Dayton’s summer thrills: 5 amusement parks where the city went for adventure

Roller coasters, water slides and picnicking popular at parks

Vintage photographs of roller coasters, spinning rides and water slides capture Dayton’s love of amusement parks.

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Five memorable parks especially thrilled Gem City crowds:

Lakeside Amusement Park

Lakeside Amusement Park evolved from an 1887 attraction, a 40-foot high cyclorama that depicted the Battle of Gettysburg.

Located at Gettysburg and Lakeview Avenues on land opposite today’s VA Medical Center, the amusement park opened in 1890.

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Thousands rode the Derby Racer wooden roller coaster, spun on a carousel made of 48 hand-carved horses and were delightfully drenched on a water ride called Shooting the Chutes.

The park was also known for a dance hall called the Crystal Room, according to the City of Dayton, which was later renamed the Lakeside Palladium. It featured big bands such as Glenn Miller.

In 1930 the park was annexed to the City of Dayton. It closed in 1967.

White City Park

A dancing pavilion, amusement rides, refreshments and canoe lockers were part of the fun at White City Park located across from the Dayton Canoe Club near the confluence of the Stillwater and Great Miami rivers.

The park, named after its owners, the White City Amusement Company, was a hot spot for boating. Early photographs and postcards show canoes flying American flags and row boats filled with families dressed all in white floating along the water way.

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The rising waters of the Great Flood of 1913 damaged the buildings and park area. But successful regattas held by the Dayton Canoe Club prompted Dayton city officials to rebuild White City. On June 20, 1914, the park formally opened as Island Park.

Argonne Forest Park

During the 1920s Argonne Forest Park in Dayton was a hot spot for fun loving Daytontonians.

A go-kart track, dance hall, pony rental and a carnival midway were just a sample of the frivolity. An early photograph captures swimmers bathing in a large pool while a ball is played on at a baseball field in the background.

The park also featured an annual reenactment of the World War I Battle of the Argonne Forest. A poster from the early 1930s called for citizens to “See! Hear! Feel! The most spectacular display of pyrotechnics.”

The park began to fall into disuse in the 1930s, and the land was sold to the Dayton-Montgomery County Park district in the mid-1960s. Today it is located in what is now Possum Creek MetroPark southwest of Dayton.

Fairview Amusement Park

“Shooting the chutes,” was one of the popular activities at Fairview Amusement Park, according to a picture postcard of Dayton. The image shows a water slide cradled by a structure towering above a lake.

The park, located off north Main Street, opened in 1897 and thrilled with such attractions as a figure-eight roller coaster, a miniature train called the “Lake Shore Limited,” a swing tower and bathing beaches. The park land was also home to a casino and theater.

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The park closed in 1915 and the following year a portion of the land was purchased to build E.J. Brown Elementary School.

Forest Park

Another popular amusement park on North Main Street was Forest Park, also known as Frankie’s Forest Park.

Forest Park opened in 1928 and housed a collection of animals captured on an African safari trip by Fred Patterson, son of NCR founder John Patterson, according to Dayton historian Curt Dalton. The Great Depression made caring for the animals difficult and the zoo closed in 1935.

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The park theme changed and Frankie’s Forest Park opened. Visitors could ride a Ferris wheel and merry-go-round. The Comet, a wooden roller coaster that operated from 1928 to 1958, was the perfect background for pictures of auto racing on an oval track.

The site was later developed into the Forest Park Plaza. It was razed in 2013.


ABOUT THIS FEATURE

HISTORY EXTRA is a weekly pictorial history feature showcasing the Miami Valley’s rich heritage. If you have a unique set of historic photos found in your parents’ or grandparents’ attic that depicts the past in the Miami Valley, contact Lisa Powell at 937-225-2229 or at Lisa.Powell@coxinc.com.

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