Monday, January 16, 2017

Riverview (Amusement) Park, Chicago, Illinois. (1904-1967)

Riverview Park was an amusement park in Chicago, Illinois which operated from 1904 to 1967. It was located on 74 acres in an area bound on the south and east by Belmont and Western Avenues respectively, on the north by Lane Technical High School, and on the west by the north branch of the Chicago River.
It all started with a man named Wilhelm A. Schmidt who, during the late 1800’s, wanted nothing more than to open a modest "Sharpshooters Park." Schuetzen Park, coming from the German word "protect," did well until 1903 when Schmidt’s son, George, returned from school. Upon returning from Europe George told stories of the parks he had seen which boasted fantastic Ferris Wheels, Carousels and more. He argued that these rides would attract people from all over and with some monetary help from a lawyer named William Johnson, and a banker, Joseph McQuade, his vision quickly became reality. After that point the park became known as “Riverview Sharpshooters Park” and was home to three rides. 
One of Three Original Rides.
Unlike other parks, admission was close to free and you paid separately for each ride. This approach was particularly appealing to the working class of Chicago and kept the park doing well for quite some time. 

In 1906 the park saw a noteworthy increase of space, adding 50 acres and about 500,000 dollars’ worth of rides. Riverview was growing from a humble family owned park to the kind of place kids swooned over. 

In 1907 a new front gate was erected followed by the addition of the Velvet Coaster, the Pikes Peak Scenic Railway, a racetrack, and a whole new section of the park called Fairyland.
Velvet Coaster.
In 1908 they introduced two new attractions which stunned and amazed park-goers. The first was the Battle of the Monitor and Merrimac which was a recreation of the Civil War naval battle. The second was a 70 foot carousel, admired greatly for being hand carved and painted by a group of Swiss and Italian craftsmen.
Winter saw the addition of a roller rink and ballroom often filled with jubilant jazz and courting couples. At this point the park had grown to a massive 102 acres and continued to add eateries, games, shows and more. 

In 1909 once again the park’s name changed to Riverview Exposition Park and became a household name. The addition of new rides continued ever strong introducing The Tickler, Expo whirl and Witching Waves in 1910 and the Metrodome in 1911. In 1913 there was yet another name change – and the final one   where the name was simplified to Riverview Park.

During the time of prohibition in the 1920’s Riverview was known as a sort of speak-easy, as you were still able to find both beer and liquor. Throughout the course of the decade the continued adding more rides, including the most popular “The Bobs” with a nearly 90 foot drop.
That wasn’t the only thing breaking records. George Schmidt also invented the famous foot-long hot dog around this time, for the sole purpose of being filling and inexpensive when things became hard during the depression. During this time period Riverview adopted the motto “Laugh Your Troubles Away at Riverview!

Riverview saw prosperity throughout the 1950s becoming favorites to the returned service men of WWII. The late 50s also brought a new slogan "Riverview Park - Just for Fun." The early 1960s were good years for the baby boomer generation. 

At the end of the 1967 season, Riverview Park advertised its opening date for 1968. Shortly after the end of the season the park announced on October 3, 1967 that it would not reopen. There was much speculation about why. The park had been profitable up until it closed. It was rumored that escalating racial tensions and de facto segregation in Chicago in the 1960s made the owners uncomfortable and less willing to keep the park open. In truth, however, Riverview Park likely closed for economic reasons. While it was profitable, the $6.5 million sales price was too good to pass up, and within a few months, the rides had been sold or demolished and Riverview Park was no more.

The Riverview Carousel continues to operate at Six Flags Over Georgia. The Carousel and the Rotor were the only rides to be saved. The Rotor was moved to Six Flags Great America where it operated as Cajun Cliffhanger. It was removed after the 2000 season due to an injury on the ride.

Visit our Souvenir Shop on your way out.

Amusement Park Name History:
Sharpshooters Park,Chicago, IL. (1879-1903)
Riverview Sharpshooters Park, Chicago, IL. (1904-1908)
Riverview Exposition Park, Chicago, IL. (1909-1912)
Riverview Park, Chicago, IL. (1913-1967)

Riverview Roller Coaster History:
NOTE: Riverview was big on renaming its coasters, especially after accidents.

Aerial Coaster (1908-1910)
Big Dipper (1920) / Zepher (1936) / Comet (1940-1967)
Blue Streak [Original] (1911-1923)
Bobs (1924-1967)
Cannon Ball (1919-1925)
Derby Racer (1909-1932)
Fireball (1959-1967)
Flying Turns (1935-1967) [purchased from & after the 1933-34 World's Fair]
Gee Wiz (1912) / Greyhound (1913-1965) / Jetstream (1965-1967)
Jack Rabbit (1915-1919)
Kiddie Bobs (1926-1934)
Pikes Peak Scenic Railway (1907-1911)
Pippin (1921) / Silver Streak (1938) / Silver Flash (19??) {Shortened to} Flash (1961-1967)
Royal Gorge Scenic Railway (1908-1920)
Skyrocket (1923) / Blue Streak (1936-1958)
Tickler (1906-????)
Top (1907-1916)
Velvet Coaster (1909-1919)
White Flyer (1904-1920s)
Wild Mouse (1958-1967)
VIDEOS:

Flying Cars 1954

The Flying Cars were a German-made ride built for Chicago's great Riverview Park in 1954. Riders were strapped into a small car inside a large rotating barrel. The barrel had a track inside for the cars to ride freewheeling. The cars were held onto the drum by a rail and floating clamp system. As the drum would spin, the 1 person cars would follow the track and eventually begin to go upside down.  The drum steadily increases its speed and the cars let it roll beneath their wheels as they follow the track. The cars' brakes are then applied causing them to quickly accelerate up to the speed of the drum's surface which is around 30 mph causing the cars to go 360°. The operator of Flying Cars would spin the drum for two minutes and then release the brakes causing the cars to come to a complete stop while the drum also slows to a halt. Sounds like fun! Unfortunately, someone failed to properly fasten their safety belt and was killed after falling out. That was the end of the Flying Cars.


Riverview Remembered by WGN


The Bobs Roller Coaster at Riverview 


Riverview Amusement Park (circa 1952) 


Return to Riverview Special Part 1


Return to Riverview Special Part 2


Return to Riverview Special Part 3


I Remember Riverview (Part 1, 1984)


I Remember Riverview (Part 2, 1984)

CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR A FULL SIZE VIEW.























































































































































































































Poster for Riverview Amusement Park, c.1930s









2 comments:

  1. One of the only original natural amusement parks in America. Grew up in the area and visited several times. How sad to let it go!!! I will never forget the fun and happiness it brought to me and so many others...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for a great article, Neil! Howard (Kaplan) and I lived just a few blocks from its location for the past 20 years (but moved a few miles west two years ago), and have always been fascinated by the park. We didn't move to Chicago until the '80s, so we never saw it. But these pictures bring it to life! Laurie Vassallo

    ReplyDelete

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