At one point, every city in America had its own amusement. Usually built at the end of a streetcar line, the trolley parks would grow to feature rides – including roller coasters and carousels – a dance hall and potentially a baseball field.
Many of the old trolley parks are gone, but in Northeast Ohio, there are places where parts are preserved.
Cleveland was once home to Euclid Beach, an amusement park on the shores of Lake Erie eight miles east of Public Square, in the city’s Collinwood neighborhood. After it closed in 1969, the carousel went to another amusement park in Maine, and when that closed, it then returned to Ohio and made its way into the hands of the Western Reserve Historical Society. The carousel, made by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, regarded as the pre-eminent manufacturer of carousels in its day, was sent to Carousel Works in Mansfield for a complete restoration.
A rotunda was added on to the historical society at the corner of East Boulevard and East 108th Street – its entrance is a nod to the old Euclid Beach entrance itself – and on Nov. 23, 2014, the carousel reopened to the public. One chariot was replaced – the original is in the museum’s lobby – and four horses had to be recarved, but the other three chariots and 54 horses date back to the carousel’s installation in 1910. Music is provided by the original band organ from the park. Two rides are included in the cost of every admission to the historical society.
And if you’re driving around the Cleveland area, you might also see another relic of Euclid Beach on the road with you. After the park’s closing, Ron Heitman acquired one of its rocket ride cars and attached it to the chassis and drivetrain of an Oldsmobile Toronado. Heitman, who added another rocket car to his stable, rents out the Rocket Cars for parties and events – and they make public appearances as well.
In Youngstown, the amusement park was Idora Park. It was built at the end of the Park and Falls Railway on the city’s South Side in 1899, and acquired the nickname of “Youngstown’s Million-Dollar Playground.” The park closed after the 1984 season – hastened by a million-dollar fire.
Jim Amey has a collection of memorabilia from the park – some his own, some donated – on display in an outbuilding on his property in Canfield, a Youngstown suburb. The Idora Park Experience is available for group tours and open several times a year for open houses. It includes some park rides that look as good as new, and some that are in, uh, more original condition.