtaking civilization, and the barest minimum that must be done to keep nature at bay.

...I should probably mow. I'm overdue. Again.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:05 AM on June 24, 2007

"The name ‘Manhattan’ comes from an Indian term referring to hills. It used to be a very hilly island. Of course, the region was eventually flattened to have a grid of streets imposed on it. Around those hills there used to flow about 40 different streams, and there were numerous springs all over Manhattan island. What happened to all that water? There’s still just as much rainfall as ever on Manhattan, but the water has now been suppressed. It’s underground."

Woah. There's some food for thought, eh?

Over the past four hundred years humanity has essentially destroyed an entire eco-structure just on that island alone, and that's indicative of what we've done to most of North America i know, but in that island it's particularly staggering. In most parts of the mainland we simply rerouted water flows. Drying up river beds and damming up untold acres of land, but presumably nature's creatures had somewhere to go. They could usually just migrate. Extinction would sometimes occur but... on Manhattan Island, where did the wildlife go? Were there ecologists in the 1600s transplanting species to the mainland? I doubt that. Perhaps some species went underground where the water went, but probably became nuissances to the Island's construction workers, and exterminated in order to protect the city's building infrastructure. Maybe some species migrated by crossing the expanse of water some way, either by stowaway on boat, or swimming across, or by bridge. Most probably though, few if any animals that lived on that island in 1600 simply have no descendants today, because mankind killed them all.

If I were an environmentalist, this would perhaps enrage me. I'm not an environmentalist though, so to me it's just an amusing mental exercise.

I wonder what Coney Island's gonna look like when we're through with it?
posted by ZachsMind at 9:18 AM on June 24, 2007

Holy crap: this is awesome. Thanks.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:28 AM on June 24, 2007

Having done a spot of urban exploration in my day, this interested me, so I went to see what Google maps would show me. Feast your eyes on 500m resolution, less than a mile from an Interstate.

This just screams supervillains.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:05 PM on June 24, 2007

Kid: Flash Earth does better (using's aerial imagery). You can actually see what I take to be the burned hulk of the ballroom, as well as a bit of coaster peeking up through the trees.

It's cheek-to-jowl with other lakefront development, so it's surprising it hasn't been demolished and sold off as lots.
posted by dhartung at 11:34 PM on June 24, 2007

Fun Fair Graveyard [warning: filthy, kitschy, gratiuitous self-linking action]
posted by chuckdarwin at 1:37 AM on June 25, 2007

posted by salishsea at 7:58 PM on June 25, 2007

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