Western Pennsylvania's Lost Amusement Parks

Western Pennsylvania's Lost Amusement Parks by Rachel E. Smith

If you like local history and old roller coasters, you might want to get your hands on Images of America Western Pennsylvania's Lost Amusement Parks by Rachel E. Smith.

Brought to life by Arcadia Publishing, the 127-page book contains more than 200 historic photos.

Chapters include Rise of the Trolley Parks; The Modern Amusement Park Is Born; A Trip Down the Midway; Western Pennsylvania Roller Coasters; West View Memories; and Changing Times, Changing Fortunes.

Although this is basically a book of photos, extensive cutlines give plenty of information.

The most fascinating part of Images of America Western Pennsylvania's Lost Amusement Parks for me was learning how amusement parks came to be. According to the author, the parks came about as trolley companies worked to increase weekend passengers. The parks were usually located at the end of the rail line and were made up of picnic groves, dance halls and refreshment stands. They became very popular and nearly every community had their own – as Pennsylvania's rolling hills made it difficult to travel between them.

Over time, the parks became more elaborate and included rides and some very beautiful gardens.

Photos of Johnstown's Luna Park (located at what is now Roxbury Park) show an 800-foot long, 12-foot wide boardwalk. There also was a horse track and an artificial lake.

The park featured rides like the Circle Swing and a roller coaster. The coaster was installed in 1905 at a cost of $15,000. It operated in the park until 1921 when it was severely damaged in a fire.

You'll love the photo, dated 1915, of a large group of skaters on the lake at Luna Park.

Ivyside Park in Altoona contained the largest all-concrete swimming pool in the world at the time. Opened in 1924, the pool was 650-feet long and 186-feet wide. It easily held 5,000 swimmers and ran from six inches at one end to 13 feet in the diving area.

The photos in this book are fascinating. Not only do they show old wooden coasters and carousels, they show people dressed as the did at the turn of the century. The costumes are terrific and photos of old vehicles are pretty interesting as well.

The author of this book also wrote Greensburg and Latrobe and the Ligonier Valley, both part of Arcadia's Postcard History series.

For these and other local history books, go to www.arcadiapublishing.com.

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