Lost Worlds

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.)

I’m originally from Queens and I spent lots of time at Palisades Park. My grandma would hustle us on the subway and the bus and we’d spend the day having fun there. I remember being very upset to learn that it was closing.

The french fries in the cones were the best!

Thanks for posting the link. Looks like today is a “memory day” for me.


Do you remember Gouz (rhymes with cows) in Elmont, NY? Milk, juice and fruit flavored drinks on conveyor belts. Farm animals to entertain the kiddies (I loved it) and foods from all over.

How about Great Eastern Stores? The superstore concept years and years ago.

'Fraid not. I grew up in New Jersey, so I remember the Rotolactor at Walker-Gordon Farms. It was apparently a big hit at the 1939 World’s Fair, and it was still operating at its transplanted site when I was a kid:


Nearby was the grave of the original Elsie the Cow:

I went to Freedomland once, probably the first season. Despite the “Disneyland of the North” hype, it wasn’t particularly impressive and we never went back.

I’m bumping this a>0 because it’s interesting and b.) because I wanted to add that I’m fascinated by the remaining bits of these parks you can find.

The Train Station from Freedomland and the seats from Satellite City there ended up at Clarke’s Trading Post in New Hampshire. Casa Loca from Freedomland was probably destroyed on-site, but the plans seem to have been used to build the similar attraction at Clarke’s.

The “Twister” ride and the Crystal Maze and Danny the Dragon ended up at a park in upstate New York, as the Freedomland site says. Other pieces were preserved in other places, including private homes.
I was surprised, upon visiting Canobie Lake Park in New Hampshire last summer, to see the light fixtures. The weird cubes-glued-together form was instantly recognizable (See here: http://community.webshots.com/photo/2076301/1002114202013644168dAPkSRvfJc ) They must’ve bought them right after the Fair closed.

We just lost Astroworld here in Houston. It didn’t fail, but the rising real estate prices made it more lucrative to sell the property to developers. However, something tells me that it’s going to backfire on them. We shall see…

Here in Massachusetts Whalom Park closed in 2000, but there’s a determined effort to Save it:



Site listing defunct amusement parks:

Obviously not complete, or it’d have the links to Pleasure Island and Whalom.

Aquarena Springs in San Marcos, TX was a draw for many years with its kitschy Submarine Theater with mermaid shows and Ralph the Swinning Pig. It was more a resort than an amusement park, with a conference center and such. It was taken over by Southest Texas State University (now Texas State at San Marcos) several years ago. The glass-bottomed boats still run, and there’s still a gift shop, but Ralph is gone, and the old theater is permanently shuttered. I visited there few weeks back and wandered around while some SCUBA divers got lessons near the rusting hulk of the theater. The old skyride looks like something out of a post-apocalytic movie…kinda cool, actually. There are some very ambitious plans to improve it, but I’d be suprised if they ever come to fruition. They’ve shifted the focus of the whole thing to ecology, with a spiffy pontoon-bridge “Wetlands Walk” and a smattering of educational displays. The old mermaid logo is hard to find anywhere in the park now. Garish and cheezy as the old Aquarena Springs was, it’s kinda sad to see it go.

Thanks, caveman.

Lotsa pages on Aquarena Springs as it is now, but no pix of the way it used to be (at least, not to a quick search). Typical page:


Thanks, caveman.

Lotsa pages on Aquarena Springs as it is now, but no pix of the way it used to be (at least, not to a quick search). Typical page:

Here are mermaids and Ralph:


[B[Clothahump** wrote:

Astroworld sites:



Do you mean Great Eastern Mills? I grew up in Queens, and we went to that place often. In 1961, before we went to Africa, my parents brought my brother and me there, and we got to stock up on toys and games to put into the trunk being shipped. Nothing better for a ten year old then being told to pick out all the games you want.

We went to Freedomland a couple of times. It’s hook was that the park was shaped like the US, so there was a Great Chicago fire activity where Chicago would be, etc. (I think NY was a brewery.) No rides stand out, which might have been the problem. It was in the Bronx, not that far from us.

Not in the Bronx – it was actually inside NYC limits. See the site above.

New Yprk was “Old New York”. I think they served beer there, but it wasn’t even primarily a brewery. Again, see the site.

we visited there twice or so. There certainly were rides – the Bucket ride, stagecoach rides, a train, “Danny the Dragon”, riverboat rides, the Twister and the San Francisco Earthquake. See the link. I remember most of these.

Just outside Chicago we had, for a few years, the worlds first completely enclosed amusement park.

From the proclamation on the site you linked:

As one of the five boroughs, the Bronx is “inside NYC limits”.

Does anybody know anything about Wonderworks? I remember an advertising blitz in northern Virginia roughly 1985. I remember an emphasis on robots and holograms. I have the impression the place was trying to attract visitors from all over the country or at least the east coast.

My apoplogies – I thought you said something else, and didbn’t notice the disconnect when I quoted it.