Trolley Parks - America's Original Amusement Parks

 
In the United States, trolley parks, which started in the 19th century, were picnic and recreation areas along or at the ends of streetcar lines in most of the larger cities. These were precursors to amusement parks. These trolley parks were created by the streetcar companies to give people a reason to use their services on weekends. These parks originally consisted of picnic groves and pavilions, and often held events such as dances, concerts and fireworks. Many eventually added features such as swimming pools, carousels, Ferris wheels, roller coasters, sports fields, boats rides, restaurants and other resort facilities to become amusement parks. Various sources report the existence of between 1,500 and 2,000 amusement parks in the United States by 1919.
 
Canobie Lake Park - Salem, NH
Canobie Lake Park opened on August 23, 1902, as a trolley park for the Massachusetts Northeast Street Railway Company. The amusement park has opened every summer since then. In the park's early years, it was known for its flower gardens, promenades and gentle attractions. From the 1930s to the early 1950s, Canobie Lake Park’s Dancehall Theater became known as an entertainment destination hosting names such as Guy Lombardo, Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra, and later, Sonny & Cher and Aerosmith. Today, owned by 3 different families, the park features over 50 rides, including roller coasters, a log flume, a hand-painted antique carousel, a steam train, a Ferris wheel, the "Starblaster", "Dodgems", "DaVinci's Dream", over a dozen kiddie rides, a variety of foods, prize games, three arcades, live entertainment, fireworks, and more.


 
Dorney Park - Allentown, PA
Dorney Park traces its history to 1860, when Solomon Dorney built a trout hatchery and summer resort on his estate outside of Allentown. In 1870, Dorney decided to convert the estate into a public attraction. Initially, the facility featured games, playground-style rides, refreshment stands, picnic groves and a hotel and restaurant. By the 1880s, Dorney had added a small zoo, gardens and a number of mechanical rides, marking the enterprise's beginning as an amusement park. When the Allentown-Kutztown Traction Company completed its trolley line from Allentown to Kutztown in 1899, the company added a stop at Dorney's park. Two years later, the traction company purchased the park, operating it until 1923, when the park was sold to Robert Plarr and two partners. Plarr soon bought out his partners and ran Dorney Park until his death in 1966.
 

  
Camden Park - Huntington, WV         

Camden Park is owned by the Boylin Family. This is the second generation of Boylin's owning and operating WV's only amusement park. J. P. Boylin transformed Camden Park from a carousel at the end of a trolly line in Huntington, WV to an amusement park for families of all ages in 1950. By the late 19th century almost every large town in America had streetcars and many had parks to boost weekend and holiday traffic. Originally developed as a picnic area by the Camden Interstate Railway in 1903 Camden Park has survived into the 21st century as a thriving traditional amusement park. Over the years Camden Park has been the setting for baseball games, tens of thousands of picnics, fairs, marathon dances, roller derbies, flagpole sitting, a swimming pool, a zoo, plus numerous attractions and rides.

Kennywood - West Mifflin, PA
A tree-filled portion of a farm owned by Anthony Kenny, known as "Kenny's Grove" overlooking the Monongahela River near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was a popular picnic spot for local residents since the American Civil War. In 1898, the Monongahela Street Railways Company, partially owned by prominent banker Andrew Mellon, seeking to increase fare profits on the weekends, leased the land from the Kenny family in order to create a trolley park at the end of their line. The company's chief engineer, George S. Davidson, designed the original layout of the park and served as its first manager. A carousel, casino hall, and dance pavilion were added in 1899. A bandstand was constructed in 1900, while the Old Mill was constructed in 1901, and the park's first roller coaster, the Figure Eight Toboggan, was added in 1902. After less than a decade, the trolley company no longer wanted to manage the park. The standing manager, A.S. McSwigan, along with partners Frederick W. Henninger and A.F. Meghan, leased and operated the park as Kennywood Park Limited beginning in 1906.

  
Lakemont Park - Altoona, PA   

Opened in 1894 as a trolley park, Lakemont Park has overcome many obstacles to become the 8th oldest amusement park in the United States. One of Lakemont's most prized possessions is the world's oldest roller coaster, Leap-the-Dips. Built at the park in 1902 by the E. Joy Morris Company, the historic wooden roller coaster was restored and reopened on memorial Day 1999. It was named a National Historic Landmark in 1996.
 
Midway Park - Maple Springs, NY  
Located on the shores of beautiful Chautauqua Lake, Midway State Park is a family treasure. Originally established in 1898 as a trolley park, Midway State Park is one of the oldest continually operating amusement parks in the nation. The first owners of the park constructed playing fields, tennis courts, bath houses and a dance hall to entice customers to ride the trolley on weekends. In 1915, a new building was constructed with a kitchen, a large dining room and space for dancing and roller skating. Today, this building is home to a museum, gift shop, concession stands and other facilities.
 

Oaks Amusement Park - Portland, OR   
Tucked away in Southeast Portland near the Sellwood Bridge is Oaks Amusement Park, one of the oldest continuously operated amusement parks in the United States. A modest operation, the park currently includes about two dozen rides that operate seasonally, a skating rink that is open year-'round, and picnic grounds. The Oaks has been a part of the lives of many Portlanders and other Oregonians for nearly a hundred years, and many people hold fond memories of it.
 

Quassy Amusement Park - Middlebury, CN   
Quassy, which was once called Lake Quassapaug Amusement Park, sits on a beautiful lake in Middlebury, Connecticut. Quassy was not always the amusement park it is today. Native Americans once populated this large area. The Native Americans translated Lake Quassapaug to mean "Big Pond" or "Big Rock". In 1905, the sea wall was put in and the Wallace Hotel replaced Mr. Richard's Grove House. By 1908, a trolley line was put through Middlebury and Lake Quassapaug became a summer resort. In 1937, three Waterbury businessmen, John Frantzis, Mike Leon, and George Terezakis, bought the property and formed Quassy. They soon added a picnic area, paddle boats and a carousel. Within the next few years a hot dog stand, a roller rink and a tearoom were added.
 

Seabreeze Amusement Park - Rochester, NY   

Seabreeze is in northeast Irondequoit, where Irondequoit Bay empties into Lake Ontario. It opened on 5 August 1879, and, according to the National Amusement Park Historical Association, it is the fourth-oldest in the United States. Its most celebrated ride is the Jack Rabbit, an "out and back" roller coaster, and the fourth-oldest operating roller coaster in the world (opened 1920). It is owned and operated by the Norris family, many of whom lived on the property for years.
 

Waldameer Park - Erie, PA    

Waldameer Park and Water World is an amusement / water park in Erie, Pennsylvania located at the base of Presque Isle. Waldameer is the fourth oldest amusement park in Pennsylvania, and the tenth oldest in the United States. The park is admission-free, with a busy midway, well appointed grounds, and covered picnic facilities. The roller coasters and other major rides require either the display of a paid wristband or the purchase of individual ride tickets. The water park operates an assortment of water slides and raft rides and is admission by fee only.