Crescent Park (defunct amusement park)

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For the community of Crescent Park in Kentucky, see Fort Mitchell, Kentucky.
Crescent Park
Coordinates 41°45′22″N 71°21′28″W / 41.756144°N 71.357833°W / 41.756144; -71.357833Coordinates: 41°45′22″N 71°21′28″W / 41.756144°N 71.357833°W / 41.756144; -71.357833
Opened 1886
Closed 1979 (carousel remains operational)
Operating season Easter-Columbus Day (carousel)

Crescent Park was a famous amusement park in Riverside, East Providence, Rhode Island from 1886-1979. After declining attendance during the 1970s the park was closed. The land was cleared for condominium and low-income housing. The only remaining structure is the 1895-vintage Crescent Park Looff Carousel, designed and built by Charles I.D. Looff as a showpiece for his carousel business.


19th century[edit]

The park was founded in 1886 by George Boyden, who leased the land on Narragansett Bay from the John Davis, the owner of the nearby Bullock's Point Hotel. Boyden named the park after the crescent shape of the beach. In 1889, Boyden purchased the hotel and changed its name to Crescent Park Hotel. It operated until 1935, when it was demolished to make room for a parking lot.

In 1892, carousel designer Charles I. D. Looff built the park's first carousel. The ride was built on columns over the beach at the head of the 400' pier that was used by steamboats traveling up and down Narragansett Bay and the Providence River. In 1895, Looft built a second carousel for the park, now known as the Crescent Park Looff Carousel. The ride has 61 hand-carved horses, 1 camel, 4 chariots and a German band organ built by A. Ruth & Sohn. That same year, a shore dinner hall was built on the park grounds.

20th century[edit]

In 1900, LeMarcus Thompson built a railway behind the Looff carousel. The following year, the park was purchased by the Hope Land Company, with Colonel R.A. Harrington named park manager. In 1902, an exhibition hall was build on the midway, and was used by The New England Association for Arts and Crafts for their annual exposition. The hall was subsequently turned into the Alhambra Ballroom.

In 1905, Looff moved his carousel factory from Brooklyn to Crescent Park, where he designed and built several carousel for parks in New England and around the United States. He also began to use the Crescent Park carousel as a showcase for his business. During this time, Looff built two further rides for the park - the Flying Toboggan roller coaster and a tunnel-of-love ride called The Rivers of Venice

In 1910, Looff moved to Long Beach, California and established a second factory there. His son Charles, Jr. and daughter Helen managed the company's Rhode Island operations after Looff left the park.

Charles Looff, Jr. oversaw several renovations to the park, including the construction of a new shore dinner hall in 1914, and renovations to the Alhambra Ballroom in 1920. In 1920, he purchased the park from the Hope Land Company.

In1922,Looff Jr. began to operate a radio station, WKAD, on the park grounds. The station remained on air until 1926. Following Looff, Jr.'s death in 1925, Beacon Manufacturing Company purchased the park after his estate defaults on mortgage payments.

The park was damaged by the 1938 New England Hurricane, with the pier and Comet roller coaster sustaining the most damage. Both were subsequently rebuilt. In 1951, the park was purchased by a group of park concessionaires for $325,000. Many improvements were made during the next 15 years. New rides were added, food operations were improved, and free entertainment was offered to the public.The park exchanged hands again in 1966, when it was bought by two Providence investors, Melvin Berry and Joe Paolino. Three years after the purchase, on September 2, 1969, the Alhambra Ballroom burned down

Final years (1975-1979)[edit]

In 1975, the park's ownership group, Crescent Park Recreation Corporation, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The Hartford National Bank took over the park, and operated it during 1976 and 1977.

In 1977, concern over the future of the park's carousel grew during rumours that the park would be closed and auctioned off. That year, the Save Our Carousel Committee was formed by several Riverside residents, who successfully saved the carousel.

In 1979, Crescent Park closed permanently, and the rides, except the carousel, were sold at auction.

After closure and preservation of carousel (1980-present)[edit]

The midway was destroyed by a fire in March 1980. The shore dining hall burned down in another fire in July 1984. In 1982, the Kelly & Picerne real estate firm purchased the park area from the city of East Providence for residential development. They agreed to preserve the carousel and beach.

The renovated carousel was reopened on July 17, 1984. In 1985, it was named "The State Jewel of American Folk Art" by the Rhode Island General Assembly. It was named a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service in 1987. The carousel's foundation was rebuilt in 2000 following a $150,000 "Save America's Treasures" grant from The National Trust for Historic Preservation. The ring gear, original to the ride, was replaced in 2010.

See also[edit]