There were three major amusement parks in the Cincinnati area at the turn of the last century. They were Coney Island, Chester Park, and The Lagoon. The Lagoon ,located across the Ohio River in Ludlow Kentucky ,can be viewed on the Northern Kentucky Web Site (the link is on the Main Page). Go to Kenton County and then Ludlow.
Chester Park was located on the northwest corner of Spring Grove Avenue and Mitchell. The Greater Cincinnati Waterworks offices now partially occupy the spot (there are commemorative plaques in their lobby that refer to Chester Park, also their main sign out front as a reference to Chester Park on it). The area first opened as a horse racing club. The President of the club was a gentleman by the name of George Stone who was also president of the Cincinnati Bell Telephone Co., owned a horse called Lady Chester. Need I say more? During the 70's and 80's it was the headquarters of The Queen City Jockey Club. The track was a 1/2 mile oval on which, in 1876, the first Ohio Derby was held. On August 29,1885 15,000 people gathered to watch John L. Sullivan fight Dominick (Dan) McCaffrey in one of the first boxing matches held under the Marquis of Queensbury rules. This was the first championship fight held in Cincinnati. Fighting a seven rounder Sullivan won the decision although it took several days to decide it. George Stone died in 1901 (his widow, Martha, was a survivor of the Titanic). In 1895 The Cincinnati Street Railway Company bought the park and used part of the land as a streetcar maintenance complex and the park became an "amusement resort". See the image below for the layout of the park and the Street Railway Maintenance complex.
In 1886 bicycle racing was added, concerts and operas were held and then rides and picnic grounds were built. A large lake was constructed with a midway bisecting it. On one side was boating and on the other side swimming. Circling the lake was a boardwalk and a miniature train. Hilarity Hall was a 5 story fun house. There were times when up to 30,000 people a day swam in the lake. The name was changed to Rainbow Park from 1929 to 1932 as a result of a public naming contest, but by popular demand the name was restored. The decline of Chester started with the combination of the Great Depression plus the loss of revenue from selling beer due to Prohibition. The park was closed and dismantled because the city of Cincinnati shut off the park's water in August of 1932 because of a $1800 unpaid water bill. The next year only the pool and skating rink stayed open. Another reason for its shutdown was the serious competition from Coney Island. After WWII it was called the Arena Pool. It closed for good in 1954.
The park's success from the very beginning was the use of the
steamboat to get there and return to Cincinnati after a day of fun. For fifty
cents you could ride the steamer Guiding Star (admittance to the park was
included). Another steamboat used was the Minnie Ray. Lake Como was built in a wheat field in 1893. In 1924 the largest re-circulating pool in the world
Sunlite Pool, the Wildcat Roller Coaster, and Moonlite Gardens an open-air
dancing hall were added. The park was so popular a horseracing track was built
using the Coney Island name. Ten years later the track changed its name to River
By 1936 the park covered 128 acres. In 1937 however the park was completely destroyed by the great flood. By 1970 Coney Island had grown to 165 acres and attendance in 1971 was 2.75 million people. Unfortunately the constant flooding of the grounds, the lack of room for expansion and the increasing traffic problems were responsible for its closing at the end of 1971 and operations were moved to King's Island.
See below for more information on the boats that made the Coney Island run.
The Taft Broadcasting Company purchased Coney Island in 1968
and because of constant flooding and other problems mentioned above closed Coney
Island. Many of the rides and attractions were moved to 160 acres (773 acres
now) in what was
then Deerfield Township 24 miles from Cincinnati. The name Kings Island came from the previous landlord,
the defunct King Powder Company, which had founded the town of Kings Mills for
its workers, while the Island part of the name was in homage to the park it was
replacing Coney Island. The site is between I-71 and the Little Miami River. Kings Island
opened its gates in 1972.
In 1972 an episode of The Partridge Family was shot there, and in 1973 the filming of an episode of The Brady Bunch was responsible for drawing a lot of publicity to the park. In 1974 the famed aerial acrobat Karl Walenda, at age 69, completed a record breaking high wire walk at the park. In 1975 daredevil Evel Kneival jumped his motorcycle over 14 Greyhound buses in the parking lot to set a world record. On July 4, 1976 the park played host to the wedding of Paul Revere of the pop group Paul Revere & the Raiders.
The centerpiece for the park has always been the 1/3 scale replica of the Eiffel Tower, located directly across the International Street and its Royal Fountain from the main gate. The main attraction for the park has always been its many roller coasters over the years. The first, and to many people the most important, was The Racer, twin wooden roller coasters that race each other side-by-side. The Racer is credited with starting the second golden age of the roller coaster. In 1982, the trains on the right side were turned backward. The Racer is one of two roller coasters at the park to be honored with the coveted Landmark status. Landmark status goes to historically significant coasters.
Other coasters present in 1972 were the Bavarian Beetle, a small steel coaster brought over from Coney Island (and removed in 1979); and Scooby-Doo, a wooden coaster (in 1979 renamed "The Beastie"; and in 2006 renamed again as "The Fairly Odd Coaster").
1977 saw the debut of Screamin' Demon, this ride had the cars going thru a loop first forward and then backward, it was sold in 1987. In 1979 The Beast was unveiled, the tallest, longest, and fastest roller coaster in the world at the time. After 25 years it still holds the title of the world's longest wooden roller coaster at 7,419 ft. The Beast is the other coaster with Landmark status.
In 1981 the world's first suspended roller coaster, The Bat, was introduced. It was removed 4 years later because of maintenance problems. In 1984 the first stand-up coaster in the United States, King Cobra, opened. Maintenance problems also caused this ride to be dismantled in 2002.
In 1987 the Vortex roller coaster briefly set a new record with 6 inversions, and in 1991 the Adventure Express, a mine-train style coaster was introduced. In 1993 Top Gun, the last suspended coaster built in the USA, was built. It avoided the mechanical failures of The Bat.
In 1992 Kings Island was purchased by Paramount Communications, along with 4 other theme parks in America and Canada; the park was renamed Paramount's Kings Island.
In 1996 Outer Limits: Flight of Fear opened. This was the world's first roller coaster powered by a linear induction motor (LIM). In 1999 Face/Off, an inverted coaster was opened. The Son of Beast, billed as the sequel to the Beast, opened in 2000. Currently, it is the tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster in the world, as well as being the only one to successfully incorporate a steel loop into its otherwise wooden structure. In 2005 the park introduced the Italian Job Stunt Track family coaster.
Today, Kings Island has 14 roller coasters plus many other thrill rides. Of course there are many other attractions besides the many thrill rides. The original "WaterWorks" water park was renovated in 2004 to become Boomerang Bay, a 30 acre water park resort that comes free with admission. The original kids' area, Hanna-Barbera Land is being renovated and will be rethemed as "Nickelodeon Universe" in 2006. Kings Island has won Amusement Today's award for 'Best Kid's Area in the world' 5 consecutive times (2001-2005). Scooby Doo and the Haunted Castle ride will be the last remaining vestige of Hanna-Barbera Land. Live shows can be seen at Paramount Theater. Other theme areas are International Street (main gates, fountains, shopping), Oktoberfest (German themes), Coney Island (themed as a classic midway), and Watertown (water themed).
New Mary Houston was crushed in the 1893 ice breakup. She ran one season in the late 1880s.
Commonwealth burned on August 25, 1889 at the foot of Whittaker St. in Cincinnati.
Guiding Star was sunk by ice in 1893.
Hudson burned in 1905. In Coney Service from 1896 to 1903.
Thomas Sherlock collided with a pier of the C. & O. Bridge and sank on Feb. 16, 1891. Was companion boat to Guiding Star.
Minnie Bay sank in 1889 by a snag. Was in Coney's service in the 1880s.
Big Kanawha was sunk by ice in 1906. Was chartered in 1904.
Princess was crushed in the infamous ice gorge of 1917-1918. (more about this below)
Sunshine II named changed to Princess after original Princess was destroyed. Was originally a ferryboat. Burned in 1928.
Sunshine III burned in 1904. Ran with New South in 1894.
New South wrecked in 1905 ice. Was in Coney Island service along with Sunshine III in 1894.
Morning Star burned in 1922. (more information below)
Island Queen I burned along with Morning Star. (see below).
Island Maid burned at Madison Indiana in 1932.
The most famous boat of all was the Island Queen II which ran from 1925 thru 1947. She exploded and burned at the Pittsburgh wharf in September of 1947. (with the loss of 19 lives)
Island Belle was sold in 1927. Ran the Coney Island trade from 1923 to 1927. Sold to Greater New Orleans Amusement Co. and was renamed Greater New Orleans.
Island Belle up for sale
Some facts about the second Island Queen you may not know: she had five decks and carried 4000 people the same number as the Queen Mary. One deck had a ball room with 20,000 square feet of hardwood. She had 36 watertight compartments, 3 electric power plants with 7000 lights. She was constructed completely of steel.
DESTRUCTION OF THE PRINCESS
During the coldest part of the winters it was customary to moor the Island Queen and the Princess at the mouth of the Kentucky River near Carrollton, which made a natural ice harbor. They were tied up along the shore in the winter of the "Big Ice" as it came to be called (1917-18). Also moored there was an old convict ship, Success, solidly built of teakwood in 1790. When the ice gorges at Sugar Creek broke up and moved down the Ohio River, the ice began moving out of the Kentucky River. The mooring lines of the Success snapped and the ship started to float down the Kentucky River, colliding with the Island Queen, knocking her loose from the shore. Both craft hit the Princess and all three moved down toward the mouth of the Kentucky and the swiftly moving ice in the Ohio. The Success than slammed into the towboat Eugene Dana Smith which was the only boat to have steam up and it joined the parade down the Ohio. The Princess gouged by the ice sank to her roof line at the mouth of the Kentucky, but the ice carried her along until opposite Brooksburg, Indiana, where she finally disintegrated. The Smith with steam up and crew aboard managed to land at Brooksburg. The Island Queen, still in the clutches of the swift, grinding ice, went on down the river below Madison, Indiana where she was safely landed. The old British prison ship, Success, the instigator of the whole drama, protected by her high teakwood sides, came thru the whole thing unscathed.
The Island Queen in distance Princess sinking/Queen moving The sinking of the princess
being pushed downriver by the ice.
Two cards of the prison ship Success can be seen on the Ohio River page.
THE BURNING OF THE 1st ISLAND QUEEN & THE MORNING STAR
The first Island Queen after surviving
the ice jam in 1917 enjoyed success for several more years until Saturday,
November 4, 1922 when tragedy struck once more. Both Steamboats were tied up for
the winter at the Coney Island wharf boat at the foot of Broadway. (A wharf boat
is what the steamboats actually tied up to. The passengers would enter the wharf
boat first to buy their tickets and ,I would guess, buy souvenirs and something
to munch on. Also any cargo that had to be transferred to the steamboat was
stored on the wharf boat.) The Tacoma and the Chris Greene were moored at the foot of
Sycamore St. The Cincinnati and the Queen City were moored at the L & C
wharf boat at the foot of Main St.
About 3 gallons of roofing tar were being heated for repairs on the Morning Star on top of her galley stove. You guessed it, it boiled over and set the boat on fire. The mooring lines were cut loose but there was a breeze from the Kentucky side which kept her right where she was. Soon the Island Queen and the wharf boat both were ablaze. Soon the Tacoma and the Chris Greene plus the Greene Line wharf boat joined in the conflagration. A tow boat pulled the Chris Greens out into the river, but it was too late and she burned to the water line. The only boat not harmed was the Queen City. The real photo postcard below shows the tragedy from the Kentucky shore after they had been pulled apart. You can see the Chris Greene in the foreground. The first Island Queen is shown burning in the background. The Steamboats Tacoma and The Morning Star are also burning in the background but can not be seen clearly. The Fred Hall, passing through, is the second Steamboat.
These are not postcards
Burning of Island Queen
THE DESTRUCTION OF THE 2ND ISLAND QUEEN
In September of 1947 the Island Queen was sent upriver to Pittsburgh to do some tramping because business had been slow that year and the company needed to make up some revenue. She made four stops on the way to Pittsburgh one of which was Steubenville, where she refilled her oil tanks with 31,000 gallons. Upon arrival at Pittsburgh she tied up at the Monongahela River Wharf on the 6th of September. On September 9, 1947 at 1:16 p. m. Fred Dickow, the boat's chief engineer lit a welding torch while trying to repair a broken stanchion located just above one of the oil storage tanks. The explosion that followed killed 19 crewmembers and injured 18 others. The long and storied career of the steamboat and Coney Island was ended forever.
The non-postcard image below shows the Island Queen being pushed downstream to the scrap yard at New Eagle.
The cartoon below was drawn for the Cincinnati Enquirer after the Queens destruction. It showed how the people of Cincinnati felt, great sadness.