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Argyle Chair
Charles Rennie Macintosh

For the Thrill of It All
by Bob Brooke


Though the birth of the automobile didn’t coincide with the birth of the road trip, the development of automobile technology and the post-World-War-II boom of the late 1940s, encouraged Americans to get out and see the countryside. But road trips are nothing if they don’t have some sort of destination, and amusement parks provided all the fun a destination could have in one place.

Unlike the overly expensive theme parks frequented by many of today’s upwardly mobile families, amusement parks were designed for the masses as places where everyone from every class could have fun—cheaply.

Some parks, like Willow Grove Park outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which opened in 1896, have all but passed into memory. Today, a shopping mall has replaced it. Others like Idlewild and Kennywood, both outside of Pittsburgh, are still in operation, and some say better than ever.

Idlewild Park
As the fourth oldest amusement park still in operation in the United States, Idlewild has been providing family fun for over a century.

The park opened in May, 1878 when William Darlington gave Judge Thomas Mellon, the owner of the Ligonier Valley Railroad, the right to occupy his land for a picnic grove. Mellon wanted to develop a park that included campgrounds, an artificial lake for fishing and boating, a picnic grove, and a large hall for entertainment.

Mellon promoted the new park to church and school groups as a place to have fun in a wholesome country atmosphere. In addition, city dwellers found Idlewild the perfect place to get away for a weekend in the country where they could enjoy a variety of family activities including boating, fishing, picnicing and the main attraction, a carousel.

For 53 years Idlewild remained as a purely recreational park, then in 1931 Richard Mellon, (the son of Judge Mellon) and C. MacDonald joined forces and pooled their resources to bring amusements to the park. As manager, MacDonald planned and supervised the construction of rides, pavilions, lunchrooms, bandstands and many attractions which are still part of Olde Idlewild today. Situated here is the park's beautiful three-row Philadelphia Toboggan Company carousel, the third one that has been in operation since the late 1880s.

In 1951, with the park located just off the old Lincoln Highway (U.S. Route 30) and easily accessible by automobile, the Ligonier Valley Railroad was discontinued. This, however, did not affect the popularity and growth of Idlewild and it continued to expand under MacDonald's ownership.

In 1956 Story Book Forest was added, a quaint woodland village based on popular nursery rhymes and fairy tales. A stroll through the "forest" is a delight to children as they are free to roam about and are encouraged to visit the many charming cottages of their favorite story book characters. Here they can meet the folks who "live" there, all dressed in wonderful costumes and enthusiastically sharing their tales of adventure in the land of make believe.

In 1983 Kennywood Park Corp. took over Idlewild and began to expand the attractions of the park to include Jumpin' Jungle, a chills activity area; Hootin' Holler which was at one time called Historic Village; H2Ohhh Zone, which includes the pool and six wild water rides; Racoon Lagoon, offering 8 acres of kiddie rides; and Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, complete with trolley car.

From Trolley Park to Amusement Park
Kennywood Park began, much as Willow Groove Park did for the Philadelphia area, as a trolley park by the Monogahela Street Railway for the Pittsburgh area in 1898. And while only two buildings remain from the original park—a carousel pavilion and a restaurant—the Kennywood Park Corporation has opened a new section called Lost Kennywood, modeled after amusement parks at the turn of the century called Luna Parks.

Luna Parks were introduced by F.W. Thompson, and the first one was located in Coney Island, N.Y. The parks and the light bulb came into being at the same time and the parks were built to showcase Edison's invention with buildings and the midway out-lined in lights.

While Luna Parks were established by Thompson, Frederick Ingersoll built many of them around the world including one in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh in 1905. Ingersoll's Luna Park was one of 13 amusement parks which were located in Allegheny County, Pa., during the first decade of this century. Because Kennywood is the only survivor of those 13 parks, it seems only fitting that Lost Kennywood's design should honor the Luna Park and Ingersoll. Ingersoll actually did have a connection to Kennywood. He designed and built the park's first roller coaster, the Figure Eight in 19O2.

Luna Parks were known for their midways which were an imitation of the great expositions of the 1890s. The midways included a variety of attractions such as rides, food and entertainment. Luna Parks were also known for their centerpiece ride "Shoot-the-Chute" a water ride known for creating such a huge wave that even the spectators got soaked.

The Original Luna Parks
Luna Park was an amusement park in Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York that opened in 1903. Built partly on the grounds of Sea Lion Park (1895), it was one of the three original iconic large parks built on Coney Island, the other two being Steeplechase Park (1897) and Dreamland (1904).

The original Luna Park on Coney Island, a massive spectacle of rides, ornate towers and cupolas covered in 250,000 electric lights, was opened in 1903 by the showmen and entrepreneurs Frederic Thompson and Elmer "Skip" Dundy. The park was either named after the fanciful airship Luna, part of the new park's central attraction A Trip to the Moon, or after Dundy's sister. Luna Park was a vastly expanded attraction built partly on the grounds of Sea Lion Park,

In 1905, Frederick Ingersoll, who was already making a reputation for his pioneering work in roller coaster construction and design (he also designed scenic railroad rides) borrowed the name when he opened Luna Park in Pittsburgh and Luna Park in Cleveland. These first two amusement parks, like their namesake, were covered with electric lighting (the former was adorned with 67,000 light bulbs; the latter, 50,000). Later, in 1907, Charles Looff opened another Luna Park in Seattle, Washington. Ultimately, Ingersoll opened 44 Luna Parks around the world, the first chain of amusement parks.

Luna Park was an amusement park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, from 1905 to 1909. Constructed and owned by Frederick Ingersoll, the park occupied a 16-acre hilly site bounded by Baum Boulevard, North Craig Street, and Centre Avenue, and included roller coasters, picnic pavilions, carousels, a fun house, a Ferris wheel, a roller rink, a shoot-the-chutes ride, a concert shell, a dance hall, bumper cars, and a baby incubator exhibit. In its brief existence, the park featured regular performances of bands, acrobatic acts, animal acts, horse riders, and aerial acts.

The first amusement park to be covered with 67,000 electric light bulbs. The park cost $375,000 to construct; re-creating it from scratch today would cost approximately $8,500,000.

The Pittsburgh Luna Parks were the beginnings of the world's first amusement park chain: by 1929, the year Ingersoll died), there were 44 Luna Parks around the world.

The cost of upgrading and maintaining his amusement parks proved too much for Ingersoll as he was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1908. Several of the Luna Parks were sold to others; Pittsburgh's park was closed in 1909 in the face of competition of a second trolley park nearby, the older (and still-existing) Kennywood Park. When Kennywood expanded its fairgrounds in 1995, its new Lost Kennywood section was patterned after its former competitor, centered on a shoot-the-chutes ride and having a one-third-scale replica of the Luna Park entrance as a "gateway" to the park.

The Luna Park on Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, opened in 1903. One of the three iconic parks built on Coney Island, it was mostly destroyed by a fire in 1944.

In 1901 the park's creators, Frederic Thompson and Elmer "Skip" Dundy, had created a wildly successful ride called "A Trip To The Moon", as part of the Pan-American Exposition at Buffalo, New York. The name of the fanciful "airship" (complete with flapping wings) that was the main part of the ride was Luna, the Latin word for the moon. The airship, and the later park built around it may have been named after Dundy's sister in Des Moines, Luna Dundy Newman.

At the invitation of Steeplechase owner Harry George Tilyou, Thompson and Dundy moved their show to Steeplechase Park, a Coney Island amusement park, for the 1902 season. The deal ended at the end of the summer after Thompson and Dundy rejected a Tilyou's contract renewal offer that cut their take of the profits by 20%.

At the end of 1902 season Thompson and Dundy signed a long-term lease for Paul Boyton's Sea Lion Park. Sea Lion, the first large scale enclosed park at Coney island, had opened 7 years before. The park had several centerpiece rides but a bad summer season and competition with Steeplechase Park made Boyton decide to get out of the amusement park business. Besides the 16-acre Sea Lion Park Thompson and Dundy also leased the adjacent land where the Elephantine Colossus Hotel had stood until it burned down in 1896. This gave them 22 acres, all the land north of Surf Avenue and south of Neptune Avenue and between W. 8th and W. 12th Street, to build a much larger park.

Thompson and Dundy spent $700,000, although they advertised it as $1,000,000, totally rebuilding the park and expanding its attractions. The park's architectural style was an Oriental theme with buildings built on a grand scale and over 1,000 red and white painted spires, minarets and domes. At night all the domes, spires and towers were lit with over 250,000 electric lights. At the center of the park in the middle of a lake was the 200 foot tall Electric Tower that was decorated with twenty thousand incandescent lamps, a smaller version of the Electric Tower that was the crowning feature of the Pan-American Exposition two years earlier. At the base of the tower was a series of cascading fountains. Eventually two circus rings were suspended over the central lagoon to keep customers entertained between rides.

Calling itself as "The heart of Coney Island", Luna Park turned on its lights and opened its gates to a crowd of 60,000 spectators precisely at 8:05pm on May 16, 1903, coinciding with the timing of sunset on that Saturday night.[6] Admission to the park was ten cents with rides costing extra, up to 25 cents for the most elaborate rides.

But the lights of Luna Park grew dim as a succession of owners tried to keep it going. When the Great Depression hit, the park went into bankruptcy several times, starting in 1933. Many of the exhibits, rides and shows from the 1939 New York World's Fair moved to Luna Park after the Fair closed and Luna was billed as the New York World's Fair of 1941. With the US entry into World War II Luna was allowed to stay open as a morale booster but had to keep its lights dimmed for wartime security.

But a pair of devastating fires in 1944 and again in 1946 marked the death knell of the park, and like Willow Grove Park, its owners sold the land to a developer who built an apartment complex.

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