There’s no end of failed Amusement Parks. You can find them in the Weird USA books , or on the Roadside America site by the armful:
But some of these places were so big in their time that they elicit special attention. I’ve written before here about Freedomland. No, not the current Thriller, but an amusement that was Bigger than Disneyland, and which was entirely inside New York City:
It was only open for about three years, but it had live big-name acts, a lake with a paddleboat, a sky ride --the whole shebang. But it failed. It couldn’t stay open in winter (one big advantage Disney’s places have), and it got serrious competition from the 1964-5 World’s Fair, not far away.
Similarly, Palisades Amusement Park was a big deal when I was a kid, asdvertising incessantly on WOR and inside DC comic books, which featured Superman holding up the park and having discount coupons. Palisades was, unlike Freedomland, a pretty historic place. It was over a hundred years iol when it closed. I never understood exactly why, but I’ll bet increasing real estate values priced it out of existence:
But the one that prompted this thread was Pleasure Island. Not the place with the nightclubs down at Disney in Orlando. This was the Largest Amusement Park in New England in its time, which was 1959-1969. I’d vaguely heard of it – there’s a “Pleasure Island Road” exit off of 128/95 in Wakefield. But I had no idea it was such a big place. It has its own site:
Again, lotsa rides, expansive place, “name” acts (like Ricky Nelson, and The Three Stooges!). It closed after only ten years. Again, I don’t know why – it wasn’t real estate tyhis time. As you can see on the site, the place lay abandoned for years afterwards although it’s now the site of an apartment complex and an industrial park). Within five years it looked as if it had been abandoned for twenty.
The rides included the very New England-themed “Moby Dick Chase” (complete with Moby, who rose from the lake) and “The Wreck of the Hesperus” (based on Longfellow’s poem about the death of a little girl in a shipwreck. Well, if Disnel can make a ride out of Pirates raping and pillaging, and Freedomland could make rides out of the San Francisco Earthquake, a Midwest Twister, and the Chicago Fire*, I guess PI could make a ride out of a shipwreck.)
All of this was amazingly close to where I now live, but it’s slipped from most memories. An entire civilization, Gone With the Wind.
Similarly, Revere Beach, supposed to be The First Puiblic Beach in America, used to have an enormous amuisement complex there, with rides and dancehalls and amusement palaces. It was all gone by the late 1960s (One place claims that the Blizzard of 1978 destroyed the last of it, but I visited the area in the mid 1970s, and I can affirm that there was nothing there. I wandered all over looking for the attractions. There was nothing left to destroy). There are multiple websites devoted to this. A few artifacts are on display at Kelly’s Roast Beef on route 1 in Saugus.
- I notice that all these disasters occur elsewhere than New York City. Freedomland’s NYC attraction – “Old New York” – has no disasters. Maybe they were trying to convince people that New York wasn’t as bad as the rest of the country.)