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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hippodrome Mystery Remains Unanswered

This double image postcard shows the trolley station and entrance to Rock Springs Park (top) and the upper park midway and what at first appears to be an unidentified building (bottom right). Could it be the Hippodrome? No, it turns out this is the dance hall built in 1897 by J.E. McDonald which used to sit above the original trolley station and entrance on Carolina Avenue. It remained the dance hall until C.A. Smith razed it in 1905 to build his new Casino Dance Hall featured on many postcards from the period .

The location and size of the Hippodrome remains something of a mystery. In my previous blog post I wrote about this “mammoth” structure built prior to the 1910 summer season somewhere on the grounds of Rock Springs Park. Like its larger and more expensive counterpart, the great Frederick Thompson Hippodrome in New York City, Rock Springs Park’s Hippodrome was meant mainly for animal circus acts and acrobat troupes. By June 2, 1910, The Daily Times of Beaver, PA reported, “There is a fine bill at the Hippodrome, Rock Springs Park, this week, any of the acts being well worth the price of admission, including Carl Daman Family, Sensational Acrobats; the Orloff Troupe of Famous Russian Gymnasts and Roberti’s Bears, Dogs and Monkeys.” But the article goes on to say “Johnston, Davenport and Lorella” will appear in “The Football Players and the Farmer’ with music provided by Roceroto’s Concert Band. Performances are given every evening.” Discovering that a play was one of the featured acts made me speculate that perhaps the Summer Theatre in the lower park had been adapted or rebuilt as the “Hippodrome,” but that could not be the case as the newspaper also advertized “Sacred concerts Sunday afternoon and evening, the latest appropriate moving pictures, and classy Vaudeville at Theatre” in 1910. So, where was the Hippodrome and why wasn't it featured on any postcards or vintage photographs?

I’ve come across many mysteries like this one before while researching my book, Images of America: Rock Springs Park, and it seems, either by accident or persistence, the answer is usually revealed. Perhaps, someone reading this blog will provide the answer or the next clue.

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