Take a look back at just a few of the special places that used to make us smile.
By Leo Deluca
Lakeside Amusement Park (1890–1964)
In 1886 a 50-foot-high, 320-foot-round cyclorama depicting the Civil War’s Battle of Gettysburg was erected in west Dayton across from the Soldiers Home. Three years later, in 1890, Lakeside Park opened on a 7.5-acre swath of land near the cyclorama, becoming a beacon of entertainment for the Miami Valley. Lakeside was the pinnacle of Dayton amusement parks until its closing in 1964.
“Among attractions and concessions in the park lineup are Caterpillar, Octopus, Cuddle Up, Paddle About, Merry-Go-Round, shooting gallery, Pretzel, Merry Mix-Up, Whoopee, Magic Carpet, Moon Rocket, kiddie ride, Flying Skooter, six refreshment stands and 10 game concessions,” wrote The Billboard in its July 1, 1950, edition.
Lakeside also featured the popular Wildcat roller coaster, a 48-figure, hand-carved carousel; Amuseland penny arcade and the romantic Flying Turns ride (where one person rode on another’s lap).
But the Crystal Room dance hall (later renamed the Lakeside Palladium) was the park’s largest money-maker, bringing in national acts such as Glenn Miller and Jimmy Dorsey.
Fairview Park (1897–1915)
Advertised as “the park with a roof of trees” Fairview Park was built on the corner of North Main Street and Fairview Avenue at the end of a trolley line. Designed to entice trolley riders, Fairview featured a spring-fed lake with a beach and swimming area, a high-thrill water ride called Shooting the Chutes and the Figure 8 roller coaster.
But when famed Dayton inventor Charles F. Kettering designed the starter motor, debuting his game-changing invention on the 1912 Cadillac, it brought the automobile into the 20th century and people began abandoning the trolley for automobiles. Fairview Park closed in 1915.
White City Amusement Park (1907–1910)
Including a theater, dance pavilion, rides and canoeing, White City Amusement Park billed itself as a family-friendly establishment. Liquor and gambling were prohibited and free vaudeville acts and concerts were featured in its 1,500-seat theater.
Hindu fortune tellers were a White City highlight and other entertainment options included a roller coaster, pool hall, dance hall, swimming pool, pony track, plays at Mock Cuoy Chinese Laundry and ominously named rides such as Circle Wave and Doomsday.
The Great 1913 Flood wreaked havoc on White City. In 1914 the city of Dayton took over renaming it Island Park.
Frankie’s Forest Park (1928–1958)
Many regional residents remember Forest Park Plaza, the popular North Main Street shopping hub in Harrison Township. In the 1960s and 1970s Forest Park was the place to be.
But before it was a shopping center Forest Park was an amusement park. Renamed Frankie’s Forest Park in 1935 it featured a speedway where crowds gathered on Friday and Sunday nights to watch stock car and midget auto races and its Circle Ballroom was a 1,100-capacity dance hall that showcased local bands.
“Forest Park’s lineup includes a Roller Coaster, Ferris Wheel, Merry-Go-Round, Scooter, Frolic, miniature train, Tilt-a-Whirl, Looper, 12 rides in the Kiddieland, restaurant and game room, Penny Arcade, shooting gallery, six game concessions and six eat and drink stands,” wrote The Billboard in its July 1951 edition.
In 2013 the plaza was razed, leaving any trace of Forest Park to the fond memories of its visitors.
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