Old Amusement Parks Never Really Die

Summer fun may end, but pieces of the playful past endure in the forest.



A depiction of Rock Point Park, also known for a while as "Felician Park," located just outside of Ellwood City.

I don't know much about Ellwood City. Years ago I drove there to eat a hot dog at the legendary PeeWee's before it closed. And my mother once worked for National Tube Company, and I've heard her mention U.S. Steel's plant there, but otherwise it's been just a spot on the map 45 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. 

Then one recent Sunday, I unexpectedly meet Dave Irwin, who works in Lawrence County, and he told me about Rock Point Park, an old amusement park just outside Ellwood City that's not there anymore.

He said the park opened around 1885 and officially closed in 1912.  All of the buildings and rides are gone, but now the site of the park is open to the public as the Rock Point Nature Area (owned by the Wild Waterways Conservancy), featuring the small Rock Point Boat Club. Dave said it's now a beautiful, wooded wilderness with good hiking trails, but he had some old postcards that show the way it used to be, and he thought I might be interested. Naturally, I was.

postcard

The old Dancing Pavillion at Rock Point Park.

Rock Point Park, also known for a while as "Felician Park," was a railroad park (like Idlewild.) You dressed up and took the New Brighton & New Castle Railroad (or later the Beaver & Ellwood Railroad) to get there.

So one summer evening, I met Dave in Zelionople, and together we drove the last few miles to Ellwood City and beyond. The nature area is on a triangle of land where the Connequenessing Creek flows into the Beaver River.  If you take Wampum Road (Route 288) west, look for the boat club sign, and turn there onto the unpaved road that leads down to the confluence. It's so green and lush that it's difficult to believe anything as substantial as a roller coaster, merry-go-round or dance hall was ever part of this landscape.

But Dave showed me some of the relics that let you know this was once a civilized destination: A circular brick cistern, a concrete base of a fountain or some other structure, and down near the river, concrete flume structures that were part of the Shoot The Chutes ride, an old standard (now beautifully reproduced in Lost Kennywood as the Pittsburg Plunge.)

Dave planned out the path of his tour so that we ended at his favorite ruin: A set of stone stairs at the end of a stately iron footbridge that once crossed the Connequenessing. Built with stones from an older nearby canal system, the walls and steps look now as if they were designed in Middle Earth by hobbits or elves, and these stairs can lead you back up the hill into the woods.

I was just happy to find out about a surprising piece of local history, an unexpected glimpse into a vanished world, a fun but defunct destination that has gone back to nature, a place that forces you to try and imagine the relatively recent past as if it were still there down at the end of a dirt road. 


Rick Sebak, producer of the documentaries "Kennywood Memories" and "Great Old Amusement Parks," is obviously a sucker for old amusement parks. Special thanks to Dave Irwin for guidance and postcards.  More info: rockpointpark.com, wildwaterways.org.

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

The month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

The list of the regions's 687 leading physicians across 80 specialities.
Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

In a city known for world-class care, a life dedicated to health is rewarding, challenging, and innovative at every level — from med school to the board room.
Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Can McLay reshape the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police in his polite, communication-heavy, community-friendly, racially sensitive, 21st-century image?
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Harold Hayes' Biggest Retirement Fear, It's Not What You Think

Harold Hayes' Biggest Retirement Fear, It's Not What You Think

Hayes leaves KDKA TV after nearly 37 years with his legacy as one of the city's most respected, fair and accurate reporters – and his priceless sense of humor – firmly intact.
What to Watch Out For in This Year’s Pittsburgh Marathon

What to Watch Out For in This Year’s Pittsburgh Marathon

Marathon weekend can be a challenge for both runners, who are trying to finish the grueling race, and spectators who are simply trying to get around. We've got the info you need, whether you're running or watching from the sidelines.
Philly Chefs With Pittsburgh Roots Win Big at the James Beard Awards

Philly Chefs With Pittsburgh Roots Win Big at the James Beard Awards

Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook have picked up two James Beard awards this year, and Solomonov is in the running for one more.
Seven Cool Things About Dormont's Hollywood Theater

Seven Cool Things About Dormont's Hollywood Theater

After a decades-long cycle of closing and reopening, Pittsburgh’s oldest single-screen theater continues to enchant visitors.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our new, daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

The month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

The list of the regions's 687 leading physicians across 80 specialities.
Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

In a city known for world-class care, a life dedicated to health is rewarding, challenging, and innovative at every level — from med school to the board room.
Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Can McLay reshape the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police in his polite, communication-heavy, community-friendly, racially sensitive, 21st-century image?
The Eaglets Have Landed

The Eaglets Have Landed

The bald eagles nesting in Hays once again have given birth to a new generation. We take you into the nest to see how quickly the two chicks are growing.
Review: Justin Severino Knocks It Out of the Park With Morcilla

Review: Justin Severino Knocks It Out of the Park With Morcilla

Severino's follow-up to Cure is already winning national accolades.
Edit Module

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Harold Hayes' Biggest Retirement Fear, It's Not What You Think

Harold Hayes' Biggest Retirement Fear, It's Not What You Think

Hayes leaves KDKA TV after nearly 37 years with his legacy as one of the city's most respected, fair and accurate reporters – and his priceless sense of humor – firmly intact.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Umami Izakaya (Finally) Open in Lawrenceville

Umami Izakaya (Finally) Open in Lawrenceville

The much-anticipated Japanese pub from Tamari's Roger Li and Round Corner Cantina's Derek Burnell will serve food and drink deep into the night.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The quiet rise of Pittsburgh's tea scene gives us a few favorite gems.

Comments


Digital Jukeboxes are Evil, Bar-Ruining Monsters

Digital Jukeboxes are Evil, Bar-Ruining Monsters

The case against TouchTunes, the streaming music loudspeaker that can't stop screwing up the vibe at local bars.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
A By-The-Numbers Draft Has Its Advantages For Steelers This Time

A By-The-Numbers Draft Has Its Advantages For Steelers This Time

For the Steelers, this is a draft that’s long on need but short on intrigue.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Off to the Races

Off to the Races

Want to shade yourself in style at Derby Day and the PNC Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Spring Hat Luncheon? Look no further.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Richard Linklater Goes Back to School, Snow White Leaves Her Own Franchise

Richard Linklater Goes Back to School, Snow White Leaves Her Own Franchise

Reviews of "Everybody Wants Some!!" and "The Huntsman: Winter's War," plus local movie news and updates.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
What Type of Favor Do You Favor?

What Type of Favor Do You Favor?

Planning your wedding and can’t think of the best favor that will represent you and your big day? We spoke with three Pittsburgh-area couples to learn more about making the best and most personalized decision possible.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Phipps Kicks off the Planting Season

Phipps Kicks off the Planting Season

Welcome spring at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens with the Great Plant Auction, Party in the Tropics and May Market.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
STEM Event for Girls Planned at La Roche College

STEM Event for Girls Planned at La Roche College

The Tech Savvy program from the American Association of University Women aims to interest middle school girls in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

Comments