Fairmount Park, Winnwood Beach, Fairyland Park, Worlds of Fun, Oceans of Fun, Carnival Park, The Mamba, The Wildcat, Crystal Pool, Electric Park, Heim Bros Brewery, Forest Park
Here in Kansas City, Mo., the amusement park scene kicked off nearly 100 years before Worlds of Fun’s installation in 1973. These old parks didn’t have coasters like the Mamba or the Timberwolf, of course, but you can bet the good times always “rolled” on.
In 1892, Cusenbary Springs amusement park opened, to be swiftly renamed Fairmount Park. Arthur Stillwell, the Kansas City railroad tycoon, built the park with intentions of adding passengers to his Independence-to-Kansas-City line. And success! – so much so, that within a few years of Fairmount’s opening, Independence, Mo.’s, Mt. Washington Amusement Park closed due to lack of traffic. But how could one defy the lure of Fairmount Park? You could play tug of war, listen to live music at the bandstand, play nine holes of golf and board the Loop the Loop, The Chute or the Jumping Jack rides. Maybe you preferred the shooting gallery? The carousel? Or canoeing? For over 40 years, Fairmount Park and its lake, complete with a fountain, a beach and a lux two-story bathhouse, drew crowds from near and far. Unfortunate occurrences — fires on park grounds, the Great Depression – closed the park permanently in 1933.
Electric Park I & II
The Heim Brothers Brewery in the East Bottoms of Kansas City was the largest brewery in the world at the turn of the 20th century. The three Heim brothers erected Electric Park (the original) next door to their brewery. This allowed for the genius piping system that kept the park’s Beer Garden flowing. Located at Guinotte and Chestnut Streets, Electric Park offered roller coasters, dances and vaudeville acts; when in 1907 the Heims relocated Electric Park (the second) to 47th and Paseo, an alligator farm, a bandstand and the Lagoon (a swimming beach and boating lake) were added to the fanfare. Fire damage was part of Electric Park’s downfall, like Fairmount’s, but it was the enactment of the 18th amendment, national Prohibition, that ultimately ended the Heim brothers’ ventures.
This short-lived amusement park at Independence Avenue and Hardesty opened in 1903, touting a horse track, glass-blowing, pony rides, a merry-go-round and a laughing gallery. Forest Park also featured an ape house, where visitors could enter the large round structure and poke some poor monkeys in cages. It sounds like quite a bit of fun – I’m particularly curious about the laughing gallery – but closed just 9 years later in 1912.
Here we have an even shorter-lived existence; Carnival Park opened in 1907 and closed in 1909. This seems odd for a spot that claimed to have just one rival in its fun-ness: Coney Island, in New York. Indeed, Carnival Park’s amusement array was enviable, if you were lucky enough to have visited the 13.5 acres in Kansas City, Kan., in the two-year span it operated. It offered coasters, a Double Whirl Ferris wheel, a moving stairway ride, a living carousel and the biggest damn roller rink this side of the Mississippi.
Ah, Winnwood Beach, “the Atlantic City of the West.” Here’s looking at you, Jersey. Winnwood opened in 1913 with the usual draws of dances and roller coasters, but the park’s real gem was its’ three spring-fed lakes, lovely beaches and boating opportunities. It even featured a boardwalk – ha, Atlantic City! The park closed its doors for good in the late 1930s, after a snake attraction ended in the accidental escape of the slithery reptiles. Panicked, the crowd stampeded over the pier, the weight causing a disastrous collapse.
At 75th and Prospect Streets, Fairyland amusement park entertained hundreds of thousands of people every year for 50 memorable years. Fairyland opened in 1923 on former farm acreage — 80 acres, as a matter of fact. Shuttered four years after Worlds of Fun opened, Fairyland was home to the Crystal Pool, pictured above, and roller coasters like the Flying Tiger, the Giant Dipper and the Wildcat, pictured above, the largest steel-constructed coaster in the United States during the park’s heyday. And that’s not all! Patrons could dance in the ballroom, ride the Ferris wheel, visit wild-animal exhibits, nudge each other with bumper cars or listen to live music at the bandstand.
Worlds of Fun & Oceans of Fun
In 1973, Worlds of Fun opened its gates with an impressive 60-ride selection. Oceans of Fun was installed as the watery counterpart to Worlds of Fun in 1982. Events like the Halloween Haunt continue to draw the masses and keep the double-park running swiftly. With no lack of success, this one will likely be sticking around for quite a while.