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Long-vanished Euclid Beach Park entertained Cleveland residents for generation

June 2023

Euclid Beach Park, along the shore of Lake Erie in Cleveland, Ohio, is a passive park, with lots of shade trees, a picnic pavilion, a sandy beach and a pier stretching out into the lake. Long-time residents of Cleveland will remember the park as the site of Euclid Beach Park.

Opened 22 June 1895, in what was then the Village of Collinwood, Euclid Beach Park was an amusement park modeled after Coney Island in Brooklyn. Hopes were high for the park, which featured a variety of attractions such as vaudeville acts and concerts, a dance hall, an assortment of amusement rides, a gambling casino, food concessions and a beer garden. A swimming beach with a bath house provided relief for visitors on hot days.

Regrettably, after just six years, the amusement park was in financial trouble.

One of the concession operators, Dudley S. Humphrey, Jr., and six of his family members, succeeded in taking over management of the park in 1901. Humphrey presented a better vision of what the park should be, which included expanding the beach and bathing facilities, and adding several new attractions, including a lakeside swing. Most prominently, he advertised, “one fare, free gate and no beer”. No admission was charged, so that visitors would only pay for the rides and attractions they wished to enjoy.

Humphrey re-named the park Humphrey Park, after himself, but as most area residents still called it “Euclid Beach Park,”, the name was eventually changed back.

Humphrey replaced the original metal gate entranceway around 1921 with a wooden arch structure. The archway was later modified slightly to resemble the letter “H”, as in Humphrey. Around 1942, the archway was covered with a “Permastone” exterior, designed to resemble cut stone.

In line with Humphrey’s vision of a family friendly park, alcohol sales were prohibited on-site, along with forbidding admission to anyone who had consumed alcohol, including from the bar directly across the street from the park entrance. A dress code was also enforced, with men and woman required to wear a jacket and tie and dresses respectively. Only children could wear shorts.

A carousel was added to Euclid Beach Park in 1905, initially a Philadelphia Taboggan Company Carousel Number 9, then a Philadelphia Taboggan Company Carousel Number 19 in 1910. This carousel featured fifty-eight horses and two chariots.

Euclid Beach featured seven different roller coasters throughout the park’s run. The first, the Switchback Railway, debuted in 1896. It was replaced by the Figure Eight in 1904, with the Scenic Railway as a second roller coaster in 1907. The Figure Eight was replaced in 1909 by the New Velvet Coaster (later renamed Aero Dips). While the Aero Dips operated until 1965, the Scenic Railway was dismantled in 1937.

The Great American Derby Racer, later renamed Racing Coaster, a ride which simulated a horse race, debuted in 1913 and remained a staple of the park until it was sold in 1965. The Racing Coaster was a Möbius loop roller coaster, one that has a continuous track shared by both trains. In this design, the side of the station that a train returns on a different side of the station on which it began.

The Thriller debuted in 1924, featuring an “Out and Back” design, one that climbs a lift hill upon the station, races out to the far end of the track after the initial drop, performs a 180 degree turn and then returns to the station. The Thriller also survived until the closure of the park.

The Flying Turns, which was not only the name of a roller coaster, but style of roller coaster. The first one was built in 1928 at Lakeside Park in Dayton, Ohio, but the second one was built not long afterwards at Euclid Beach. The Flying Turns rollercoaster, designed by WWI Royal Flying Corps aviator John Norman Bartlett, was a trackless wooden chute, using toboggan-style cars, with a track full of twists like a bobsled course.

The Euclid Beach version was the tallest, and used three-car trains. Couples could enjoy the ride because one rider could sit in the other’s lap.

While Euclid Beach Park did provide hours and hours of entertainment for patrons, it wasn’t without controversy. In it’s early years, the park restricted admission by race, only admitting Blacks on certain days, starting around 1915, with the park’s special police force enforcing those restrictions.

This race-based restrictions would continue through to the mid-1940s, culminating in a series of protests occurring in the summer of 1946. After twenty people from the twenty people from American Youth for Democracy, United Negroes and Allied Veterans of America, and the National Negro Congress were ejected from the park by park police on 21 July 1946, these and other organizations began a picketing campaign outside Euclid Beach Park.

Further action on 23 August 1946 was organized by twelve members of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) were ejected, with a park policeman beating a black man, Albert T. Luster, who went to the park tom meet with the CORE members, but never actually did.

When a six-member interracial group from CORE were removed from the park by park police on 21 September 1946, two off-duty Cleveland policemen, Lynn Coleman and Henry MacKey, both African-American, intervened. The resulting fight that broke out between the city policemen and the park police resulted in Coleman being shot in the leg with his own gun. Cleveland’s Mayor Thomas A. Burke ordered the park closed for the season a week earlier than scheduled after this incident.

By the 1960s, the aging Euclid Beach Park had declined in popularity and was in financial trouble. In 1965, to generate needed operating capital, the Great American Racing Derby was sold to Cedar Point, an amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio, and the Aero Dips roller coaster, which was the oldest roller coaster in the park, was dismantled.

The inevitable end came in in 1969, with Euclid Beach Park permanently shutting down at the end of the operating season on 28 September, after 74 seasons. Several of the structures remained for years after the park’s closure. By 1986, the few remaining buildings had been demolished. Most of them were destroyed by arson fires, including the dance hall.

Today, very little remains at the Euclid Beach property. Most notably are Euclid Beach Park arched main gate structure, the waterfront pier, the original shoreline walkway, and the circular cement base that formerly supported a suspended swing ride, then a fountain.

While some of the rides were demolished, some were sold and moved to other locations:

Many of the Kiddy Rides, such as the Euclid Beach Chief, originally found their way to Shady Lake Park in Streetboro, Ohio, which operated for brief four-years, from 1978-1982. Shady Lake had a similar arch structure to Euclid Beach at the main entrance, that remained standing until 2004.

Form there, most of the rides, including the Euclid Beach Chief, then ended up at Old Indiana Fun Park in Thorntown, Indiana, which operated from 1983-1996.

The Great American Racing Derby, can be found at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, where it’s now known as Cedar Downs Racing Derby.

Laffing Sal, the robotic nightmare greeter that welcomed patrons of the Surprise House, remains in Cleveland and is privately owned Cleveland. Her owner rents Laffing Sal out for special occasions, including parades and Home Days celebrations in Cleveland.

The Euclid Beach Park Carousel

Although the Euclid Beach Park Carousel remains in Cleveland, it can now be found at the Cleveland History Museum in University Circle. When the park closed, the carousel was sold to Palace Playland in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, where it remained in use until 1997, when a partnership between Euclid Beach Park Now (formerly Euclid Beach Park Nuts) and the non-profit Trust for Public Land bought the carousel, with the intention of bringing it back to Cleveland.

A $6 million fund-raising campaign began in June 2010, when the Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland’s Euclid Beach Park Carousel Society and Euclid Beach Park Now, announced a collaboration to restore, reassemble, and operate the carousel. While many hoped to see the carousel returned to Euclid Beach Park, it was ultimately decided that more suitable place would be at their Cleveland History Center museum in University Circle, where the existing visitor base would justify the restoration and maintenance costs.

A new, enclosed, glass pavilion was built to house the carousel, which officially re-opened for public enjoyment on 23 November 2014.

The Humphrey Popcorn Company is still in business and still sells the popcorn and taffy treats from their days at Euclid Beach Park.

The Humphrey Company (the-humphrey-company.myshopify.com)

A 2007 documentary, Welcome Back Riders, which can be found on YouTube, features Euclid Beach Park.

Sources: Euclid Beach Park – Wikipedia, Collinwood – Wikipedia, Euclid Beach Park | Cleveland Metroparks, HOME (euclidbeach.org), Euclid Beach Park – The Cleveland Memory Project, Out and back roller coaster – Wikipedia, Dual-tracked roller coaster – Wikipedia, Thomas A. Burke – Wikipedia, Laffing Sal – Wikipedia, Trust for Public Land – Wikipedia, Palace Playland – Wikipedia, Then & Now | The Euclid Beach Park Arch | Western Reserve Historical Society (wrhs.org). Euclid Beach Park Arch | Cleveland Historical.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/long-vanished-euclid-beach-park-entertained-cleveland-residents-for-generation/

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