Electric Park

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For other uses, see Electric Park (disambiguation).

Electric Park was a name shared by dozens of amusement parks in the United States that were constructed as trolley parks and owned by electric companies and streetcar companies.[1] After 1903, the success of Coney Island inspired a proliferation of parks named Luna Park and Electric Park,[2] while the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 inspired the formation of White City amusement parks at roughly the same time. The existence of most of these parks was generally brief: the bulk of them closed by 1917, the year of the U.S. entry into World War I. Many pavilions have outlasted the parks themselves, with a few of them still standing today.

Electric Parks[edit]

Baltimore's Electric Park originally was a horse track. Rides and similar attractions were added as amusement parks increased in popularity in the beginning of the 20th century.
Postcard view of Electric Park, Baltimore's main entrance, ca. 1907. The entrance also served as a stop for the local trolley (as evidenced by the tracks in the lower right corner). The park buildings were razed in 1916.

The emergence of trolley parks in the last dozen years of the 19th century coincided with the rise to prominence of three entities: the electric companies (which grew rapidly as much of the United States was undergoing electrification since the 1880s), the railway companies (which constructed new interurban rail lines mainly in the eastern half of the U. S.), and - starting about 1890 - the replacement of horse-drawn cars by electric trolley companies. A fourth contributor to the rise in amusement parks in the first decade of the 20th century was the success of Coney Island,[2] which spurred the establishment of dozens of Electric Parks, Luna Parks, and White City amusement parks (the latter actually inspired by White City in the 1893 World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago), with many metropolitan areas having two (or more) parks with these names.

Most Electric Parks were owned by electric companies and trolley companies, which often had one or more lines that transported workers and shoppers between the downtown areas of the various cities and residential and industrial areas. (After 1900, interurban electric rail lines began carrying commuters from one city to another). Originally, the trolleys and interurban lines would either operate at a reduced level on weekends or be completely idle. To generate weekend traffic, the companies eventually created new destinations, generally at the end of their lines, for the public to attend on the weekends, whether it be a picnic park or (later) an amusement park.[2] Regardless of the type of park, the destinations owned by the local electric company or accessed by the electric trolley were commonly called electric parks. After 1903, Luna Park in Coney Island's success (with the park's entrance decked with electric lights) inspired the creation of Electric Parks, which spread throughout North America (at the same time, the similarly-inspired Frederick Ingersoll started to construct his Luna Park empire).

Like their Luna Park and White City cousins, a typical Electric Park featured a shoot-the-chutes and lagoon, a roller coaster (usually a figure eight or a mountain railway), a midway, a Ferris wheel, games, and a pavilion. Most also had miniature railroads. Many cities had two (or all three) of the Electric Park/Luna Park/White City triumvirate in their vicinity... with each trying to outdo the others with new attractions, with many incorporating an exhibit simulating the Johnstown Flood of 1889. The competition was fierce, often driving the electric parks out of business with increasing costs of equipment upgrades, upkeep, and insurance. More than a few succumbed to fire. As a result, most were out of business by 1917, the year the United States entered World War I. By the time troops returned to the U.S. (in 1919), almost all the Electric Parks were gone.

List of Electric Parks[edit]

While the date and location of the first Electric Park is currently unknown,[3] several existed before 1900. Since then, dozens of amusement parks had acquired the name:

Baltimore's Electric Park had many of the attractions common to many amusement parks in the first two decades of the Twentieth Century, including a re-enactment of the Johnstown Flood.
Postcard view of Electric Park, Baltimore's Johnstown Flood exhibit. Many Electric Parks, White City amusement parks, and Luna Parks installed state-of-the-art (for the time period) simulations of the 1889 disaster.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Roller Coaster Media Library: Listing of Stan Kujawa's Electric Park Summer Resort & Amusement Park 1905-1920
  2. ^ a b c Dale Samuelson, AJP Samuelson, and Wendy Yegoiants, The American Amusement Park (MBI Publishing Company 2001) ISBN 0-7603-0981-7
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Dale Samuelson, AJP Samuelson, and Wendy Yegoiants, The American Amusement Park ISBN 0-7603-0981-7
  4. ^ Electric Park Era - Kinderhook Lake
  5. ^ Wild Ride - Baltimore Style Magazine, July/August 2007
  6. ^ Pictures at
  7. ^ Maryland's Amusement Parks
  8. ^ Robert K. Headley, Maryland's Motion Picture Theaters (Arcadia Publishing 2008) ISBN 0-7385-5384-0
  9. ^ Detroit News, 6 Jan 2003, cited in
  10. ^ Detroit News article
  11. ^ Amusement Park & Roller Coaster Books - E
  12. ^ Appendix: The Copper County Trail - Western Upper Peninsula Planning & Development Region
  13. ^ Electric Park, Houghton - Upper Peninsula Digitization Center Collections
  14. ^ Athur W. Thurner, Strangers and Sojourners: A History of Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula (Wayne State University Press 1994) ISBN 0-8143-2396-0
  15. ^ Jenison Electric Park recounted
  16. ^ Coaster was Jenison Park amusement - Holland (Michigan) Sentinel, 19 September 2009
  17. ^ David Welling and Jack Valenti, Cinema Houston: From Nickelodeon to Megaplex (University of Texas Press 2007) ISBN 0-292-71700-8
  18. ^ Iola Electric Park - defunctparks.com
  19. ^ postcards and history in
  20. ^ Pat Williams and Jim Denney, How to Be Like Walt: Capturing the Disney Magic Every Day of Your Life (HCI 2004) ISBN 0-7573-0231-9
  21. ^ Kansas City Area History - Kansas City, Missouri Police Officers Memorial
  22. ^ Pictures of Electric Park (University of Louisville Library Digital Collections)
  23. ^ Kentuckiana Digital Library: Shoots
  24. ^ a b Lauren Rabinovitz, For the Love of Pleasure: Women, Movies, and Culture in Turn-of-the-Century Chicago (Rutgers University Press 1998) ISBN 0-8135-2534-9
  25. ^ also in Savin Rock and Westhaven, per Dale Samuelson, AJP Samuelson, and Wendy Yegoiants, The American Amusement Park ISBN 0-7603-0981-7
  26. ^ Futrell, J. (2004). Amusement Parks of New Jersey. Stackpole Books. p. 30. ISBN 9780811729734. Retrieved 2014-10-11. 
  27. ^ Smile: a picture history of Olympic Park, 1887-1965
  28. ^ Abstract: Palmetto Beach: Pensacola’s Electric Park
  29. ^ Plainfield, Illinois - Encyclopedia of Chicago
  30. ^ Plainfield history - Plainfield Public Library
  31. ^ Hidden World in St. Louis County Parks
  32. ^ David King, San Antonio at Bat: Professional Baseball in the Alamo City (Texas A&M University Press 2004) ISBN 1-58544-376-X
  33. ^ Amusement Parks - Encyclopedia & Culture
  34. ^ Norman D. Anderson, Ferris Wheels: an Illustrated History (Popular Press 1993) ISBN 0-87972-532-X [1]