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TitleAmusement Parks
DescriptionA selection of 8 postcards of Amusement Parks
Historical ArticleMany Parks Preceded World of Fun

The following account is by Mrs. Sam Ray, familiar to readers for her Postcard From Old Kansas City column which appears as an editorial page feature of The Star. The illustrations, of course, are from her extensive collection of old postcards.

Troost Park

One of Kansas City's first amusement parks was Troost Park, which was opened about 1889 by the Kansas City Cable Car Company, to stimulate trade for its street car line. The entrance to the park was at the end of the Troost Avenue cable line at 24th. Patrons of the line had free admittance to the park.

In the early '90s the Shoot the Chutes ride was built, the first thriller of its kind used in a local amusement place. There were wooded spots of picnickers and boating, as well as the usual concessions.

The area was originally part of the Porter farm. The Rev. James Porter, his wife and son migrated here from Nashville, Tenn., in 1832, bringing horses, cattle, hogs and 25 to 30 Negro servants.

At what is now the corner of 27th and Tracy, Mr. Porter and his servants began construction of their future home. A sturdy 1 1/2-story log home with five rooms was built, with a kitchen 8 or 10 feet away. Servants' quarters were nearby, each head of a family having his own cabin.

For several generations the site and home was preserved by descendants of Mr. Porter.

Troost Park was purchased by the city in 1902 and still contains the 3 1/2-acre lake and a Mormon marker at the south end of the lake. The marker indicates the site where Joseph Smith and 11 of his followers of the Colesville branch met and camped, in August, 1831. A log was laid for the first house and school as a foundation of Zion in Kaw township.

Forest Park

The impressive entrance to Forest Park at Independence and Hardesty was also the end of the line for Independence Avenue cable cars. The amusement park was privately owned and operated between 1903 and 1912. Col. John D. Hopkins, Lloyd Brown, W. R. Fisher and John D. Tippett were among the managers and lessors.

Attractions included glass blowers, a laughing gallery, scenic railway, Cave of the Winds, pony track, donkeys to ride and a $15,000 English carousel. Lenge's military band played concerts and there was a restaurant, picnic grounds and even a large round well-stocked monkey house.

Today residences and businesses fill the four city blocks the park occupied, with an auto parts store on the corner pictured.
Mt. Washington Park

Mount Washington Amusement Park, with the reputation of being the largest and most beautiful in Missouri, was a development of Willard E. Winner, who owned 2,400 acres west of Independence.

He also was the president of a street car line serving the park, the Kansas City, Independence and Park Railway, completed in September, 1887. The company operated steam cars, covered with dummy tops (to keep them from frightening horses).

Through the park ran the sparkling Rock Creek which Winner dammed in 1887 to form a 20-acre lake, used for swimming and boating and enhanced in places by the natural beauty of a rocky tree-lined shore.

Musical shows, such as Pinafore, were performed on summer evenings from the deck of a ship tied to a dock, with the audience sitting on chairs on a grassy bank. A covered bandstand was built on an island in the lake, and concerts were given there.

There also was a lecture platform and a dance pavilion. There were the usual concessions and rides, and picnic tables and benches were scattered throughout the shady park. Birds and wildlife were numerous and protected. All the trapshooting clubs of Missouri gathered for an annual state shooting event at Robert W. Elliott's shooting park at Mount Washington. Live pigeons were used as targets.

The park closed in 1900, due to the competition of Fairmount park which had more direct transportation. Since that time the old park grounds have been the property of Mount Washington Cemetery. Today the lake is filled in and landscaped and the wooded grounds of the old amusement park includes the graves of more than 30,000 persons, many who once enjoyed the pleasures of old Mount Washington Park.

Carnival Park

When the $250,000 Carnival Park opened in Kansas City, Kansas, May 17, 1907, it was announced to be equal to any park in Chicago, St. Louis, Indianapolis or any large city west of New York, and rivaled only by New York's Coney Island.

The 13 1/2-acre plot it occupied, bounded by 14th, 16th, Minnesota and Barnett, was near the city limits at the time. Today the bleachers, stadium and football field of the Bishop Ward (Catholic) High School covers the area, leaving not a trace of the popular amusement park.

Being in historic Wyandotte County with its many Indian associations there were areas given over to Indian dances and games, and a restaurant called Wigwam Café.

Some of the amusement features were a large scenic railway, quiver, a shoot-the-chutes over a waterfall, a moving stairway to a great height, a living merry-go-round, billiards, bowling, a natatorium and the largest roller skating rink in the West.

Panoramic features included The Great Chicago Fire, Under the Bering Straits of Siberia, the Johnston Flood, Venice and a fire show larger than that seen at the St. Louis World's Fair. There were shady picnic areas, sunken gardens and daily free band concerts.

The name Carnival Park embodied the idea of a genuine Southern carnival time when confetti and flowers, reasonable license and fun mingled.

Fairyland Park

Fairyland Amusement Park opened in 1923 on 80 acres of farm land between Prospect and Indiana, 75th and 77th.

At a fourth anniversary event in June, 1927, a balloon ascension and parachute jump entertained patrons, while the free open air theatre Fitzpatrick & Sparks sang, Mme Peris' students danced and Albertine & Paul did a group of sensational hand stands.

There were picnic facilities, wild animal acts, a great Ferris wheel and name bands played in the big ballroom every evening, except Mondays.

Each year, in the season before the park's opening day, thousands of school children have attended Parent-Teachers Association picnics at the park, with rides at reduced prices and the P.T.A. benefiting from the entire sale of gate admission tickets. Many business firms entertained their employees on annual picnics at this south side park.

The swimming pool was an early day drawing card and there were ponies for children, miniature train and the flying tiger.

The park continues operation today. A telephone recording at the opening day in 1971 stated: The 1971 season began May 9 and lasts until Sept. 6. The recording continues: We have 33 major rides including the largest all steel roller coaster, the largest kiddie park; picnic grounds and bumper cars imported from Italy. The Giant Dipper is the last classic roller coaster between Vancouver, British Columbia, and San Diego.

Frank Meister's photographs of night scenes of the giant lighted Ferris wheel and roller coaster rides at Fairyland, won national acclaim and much publicity for the park in the 1950s.

Winnwood Park

Crowds numbering to 10,000 on Sundays visited old Winnwood amusement park in rural Clay County, 1913. Swimming, boating, dancing, picnic grounds, cottages, roller coaster, rides and sideshows were available.

The park, with spring fed lake was built and developed by Frank Winn, member of a prominent pioneer Clay County family with large land holdings and a pre-Civil War mansion. The boardwalk was copied from Atlantic City, N. J.

The Kansas City Clay County & St. Joe Interurban railway carried visitors to the park, as did horse-drawn buggies and motor cars that today would be premium-priced antiques. Four-lane I-35 now follows the route of the inter-urban tracks through the old park.

Electric Park

A whole generation of Kansas Citians will vow there was never a place of its kind equal to Kansas City's Electric Park. It opened May 19, 1907, to a crowd of 53,000.

The park of music, rides and thrills was named for the 100,000 electric light bulbs out lining buildings and rides. After dark they turned night into day. Enthusiastic writers termed it the great white city of Brush Creek Valley.

Old city maps of 1908 show this amusement park to be located at the extreme southern city limits at 46th and the Paseo and extending east to Woodland.

An important feature of the park was a nightly spectacle of Living Statuary at the fountain in the lake. Here beautiful, shapely young women on a pedestal emerged from the fountain as if by magic and held the crowd spellbound with their graceful poses, while flooded with colored lights that merged, blended and changed shades over their lovely forms.

The park's owners, the Heim brothers, had installed a $70,000 fountain in the lake with a device that elevated a pedestal out of the water, bringing the classic group up from the base (actually the girls' dressing room).

Fireworks, a nightly feature, were shot high over the waters of the lake, and on the Fourth of July were especially elaborate.

John Phillip Sousa, the march king, maintained that the band shell at Electric Park was the best he had ever played in the U.S. or abroad. There were daily concerts both afternoons and evenings by world renowned bands.

Today the entrance to the old park site is occupied by the Village Green apartment complex and shopping center.

Fairmount Park

For 36 years Fairmount park furnished summer fun and water sports for Kansas Citians, at its 8-acre lake located north of what is now U.S. 24 highway, at the eastern city limit.

Canoes and boats were available to rent and a long bathing beach as seen in the background of the picture, boasted impressive diving structures and a 2-story bath-house where bathing suits, caps and life preservers were also for rent.

The park was Arthur E. Stillwell's creation and was planned primarily to furnish trade for his Air-line interurban line, which ran from 2nd and Grand to Independence. The idea was successful and records show that as many as 15,000 fares were collected in a single day.

There was no air conditioning at the time, but the fast, breezy car ride to the country with windows wide-open was a cooling experience and one of the chief incentives for going to the park.

For the years between 1897 and 1901 a 9-hole golf course was maintained for the newly organized private Evanston Golf Club. The list of club founders included R. W. Hodge, R. George B. Norberg, John Harriss, John Lumpkin, Earnest A. Cronin, Neal S. Doran and Albert Young. (By 1908 the club had moved to the old Swope home, near Swope Park, and had a membership of 300, among them Colonel Swope.).

Fairmount park suffered a bad fire loss in 1933 and water pollution and the depression finally ended park operation.

No trace of the park remains today. Buildings have been razed, the lake has been drained and the terrain leveled.

Comfortable suburban homes on tree-lined roads occupy the 50 acres once so popular as a recreational area.

Kansas City Times
June 3, 1973

AuthorRay, Mrs. Sam (Mildred)
Item TypePostcard
CollectionMrs. Sam Ray's Postcard Collection (SC58)
http://www.kclibrary.org/localhistory/collections.cfm?collID=18
LocationSC58
Local SubjectWinnwood Park
Washington Park
Amusement Parks
Troost Park
Digital FormatJPEG
Barcode20000249; 20000253; 20000251; 20000252
RepositoryMissouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri
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