William M. Johnson, a lawyer, and the project's funder was also a promoter for Riverview. Somehow, Johnson and Cooper gained control of Riverview from Wilhelm Schmidt. Schmidt owned the (pre-Riverview) park called Schuetzen Park or "Sharpshooters Park," from 1879 on. Of course, there was growing animosity between them until Schmidt finally regained control and forced Cooper and Johnson out.
Cooper had a successful amusement concession at Municipal Pier (now Navy Pier) in the 1920 & 1921 seasons.
Chicago, Ill. — The Woodlawn Amusement Company, ℅ Architect Ralph C. Harris, 190 North State Street, Chicago, Ill., will receive bids until Monday, February 28, 1921, for an amusement park to include about 30 buildings on Milwaukee and Devon Avenues in Chicago, estimated value of $1,000,000 [$14,225,000 today].
The Economist, Monday, January 31, 1921.
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Chicago, Ill. — The Woodlawn Amusement Park Company, Paul W. Cooper, president, has abandoned the amusement park at Milwaukee and Devon Avenues for which Architect Ralph C. Harris made the plans.
Given this, Woodlawn was their attempt to become the big, new, Chicago Amusement Park. If it had been built it may well have outlived Riverview.The Economist, Saturday, April 16, 1921.
So why wasn't Woodlawn Amusement Park built? Here are my thoughts. In the late 1910s, the population in the city was starting to move outward in all directions as Chicago was experiencing a population explosion. Chicago's northwest side was a prime location because not much was out there. The area experienced a building boom and was perfect for a giant-sized amusement park.
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Woodlawn would have been closer to the new suburbanites. Also, with the area around Woodlawn still undeveloped in the 1920s and the Great Depression starting in 1929, they might have secured enough land for future expansion and been able to install 1960s and 70s theme park rides that Riverview didn't have the room for, like a miniature railroad, water rides, and 80s, 90s, and 2000s style steel and loop coasters, etc.
Woodlawn could have been a Chicago-style Kennywood Park, a Riverview-era amusement park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; founded in 1898 and is still running.
Also at the corner of Devon and Milwaukee Avenues:
De-Mil Putting Course at Devon and Milwaukee Avenues in Chicago.
Superdawg at Devon, Milwaukee, and Nagle Avenues, Chicago. A 1950s Drive-in.
Copyright © 2013 Neil Gale. All Rights Reserved.