Pittsburgh Amusement Park History
is an ever-changing city. Many places of historical interest have been
replaced with something more modern and perceivably better. This was the
fate for many of the amusement parks that were once scattered around the
Greater Pittsburgh area.
Modern day amusement parks got much of their start
from trolley parks dating back to the late 1800’s.
Trolley parks were created to give streetcar riders a
destination at the end of the lines. These parks began
with picnic shelters and evolved into amusement rides
and other attractions. Families would take the
streetcars to them on the weekends to enjoy time
together. Many cities had trolley parks, but none had as
many as Pittsburgh did. Pittsburgh had nearly two-dozen
trolley parks between the late 1800’s and mid 1950’s.
Pittsburgh’s topography and industry helped create the
unusually large number of amusement parks in the area.
George Ferris and the Ferris Wheel
George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. lived on Arch
Street in Pittsburgh and worked for his own company,
G.W.G. Ferris and Company, as an inspection engineer for
industrial sites. He attended a banquet in 1891 where he
answered the challenge for a structure that could rival
the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Ferris frantically sketched a
gigantic wheel on a napkin and showed it to other
engineers. Many wrote Ferris off as a crackpot, but he
used his own money to prepare the blueprints and found
wealthy investors to aid in the construction of the
wheel. Ferris wasn’t the first to build a wheel such as
this, but he was the first to do so with steel and on
such a large scale. He set the with his now famous
Ferris wheel. Ferris died at Mercy Hospital in
Pittsburgh on November 22, 1896.
Learn More About These
Pittsburgh Amusement Parks
Pittsburgh’s Amusement Park Timeline
The first trolley park in Pittsburgh was Idlewild,
which opened in 1878. It originally operated as a picnic
and recreational ground, but began adding amusement
rides in the 1890’s. Idlewild is one of very few trolley
parks still in operation today. It is the oldest
amusement park in Pennsylvania and the third oldest in
The Pittsburgh Railways Company opened Calhoun Park
in the late 1890’s on Mifflin Road in Lincoln Place. It
operated there until 1910.
Kennywood opened in 1898 by the Monongahela Street
Railway Company, which was controlled by Andrew Mellon.
Two of the original structures remain in the park – the
carousel pavilion and a restaurant that originally
operated as the Casino.
Other parks that opened in the early 1900’s include
Maple Grove, Eldora, Alameda, Homestead, Oakwood,
Southern, Oakford, Interurban Park, and
View Park, Dreamland, Coney Island in Neville Island,
and Dream City in Wilkinsburg all opened in 1906 alone.
More parks opened in the 1920’s such as
Burkes Glen, Harmarville, and Mapleview.
opened in 1955. Other notable parks in Pittsburgh
Fairview Park, and
Not There Anymore
Nearly all of Pittsburgh’s past amusement parks have
become lost in the mists of time. Defunct parks have
been replaced with shopping centers, roadways, and other
modern conveniences. Amusement parks weren’t the only
ones to suffer a fate such as this; past sports stadiums
like Exposition Park, Recreation Park, Forbes Field, and
Three Rivers Stadium have suffered a similar fate.
Future generations may walk across what was once Civic
Arena and never know the significance of where they’re
standing. These pieces of Pittsburgh’s history should
not be forgotten.
Rick Sebak and WQED produce videos about "Stuff
That's Gone," "Kennywood
Memories," and "Things
That Aren't There Anymore," as well as many other
great Pittsburgh videos. You can find these in
The Pittsburgh E-Mall.
Article by Meg O’Malley
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