West View Park

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West View Park was an early 20th-century American amusement park. It was located in West View, Pennsylvania, north of Pittsburgh.[1] It was founded by Theodore M. (T. M.) Harton in 1906.[2]

Overview[edit]

West View Park was located in West View Borough's valley on Perry Highway/U.S. 19. Northbound travelers on U.S. 19 experienced a sharp horseshoe curve before descending into the valley and into the park. It was also one of many trolley parks in the nation, accessible to Pittsburgh streetcar travelers via the #10 West View route. The streetcar tracks ran across U.S. Route 19 and alongside the Dips coaster.

When Pittsburgh native T. M. Harton (from the Shadyside region) bought the land in the West View valley, it was swampy. He dammed the stream and turned the swamp into a 5-acre (20,000 m2) pond called Bellemere Lake, which was later renamed Lake Placid.

West View Park made its grand opening on May 23, 1906. The first rides were a carousel, a mill chute ride called the "Mystic Chute," and a figure eight roller coaster. The rides were built by the T. M. Harton Company. Another attraction for the park's debut season was an open-air dance hall, the largest dance hall in western Pennsylvania at that time. The original Park layout also included a penny arcade, a pony track, and rowboats on the lake.

In 1907 a Katzenjammer Castle funhouse and bandstand were added. Two years later, roller coaster designers Erwin and Edward Vettel developed a new innovation in coasters, and by 1910 the Dips was in operation.

Golden years[edit]

The 1910s[edit]

With its 1910 season gala opening, the Dips (which began under more generic names) was the first coaster in Pennsylvania to have dips and drops over 50 feet (15 m). When it was first built, it was a side friction coaster, and its grades did not exceed 25 percent. In 1911 Harton built a Ferris wheel for the park.[citation needed] In 1915 the funhouse was re-themed as Hilarity Hall. The Speed-O-Plane, also a side-friction coaster and a T. M. Harton "Deep Dip" model, was built in 1917, replacing the Mystic Chute.

All rides from 1906 to 1918 were built by the T.M. Harton Company. The first non-Harton ride came in 1919, "The Whip", built by the William F. Mangels Company Company of Coney Island, New York. Before the start of the 1919 season, West View Park lost its founder; in February 1919, T. M. Harton had been stricken with influenza returning from a business meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio. He died on April 1 of pneumonia at the age of 56.

The 1920s[edit]

On February 3, 1920, Olive Harton Jones bought the remaining assets of the park from her family members. She then owned $370,023.28 worth of parks, concessions, and companies.

In 1923 a second carousel was installed, giving the park two carousels. A caterpillar ride was installed in 1924. For the 1925 season, a Skooter (Dodge ems, Bumper Cars) ride was installed. West View's largest ride was built for the 1927 season, the Racing Whippet. It was a racing coaster, but in the middle, the two tracks separated and then came back together. The cars that started on the left side of the loading station would come back on the right side and vice-versa. This was considered one of the most exciting coasters in the world, only to be surpassed a few months later by the new Cyclone coaster at Coney Island. For 1928, the Speed-O-Plane was re-contoured with steeper drops and became the Greyhound.

In 1929 the Dips was re-contoured and turned into a standard wood coaster, with steep drops and a banked, rising, and falling curve at the far end of the ride. Also in 1929, a tumble bug was added; The Cuddle Up was the last ride added before the depression.

The 1930s to the 1960s[edit]

In 1936 a Loop-O-Plane was bought from the Eyerly Company. A new maple floor was added to Danceland in 1937. During World War II the only major addition was asphalt paving on all paths (1944). In 1946 a Ferris wheel and flying scooters from Bisch-Rocco, and a miniature railroad from National Amusement Device, were added. For 1947, the Cuddle-Up was rebuilt and a Tilt-A-Whirl was added. In 1948, Danceland was enclosed and re-styled in an Art Deco theme. In 1949, the Loop-O-Plane was replaced. Rides added in 1956 were a Round Up, Rock-O-Plane and Helicopter. As miniature golf became popular in the early 1960s, the park built an 18-hole course in 1961. For 1962, The Ride-N-Laff was rebuilt. Arrow Antique Cars were added, and a two-story haunted house was built.

In 1964, the Boot Hill Walk Thru, Pirate Cave Dark Ride, and Fascination Building were built. On June 17 that year,[3] with the British Invasion in full swing on the U.S. music scene, The Rolling Stones made an appearance at Danceland as part of their first U.S. tour.

Streetcar service decreased dramatically in Pittsburgh during the 1960s. West View Park's last day as a "trolley park" was on September 4, 1965 as PAT Transit ceased operations on the #10 West View car route (as well as several other adjoining routes which operated from Keating Carhouse, such as its run-through companion route, #15 Bellevue). West View was the last amusement park in the United States to be served by a trolley.[4]

The 1970s[edit]

The 1970s saw the beginning of the end for West View Park. There had been a decrease in the population of Pittsburgh schools. As the smaller districts merged to form larger districts, they changed their school picnics to Kennywood Park.

The first part of the decade saw the following new rides at West View Park: Double Ferris wheel (lasted only one season, 1970), steam engine train (replacing the miniature train), Round-Up, Tempest (aka Meteor), Trabant, and Rock-O-Plane (replacing the Loop-O-Plane).

Over the years, parts of the 5-acre (20,000 m2) Lake Placid had been reduced to make room for new rides. By the early 70's, the remainder was filled in and the one-time swamp that began West View Park was no more.

On October 3, 1973, the Danceland dance hall burned to the ground and was not rebuilt.[citation needed]

With the introduction of Kennywood Park's first million-dollar ride in 1975, the Log Jammer, West View Park was doomed. It did not have enough money nor space to build new million-dollar rides that might have saved it. Other parks were spending millions changing their images every year, but West View was stuck with its old one.

1977: End of an era[edit]

1977 would become West View Park's swan song. A last attempt to save the park was re-theming the Ride-N-Laff into Davey Jones Locker that year, but it was too late. On September 5, the park ended its 71st season; its patrons not knowing that they were riding their beloved Dips and Racing Whippet coasters for the very last time. Only 3½ weeks later on September 30, the T. M. Harton Company made the official announcement that West View Park would not reopen.[citation needed]

For the next few years, West View Park's dedicated patrons watched sadly as everything was taken down and either sold to other amusement parks or scrapped. The famous Dips roller coaster was one of the last rides to be dismantled.

Since 1981, The West View Park Shopping Center has occupied the old amusement park grounds. The original sign showed a replication of the Dips coaster; this was replaced in 2010 with a new sign with a carousel horse mounted above it. The stretch of land where the Dips coaster stood is now occupied by a Monro car service center, Long John Silver's restaurant, Subway sandwich shop, and a couple of empty buildings. A strip mall, including a K-Mart and Giant Eagle supermarket, were constructed at the back end of the park with Giant Eagle occupying the former site of Racing Whippet coaster.

Although there are no traces of the park left at the site, a few nearby businesses feature old photos, articles and memorabilia from West View Park's past. The West View Isaly's, located 1/8 of a mile north of the park site on Perry Hwy, now owns the bull head skull from the Boot Hill Walk Through attraction as well as a red West View Park directional sign, old chairs, and other articles.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°30′59″N 80°02′05″W / 40.5164°N 80.0346°W / 40.5164; -80.0346