Crystal Beach, Ontario
Pier that once served the Canadiana and Americana boats. View from Crystal Beach Hill.
|Time zone||EST (UTC-5)|
|• Summer (DST)||EDT (UTC-4)|
|Forward sortation area||L0S 1B0|
|Area code(s)||905 and 289|
||This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (June 2009)|
Crystal Beach is a community within Fort Erie, Ontario with a population of 3,800. It was named for the "crystal-clear" water conditions present when it was founded on the northeast shore of Lake Erie, across from Buffalo.
Crystal Beach Amusement Park occupied waterfront land within Crystal Beach from 1888 until the park's closure in 1989. The property was once a health spa whose buildings were sited near and on a natural sand dune fifty feet high and 1,200 feet long parallel to the shore. Part of the dune was excavated to open up land for the spa. In 1888, the spa was replaced by the amusement park, which has since itself been replaced by Crystal Beach Tennis & Yacht Club, a gated community.
Crystal Beach Amusement Park (1888-1989)
When the amusement park first opened in 1888, steamboats shuttled patrons from nearby Buffalo, New York to and from the park. At its peak in the 1940s and early 1950s, the park had about 20,000 visitors daily throughout the summer, from Memorial Day through Labour Day. Boat service connected the city with the park until 1956. The main passenger vessels used for these journeys were called the Canadiana and the Americana, each of which could carry 3,000 passengers per trip. The Ontario Southern Railway also provided a short-lived connection between the park and the mainline rail station at Ridgeway. This service consisted of a unique elevated monorail style train, and ran for only three summers from 1896 through 1898.
The park was famous for the Crystal Beach Cyclone, which was built in 1927. The Cyclone was an intense roller coaster with a full-time nurse on-hand to revive passengers who had passed out during the ride. In 1946, high operating costs forced the Cyclone to close. Many of the materials from the Cyclone were reused in the construction of the Comet. The park also contained the Backety-Back Scenic Railway, which was an early shuttle roller coaster.
Following the park's closing in 1989, the Comet was moved to The Great Escape & Splashwater Kingdom in Queensbury, New York where it still operates today. A roller coaster known as the Silver Comet has been built at Martin's Fantasy Island in nearby Grand Island, New York with a loading platform and signage similar to the original Crystal Beach Comet. The Ferris wheel from the park remains in operation at Centreville Amusement Park in Toronto, Ontario.
Several books have been written about the history of Crystal Beach Amusement Park:
- Crystal Memories: 101 Years of Fun at Crystal Beach Park - Rose Ann Jankowiak-Hirsch (2004)
- Crystal Beach: The Good Old Days - Erno Rossi (2005)
- Steamers of the Crystal Beach Line - William Kae (2007)
- Crystal Beach Live: Buffalo and Toronto Entertainers and More - William Kae (2009)
- Crystal Beach Park: A Century of Screams - William Kae (2011)
Several documentaries have been produced about the history of Crystal Beach Amusement Park:
- The Life and Times of Crystal Beach - Pacific Productions (1994)
- I Remember Crystal Beach - WEX Studio (1998)
- The Canadiana and Crystal Beach - WEX Studio (1999)
- One Last Ride: Crystal Beach Amusement Park - Last Ride Productions (2000)
- Thanks For The Memories - RDPK Productions (2006)
- Remembering Crystal Beach Park - WNED-TV (2008)
Crystal Beach Hill Cottagers Organization (1983-present)
In the 1930s many amusement park employees were allowed to build cottages on the Crystal Beach sand dune, so that they could live near their jobs. The area was called "Crystal Beach Hill" and eventually grew to 43 cottages. Before the park closed, the residents of "the Hill", fronting on the lakeshore, jointly purchased it and formed the Crystal Beach Hill Cottagers Organization. Crystal Beach Hill is now a family-oriented community, with many cottages owned by second- and third-generation descendants of early residents. "The Hill", the highest vantage point for miles around, offers elevated views of the beach, Lake Erie, and Point Abino, to the West.
Crystal Beach Motel
The Crystal Beach Motel is the only lodging place left from that time. Back then it was called the Crystal Pool Motel, built in the mid '60's by Geza and Maria Banfai, who also built, owned and operated what was then the Lakeside Motel on Terrace Lane. The Lakeside Motel was closed for some years and now reincarnated back again as a motel of sorts.
Interestingly, there were a few watering holes in Crystal Beach, keeping its visitors and residents well hydrated. The Palmwood Hotel still stands, despite a fire that all but destroyed it back in the '60's. Its affiliate basement bar, Circus by the Sea, is no longer. But before it was ever called The Palmwood it was called Sheehan's Hotel, it was cir. 1940's and the establishment was run by a lady affectionately known as Grandma Sheehan to all. (anonymous, family source)
Other hotels in the Beach... the Park Hotel on Derby Road was destroyed by fire as well as Hebert's Hotel on Ridgeway Road. Teal's Hotel on Erie Road is still open under the name Schooners. The infamous Ontario Hotel on the corner of Erie and Derby defied all odds and now houses apartments. The Derby Hotel on Queen's Circle has been converted into a convenience store.
Crystal Beach Tennis & Yacht Club (1992-present)
Land where the amusement park stood was converted into a gated community called Crystal Beach Tennis & Yacht Club in 1992. The pier that at one time served the Canadiana and Americana remains in a state of disrepair, as evidenced by the fenced off area, is currently owned by the Crystal Beach Tennis & Yacht Club development.
Crystal Beach is still a popular vacation and second-home area. The town of Fort Erie operates a free public beach directly adjacent to and to the west of the Crystal Beach Tennis & Yacht Club and Crystal Beach Hill. West of the public beach are private homes, as well as frontage owned by the Bay Beach Association, which provides beach access for a membership fee. Crystal Beach Waterfront Park is a municipally-owned park with a publicly accessible boat-launch and picnic area immediately east of the Crystal Beach Tennis & Yacht Club.
- Crystal Beach Today
- Fort Erie - Crystal Beach
- Historic Niagara Digital Collections - Crystal Beach
- Closed Canadian Parks - Crystal Beach Amusement Park
- Urban Exploration - Crystal Beach Amusement Park
- StaffAnnouncer.com - Crystal Beach Page
- Friends of Crystal Beach
- Crystal Beach at Yahoo! Groups
- Western New York Legacy - Crystal Beach Photographs