West View Park

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West View Park
1912 circa West View Park postcard.jpg
West View Park, circa 1912
Slogan "Just For Fun" (1920s-1930s)
The Fun Park (1970s)
Location West View, Pennsylvania, United States
Coordinates 40°31′03″N 80°01′52″W / 40.51750°N 80.03111°W / 40.51750; -80.03111
Owner T.M. Harton Company
via West View Park Company
Opened May 23, 1906; 112 years ago (1906-05-23)
Closed September 5, 1977; 40 years ago (1977-09-05)

West View Park was an American amusement park, located in West View, Pennsylvania, north of Pittsburgh. It was owned by T.M. Harton Company of Pittsburgh through their subsidiary company West View Park Company, which founded in December 1905. The park opened on May 23, 1906. The dance hall that was constructed in the park, Danceland, became a landmark for various bands and artists that performed there. Notably, the park featured The Rolling Stones at Danceland in 1964. The park operated for 71 seasons, through 1977, due to declining revenues, higher operating costs, and a lack of investment. The park was in an abandoned state for several years, subjected to several fires started by arsonists, before being torn down in 1980 and replaced by a shopping center and residential facility, in 1981.

History[edit]

Pre-amusement park era[edit]

The land that became West View Park was previously a park dating back to the 1860s in Ross Township, Pennsylvania. There were various sporting events including races that occurred on the grounds. The area around the park was relatively undeveloped, and by 1900, a lot of the land was being consolidated for redevelopment. In 1903, the Freehold Real Estate Company was formed, unifying several real estate developers together. This new company was able to develop much of the land around the park. By 1905, the area around the park was populated enough that a certain part of the Freehold redevelopment was able to be incorporated as a borough, of which the park grounds were included.

That December, Freehold leased the West View Park grounds to the T.M. Harton Company, with their intention of creating a new amusement park. The T.M. Harton Company was led by their founder, Theodore M. Harton II. Harton then created a subsidiary company called West View Park Company, which was founded in December 1905 and incorporated in March 1906.

1906–1918: T.M. Harton era[edit]

West View Park opened one week before Memorial Day, Wednesday, May 23, 1906. The park was constructed at a cost of approximately $250,000 ($6809259 in 2018 US Dollars).[1] The park initially had a combination water ride called Mystic Chute, a roller coaster called Figure Eight, a carousel (with horses likely carved by D.C. Muller Brothers), and a Pony Track in which people could ride ponies. The Pony Track also featured miniature automobiles (a modern example would be the Arrow Development car ride) which people could ride.[2]

Between then and 1918, West View Park would add several roller coasters. In 1909, the park replaced the original Figure Eight with a new Figure Eight.[3] In 1910, the Dips, which was built along the lake in the park, opened.[4][5] The Dips operated under several different names, such as Leap-the-Dips, but the roller coaster remained in the park through the closure of the park in 1977. The park replaced the Mystic Chute and second Figure Eight in 1917 with a new figure eight roller coaster called Speed-o-Plane.[6] The Speed-o-Plane remained in the park through 1927, when it was completely rebuilt and renamed Greyhound.[2]

In 1914, the park replaced their original 1906 carousel with a new carousel.[7] The park also featured several other funhouses and dark rides aside from Katzenjammer Castle, such as the Frazzle House,[7] House of Enchantment,[7] and Hilarity Hall.[8]

1919–1930: Post-Harton boom era[edit]

On March 1, 1919, company founder T.M. Harton died at age 56, after gotten sick with pneumonia several weeks earlier. Charles L. Beares, Sr., became president of T.M. Harton Company, who was Harton's brother-in-law. The following year, Harton's brother George M. Harton II, who was the company's legal representative and close advisor, passed away. West View Park was not held back by their deaths, as the park boomed in the post World War I era of the 1920s.

The first ride not manufactured by the T.M. Harton Company for West view Park was installed in 1919 - a W.F. Mangels Company ride, The Whip.[9] A number of other amusement rides were added, including a Scooter,[10] a Caterpillar,[11] and a second carousel, which was unusual for a park to feature two full sized carousels[12][13], as well as a ride called Joy Plane.[12][14]

In 1927, a new major roller coaster was added. It was a racing mobius roller coaster called Racing Whippet.[15] The ride was unusual in that you entered the queue line from underneath the station, and then walked up a ramp into the station, where you could choose which side you wanted to ride on. A ride similar to this today is Lightning Racer at Hersheypark in Hershey, PA.

The end of the era saw the addition of a Tumble Bug in 1929[16] and a Cuddle Up in 1930.[17]

1931–1945: Depression and World War II era[edit]

The Great Depression was a significant setback for T.M. Harton Company. Many of their investments in other places were faltering, resulting in them losing businesses. Furthermore, destabilization through out the 1930s in Europe led the Harton Company to pull out of Europe. This, combined with the effects of the Depression on the Pittsburgh region, resulted in little changes being made in West View Park for the first half of the 1930s. After the Cuddle Up was installed, the next new amusement ride was not installed until 1935.

However, the park did make some changes in this time period, such as replacing the Pony Track with the Talkie Temple in 1932. The Talkie Temple was a success during these lean years because they featured talkie movies at this little amphitheater. After talkies became ubiquitous, the Talkie Temple became a place where shows were put on for children.

Beginning with the addition of the Water Skooter ride on the park lake in 1935, the park would see a new ride added to the park most years throughout the end of the Great Depression and World War II. West View Park's first Eyerly Aircraft Company ride was installed in 1936, the Loop-O-Plane,[18] and a similar ride, Stratoship, manufactured by R.E. Chambers Company, was installed in 1939.[19]

West View Park's relationship with Allan Herschell Company began during this era. The park purchased a number of Herschell rides, starting with Rocket in 1941.[20] The park introduced a Kiddieland themed area to the park, which consisted primarily of rides manufactured by Herschell or Mangels.

World War II was a tough time for amusement parks, on several different fronts. Employment was difficult because many men left to go to fight in the war. Then, in 1943, the United States government imposed a pleasure driving ban in many places in the United States, including all of Pennsylvania. This ban was put in place due to oil shortages during World War II. This meant that a person could only drive a motorized vehicle to and from important places, such as work. You were not allowed to drive to places for entertainment. During this time period, many amusement parks struggled to get through 1942 and 1943, especially once the pleasure driving ban was in place. However, West View Park succeeded because of their location and proximity to so many homes.

In fact, during the war years 1942-1945, West View Park added several kiddie rides[21] as well as a Chair-O-Plane ride.[2]

1946–1965: The George M. Harton III era[edit]

In 1945, George M. Harton III returned home from World War II. Harton was eager to join the family business at West View Park. The following year, on January 3, 1946, Harry F. Covode, manager of H.F. Covode Company, which owned Walbridge Park in Toledo, Ohio, passed away suddenly, from a heart attack. The Covode Company was a subsidiary of T.M. Harton Company, so they had to act to fill Covode's position. Harton Company President Beares, Sr., took over the Covode Company. Harton was then made president of T.M. Harton Company. Harton effectively then became general manager of West View Park, a position he would maintain until his death in 1966.

This era was the peak of West View Park, with many new and modern rides being installed in the park during his tenure. Harton got on well with just about anyone, and he was very involved and well connected in the amusement industry. He was friends with people such as Walt Disney. He also ran his own agency called George M. Harton Agency in which he contracted water diver Billy Outten to other amusement parks and entertainment places.

Despite West View Park's success in the 1950s, things were beginning to change in the amusement park industry. In 1955, Walt Disney had introduced Disneyland to the world. Many investors were interested in replicating Disney's park. This led to the rise of the modern theme park, such as Six Flags Over Texas, which opened in 1961. Other parks were renovating to match these theme parks, such as Cedar Point beginning around 1960, Geauga Lake in 1969, and Hersheypark, beginning in 1971.

In addition to the rise of the theme park, another impact was the decline of streetcar services. This had been a major pull for visitors to West View Park over the parks first six decades, but by 1965, ridership had so sharply declined that streetcar services were discontinued to the park. Another aspect that was on the decline were the use of dance halls. Where dancehalls had been the place to go in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, and part of the 1950s, interest began to wane in the late 50s. Throughout the 1960s, popular music acts were largely shifting from dance halls to stadiums and arenas. However, park management did what they could to keep interest in Danceland - they even got The Rolling Stones to play at the park's dance hall on June 17, 1964, in front of 400 people.[22]

1966–1977: Post-Harton decline[edit]

George M. Harton III passed away on April 24, 1966. He had been sick and it had only gotten worse in the weeks preceding his death. 1966 was he first season since 1960 that the park did not add any new rides. Carice M. Koutz became President of T.M. Harton Company, and Jack Hickey became general manager of West View Park. Unfortunately, the rest of T.M. Harton Company's holdings had already closed up, leaving West View Park as Harton Company's sole property. The park mostly stood still in the 11 years between Harton's death and the closure of the park.

The park did not stop adding rides, but they were only smaller additions and nothing major. The park operated a Chance Rides Sky Wheel in 1969 and 1970, they added a miniature railroad in 1970, as well as a new Paratrooper and Tempest ride in the early 70s. No amusement rides were added to the park in the mid-1970s, except that dark ride Davey Jones Locker was renovated into a dark ride called Land of the Giants in 1977. Unfortunately for West View Park, these additions paled in comparison to what competitor parks were adding. For example, Hersheypark added over a dozen rides between 1972 and 1977.[23] Across Pittsburgh, at Kennywood, they added their first million dollar ride in Log Jammer.[24] Without increased investment or the space for such spectacular rides, West View Park could not compete with increased competition.

On the early morning of September 29, 1973, Danceland burned to the ground. This was the result of faulty electrical wiring. Danceland had been valued at $1 million ($5512744 in 2018 US Dollars), and it was not rebuilt.[25] While Danceland wasn't remotely as popular a music venue as it had once been, it was a landmark for the region. Losing Danceland was a hard hit on the viability of West View Park moving into the future.

Furthermore, as local school districts were consolidating, this was reducing the number of school picnic groups going to West View Park. Many of the districts which combined had one old district going to West View, while the other had been going to Kennywood. Combined, most elected to have their picnics at Kennywood.[2] This undoubtedly increased as Kennywood was making significant improvements to their park, while West View Park was stagnating.

West View Park closed for the 1977 season on Labor Day, September 5. Nobody knew at the time that it would be the park's final day of operation.

Post-amusement park era[edit]

Several weeks later, T.M. Harton Company announced that West View Park would permanently close. In effect, Harton Company had determined that the land was now more valuable than the park itself or the rides in it. In concert with West View borough, the Harton Company was exploring a sale of the property to land developers.

Many of the amusements were sold off at an auction. Rides such as the Jolly Caterpillar ended up at Conneaut Lake Park in Conneaut Lake, Pennsylvania. The rest of what was in the park, such as the Racing Whippet and the Dips, remained standing in the closed park, waiting for demolition. The most interested buyer was FRA Associates, which wanted to redevelop the park by constructing a residential building and a shopping center. There was a lot of legal wrangling around the park property being rezoned to match, which delayed the sale of the property. The development plan for the property was approved in July 1979, enabling T.M. Harton Company to sell the land to FRA Associates. In September 1979, Boot Hill, one of the dark rides still standing on the property was burned by an arsonist. A year later, just before the park was slated for demolition, a larger fire burned in the park, taking part of the Dips with it. Demolition began several days after the fire was put out.

The shopping center and residential facility opened in 1981, with the shopping center being named after West View Park, and using a carousel horse for a logo. The shopping center continues to exist today, featuring a Kmart and a Giant Eagle. FRA Associates struggled to make money on the property and ended up losing control of it.

There was also a novel which featured the park that was published. The coming-of-age novel Stick Man, about a boy growing up in a bohemian household, with an accompanying musical soundtrack, is set in West View. Several key scenes are set in West View Park. The novel was written by West View native Richard Rossi. [26] [27]

Former attractions[edit]

West View Park had many rides and attractions over the years. Below is a list of the nine roller coasters which operated in the park.

List of roller coasters[edit]

Ride Season Manufacturer Type Ref(s)
Opened Closed
Figure 8 (1906)
1906
1908
T.M. Harton & Company
Wooden coaster
[28]
Figure 8 (1909)
1909
1916
T.M. Harton & Company
Wooden coaster
[3]
Dips
1910
1977
T.M. Harton & Company
Wooden coaster
[4]
Speed-O-Plane
1917
1927
T.M. Harton & Company
Wooden coaster
[6]
Racing Whippet
1927
1977
T.M. Harton & Company
Wooden coaster
[15]
Greyhound
1928
1945
T.M. Harton & Company
Wooden coaster
[2]
Kiddie Dips
1949
1977
T.M. Harton & Company
Kiddie wooden coaster
[29]
Brownie Coaster circa 1957 circa 1960
W.F. Mangels Company
Kiddie wooden coaster
[30]
Wild Mouse
1961
1962
Unknown
Wooden coaster
[31][32]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Greater Pittsburgh's Newest Outdoor Resort—West View Park". The Pittsburgh Gazette. April 22, 1906. p. S2-7. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Jacques, Jr., Charles J. (1985). Goodbye West View Park Goodbye. Amusement Park Journal. ISBN 0961439203. 
  3. ^ a b "West View Park Season Will Open On Saturday Night". The Pittsburgh Press. May 11, 1909. p. 7. ...the usual park features will attract the crowds. These include...the new figure 8-roller coaster. The latter has been rebuilt during the winter and is the biggest in America, being a half mile long. 
  4. ^ a b "West View Park Open. Has Many New Amusements and Good Music Is Promised". Pittsburgh Post. May 15, 1910. p. 2. During the winter the beautiful, natural pleasure ground has been improved with the latest and best in park novelties and attractions, among them the most sensational coaster ride in the State, this alone costing $25,000. This ride was built by T.M. Harton & Co., of Pittsburgh which firm has built riding devices throughout this country and Europe, among them one now running at the Brussels Exposition. 
  5. ^ "West View Park Today Will Open for Season". Pittsburgh Gazette Times. April 29, 1923. p. S6-5. The thrilling dip-the-dips have been made deeper and longer... 
  6. ^ a b "West View Park To Open Saturday". Pittsburgh Post. May 10, 1917. p. 10. A great speedoplane, which, it is believed will be the sensation of local park history, has been erected at a cost of $50,000. 
  7. ^ a b c "West View Park To Open. North Hills Resort Season Will Begin Saturday". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. May 14, 1914. p. 7. ...there have been added a Frazzle House, a House of Enchantment and a new Galloping Horse Carousel, this latter taking the place of the old [carousel]. 
  8. ^ "West View Park Read For Season's Opening". The Pittsburgh Press. May 14, 1915. p. 22. One of [West View Park's] new attractions will be Hilarity Hall. 
  9. ^ "West View Park Will Open Season May 10". The Pittsburgh Press. May 4, 1919. p. ScS-10. At a cost of $50,000 he installed a great amusement attraction called "The Whip"... 
  10. ^ "West View Park To Open New Season Today". The Pittsburgh Press. April 18, 1926. p. ScS-8. A New "skooter" will be on view for the first time. 
  11. ^ "West View Park Opens Today; Cervone's Band Will Play". The Pittsburgh Press. May 4, 1924. p. STP-2. The new amusement devices include the Joy Plane one of the most thrilling contrivances yet provided for park patrons, the Caterpillar, declared to be a ride which is an innovation in summer resort devices; a new grandstand erected at the athletic field, a new shelter house and other attractions. A new boathouse has been built at the lake and splendid new boats secured... 
  12. ^ a b "West View Park Season Opens". The Pittsburgh Press. April 29, 1923. p. STP-2. A new [carousel] has been installed, making West View Park the only park with two [carousels]. 
  13. ^ "West View Park Today Will Open for Season". Pittsburgh Gazette Times. April 29, 1923. p. S6-5. A new [carousel] has been installed, and a new ride [Joy Plane], which the company is keeping a secret, is being erected. This new ride will open with the first picnic, May 21. [sic: It ended up not opening until July 1.] 
  14. ^ "West View Park Builds New Plane - Device Will be Placed in Operation Today--Many Picnics Scheduled". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. July 1, 1923. p. S2-7. A new thriller, the joy plane, will be in operation at West View Park today... There is only one other joy plane in operation in the United States, and that is located at Cedar Point, [Ohio]. 
  15. ^ a b "West View Park Open". Pittsburgh Post. April 24, 1927. p. S6-3. Over $75,000 was expended on the erection of the Racing Whippet. 
  16. ^ "West View Is Open". Pittsburgh Press. April 28, 1929. p. 14. ...another new ride, "The Tumble Bug," will be placed in operation today. 
  17. ^ "New Park Features". The Pittsburgh Press. May 18, 1930. p. ES-3. ...a new amusement ride, the "Cuddle-Up" is expected to open for the first time today. 
  18. ^ "West View Park Features Riggs". The Pittsburgh Press. June 7, 1936. p. SpS-7. The Loop-o-plane...will be in operation. 
  19. ^ "West View Opens Its Season Today". The Pittsburgh Press. May 4, 1939. p. SpcS-7. Among the new amusements...are "Stratoship," for aviation whirls, and "Swan," an acquatic [sic] novelty. 
  20. ^ "West View Park To Open May 4". The Pittsburgh Press. April 13, 1941. p. S2-2. A new "Talkie Temple"-West View's outdoor amphitheater...has been constructed on the Pony Track site. The "Rocket Ride"-new to Pittsburgh-which attains a speed of 70 miles an hour, has been erected on the former amphitheater grounds and will present myriad colors to the Gayway throngs...."Kiddieland" has a new ferris wheel and pony and buggy ride. 
  21. ^ "West View Season Opens on May 3". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. April 18, 1942. p. DM-3. Riding horses will be an added 1942 West View attraction and Kiddieland, too, will offer new amusements for the youngsters “atop the hill.” 
  22. ^ Butko, Brian A.; Roberts, Paul (Summer 1990). "The Rolling Stones at West View Park, 1964". Western Pennsylvania History (PDF). Vol. 73 no. 2. p. 64-65. Retrieved January 5, 2018. 
  23. ^ "List of Rides [Hersheypark] - 1971-1990". The Amusement Parkives. Retrieved January 5, 2018. 
  24. ^ "Kennywood Springs Back To Life". The Pittsburgh Press. April 17, 1975. p. SubrubanEast-18. Crews have finished Kennywood's newest amusement - a $1 million water-borne ride called "The Flume" [Log Jammer]... 
  25. ^ Rieland, Randy (September 29, 1937). "Fire Levels West View Danceland - 50-Year Landmark destruction Tied To Faulty Wiring". The Pittsburgh Press. p. 1. A raging fire - apparently caused by faulty electrical wiring - destroyed West View Park Danceland early this morning. 
  26. ^ Vancheri, Barbara (August 8, 2013). "Film Notes: Strand to screen movie about Roberto Clemente". Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Retrieved December 26, 2015. 
  27. ^ Jones, Diana Nelson (January 11, 2015). "Saint Roberto Clemente?". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved December 26, 2015. 
  28. ^ Cite error: The named reference Post 06 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  29. ^ "One-Woman Band At West View". The Pittsburgh Press. May 8, 1949. p. S5-2. All the 75 rides at the park will be in operating, including the new "Kiddie Dips." 
  30. ^ West View Park – 1960, Pittsburgh, PA“. tc421mc. 1960. April 12, 2012. YouTube. 00:01:15-00:01:21.
  31. ^ "West View Offers Many New Rides". The Pittsburgh Press. May 4, 1961. p. S6-2. Included among the [new] attractions will be the "Wild Mouse," and the children's "Paddle Boat" and bicycle ride. 
  32. ^ "West View Park Starts '61 Season". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. May 7, 1961. p. pS4-8. The main amusement attraction will be the imported German “Wild Mouse.” 

External links[edit]