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Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Ghostly Image

At the top of page 111 in the book, under a photograph of the old arcade building, I wrote, “The arcade, in need of a good paint job during the final years of Rock Springs Park, looks spooky in this photograph taken in 1974. Many amusement parks today extend their season by offering Halloween-related activities during the fall. Based on these photographs, Rock Springs Park would have made for a terrific fright night.” But I did not discover until this week that there actually was a ghost in the photograph given to me courtesy of Mike West, or a ghostly image at least.

In my previous blog post, I wrote about the arcade building and how it was used as a beer garden in the 1940s and originally constructed as a Fun House. Last summer Sayre Graham shared the image below with me from his father’s collection. The photograph is not a postcard, but one of a series from The Finley Brothers Construction Company demonstrating various projects they built in the park and the Chester Area.

This is the only image I have ever seen showing the arcade with murals freshly painted on the façade. If one compares this picture with ones of the arcade in later years, including Mike’s photo (see previous blog post), it becomes clear that certain changes were made over the years. For one, the second floor center balcony window was boarded up and below on either side of the front door two small diamond windows were added. In addition, it seems that between the original mural painting in the late 1920s and the rustic look in 1970, the arcade most likely did not get repainted, or if it did, one ghostly image, that of the sun on the left tower remained visible, even if just barely so. See it?

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Beer Garden

Apparently, I am not alone in my frenzy to look up information in the 1940 U.S. Census. According to Google.com, the census was the most searched item when it was released on Monday, April 2, 2012 receiving some 22.5 million hits in three hours and crashing the system. Once it was back online, I looked up my family, as many others did, to see how much money they made and what they were doing when the nation was still trying to recover from the Great Depression. But I was also interested in finding out more about Rock Springs Park.

One new thing I learned involves the old park building pictured above.

The image is of The Arcade. It was taken along the midway in 1974, four years after the park closed, and sent to me by Dr. Mike West. Mike grew up on Louisiana Avenue in Chester, on a side street which ended at the Cyclone's chain lift hill. He fondly recalls playing the "5-cent pinball and baseball games" in The Arcade and listening to the screams of park patrons plunging down the first hill of the roller coaster.

Originally, The Arcade that Mike knew was built as a fun house during the C.C. Macdonald Years. It featured a giant two-story slide and a confusing hall of mirrors. There were actually two mirrors still outside the entrance in Mike's day (See below).
I have also seen a one of a kind 1920's photograph showing the facade of The Fun House completely covered with painted murals featuring bow-legged characters strolling about under the name “Honey Moon Trail” in all caps. The tower on the left in the photograph had a wide-eyed sun smiling down and the opposite tower a winking moon. Above the door was painted “Fun-Fun & More Fun.” Unfortunately by the time Mike took his photograph, the decorations were gone and the building was weather-beaten and bare.

According, to author and Chester historian, Roy C. Cashdollar, The Arcade or Fun House had a third use as well, which brings me back to my original purpose in writing this post. “Right across from the lunch stand was the horse race game, then the fun house, which in later years became a beer garden.” At the end of his description Roy added, “I purchased two chairs from the beer garden at the park auction and they are still being used – one as I write these notes.”

The Beer Garden Days of The Fun House and the park itself also get a mention in the 1940 Census. One listing shows 50-year old George Zagula as unmarried and living with his sister, Agnus Stabryla. Zagula was born in Poland and “ran the Beer Garden (Part of 39).” I am assuming “39” has something to do with Rock Springs Park as George’s brother, Jacob Zagula, age 53, married with nine children, was also identified on the Chester census with his job description being “labor - amusement park.”

So, Chester’s German Beer Garden was run by two Polish immigrant brothers. This seems to be fitting considering the strained relations of these two European countries throughout history.
A beer garden (a loan translation from the German "Biergarten") is most often an outdoor area in which beer, other drinks, and local food are served. Rock Springs Beer Garden was originally a Fun House walk through attraction. The painting is Im Biergarten or At the Beer Garden by Adolph Friedrich Erdmann von Menzel, 1883.

Where is it today? The Arcade along with most of the other buildings in Rock Springs Park were razed by 1975 when the land was sold to make way for a cloverleaf exchange to the new Chester Bridge.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

J.E. McDonald Buys East Liverpool Review

Tuesday, April 26, 1892

On this date in Rock Springs Park History, The East Liverpool Review is purchased by attorney, J. E. McDonald. McDonald would go on to build the Chester Bridge, develop the town of Chester, then known as "The South Side", and create Rock Springs Park at the end of the new streetcar lines of rising entrepreneur C. A. Smith. Read more about our area’s early newspapers and their heated rivalries at http://rockspringspark.blogspot.com/2011/07/sandwich-stein-and-stogy.html.

Sunday, April 26, 1908

And on this date, a 1908 baseball game ends in a tie so the players could catch the train home. "Leaving the field in the ninth inning with the score 1 to 1 in order to get their last train home, the Beaver Falls Independent put up a good game at Rock Springs Park this afternoon." Read the account and find out what a "bingle" is at http://rockspringspark.blogspot.com/2011/02/1908-baseball-game-ends-in-tie-so.html.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Persian Prince in Chester

In reviewing the recently released 1940 U.S. Census records for any information which could be gleaned on the topic of Rock Springs Park, I came across a name which gave me pause. A man by the name of Raphael Emmanuel was shown to be living in a tourist home on Carolina Avenue in Chester, WV, when the census taker was completing his now 72-year old document. It was not so much Emmanuel’s name but a combination of several other factors which thoroughly engaged my curiosity. He was born in Turkey, had lived in Pasadena, CA at the time of the previous census, and gave his occupation as lecturer and writer.

Chester, at this time, was a stop on the coast-to-coast Lincoln Highway, so it would be reasonable to assume that perhaps he just happened to be staying at the tourist home on his way through town when the census was taken, but this explanation seemed unlikely. There had to be more to it.

Who was this guy and what was he doing in Chester?

My first search for Emmanuel led to some children’s books he authored in the 1940s. The books, labeled as “juvenile fiction” and with such titles as The Pasha of the Dessert and The Prince of Istanbul, tell of the Middle East, Persian Princes and camel caravans across the ancient lands of the Bible – Mesopotamia of old and Iran and Iraq of today.

Inside book cover of The Pasha of the Desert by Raphael Emmanuel.
It did not take long to discover that prior to his children’s book writing career, Raphael Emmanuel was most famous for speeches he gave across the country to Christian churches and public schools. He would appear dressed in the costume of his native land and recite his own original poems, sing traditional songs and share the many legends of his people.

Area newspapers record that he spoke at the Zion Evangelical Church in Rochester, PA on Sunday morning, August 11, 1940 and earlier at an evening event held in Youngstown’s Grace Lutheran Church on July 14 on the subject of “Bible Lands Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.”

"Sheik Emmanuel traces his ancestry back to King Nebuchadnezzar and comes from the land of the Patriarch Abraham." Berleley, CA Daily Gazette, Oct. 21, 1933.

The tourist home in Chester where Emmanuel was a lodger was known as The Timothy House run by Carrie Timothy and located on the land now occupied by the Hancock County Savings and Loan.
The Reading Eagle on May 15, 1929 gives a good description of Emmanuel’s lecturing style. “Although of the real "sheik" type, Raphael did not rely solely upon his ‘good looks’ to sway his audience. This he accomplished with his native high-pitched voice in both speaking and singing. His native songs and legends of tribal life in Mesopotamia were outstanding features."

It seems then that the man who caught my eye on the 1940 census was also attracting the attention of thousands of others back in his day. He must have been quite a celebrity in a small town like Chester, comprised mostly of shop keepers and mill workers. One can almost picture the scene in which a beaming Miss Timothy tells the census taker, “Oh, the lodger in Number 3? Why he is none other than Sheik Emmanuel, the Persian Prince!”
The Reading Eagle of Nov. 24, 1939 states that Emmanuel "is a resident of Virginia and has been appearing in many churches of all denominations."

The Oxnard, CA Daily Courier July 15, 1921, explains that Emmanuel was indeed in California prior to his stay at The Timothy House in Chester, WV.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Ride the Cyclone Again

Saturday, April 23, 2011

One year ago, fans of Rock Springs Park were offered the chance to take a virtual ride on the Cyclone on my blog here. The last real ride on the Cyclone was taken on Labor Day 1970 as the lights of the park were being turned off forever.

Also on this date one year ago, Betty Reynolds, known as “Granny” to her grand and great-grandchildren, passed away. Betty worked at Rock Springs Park following graduation from high school, and later at Allison's Restaurant in Chester. See Betty and read more about her life and family here.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Rock Springs Park Linked to East Liverpool Historical Society Website

The East Liverpool Historical Society Website placed a link to my Rock Springs Park blog this week on their “Links Useful to Enjoyable" page” at http://www.eastliverpoolhistoricalsociety.org/. Their site is a terrific resource for researching our local history on-line and I am proud to have my blog associated with it. A search of Rock Springs Park provides ten links ranging in topics from the early 1900's trolley rides to 1950's dance contest photos to articles on the parks final days in 1974. The ELHS also has a Facebook page under the title “Historical Memories of East Liverpool” which contains hundreds of images and discussions of all things Potter.

I took a few photos of East Liverpool landmarks on one final stop before sending off my manuscript to Arcadia Publishing in December 2009.

 Bottle Kiln at the Corner of East Second and Market

Beginning Point of the U.S. Public Land Survey that led to the opening of the Northwest Territory. On September 30, 1785, Thomas Hutchins began surveying the Seven Ranges at the point of beginning.

The Broadway Wharf was the launching point for the ferry boat Ollie Neville which carried excursionists to Rock Springs Park.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

1940 Census, Part II: The Finley Brothers and C.A. Smith

In the first part of this series of blog posts, I told of Clarence Durbin and Alvin and Hazel Babb who worked at Rock Springs Park and lived in my neighborhood in Chester, according to the recently released 1940 U.S. Census Records. Being a big fan of the park’s history and an author of a book on the subject it was interesting to discover that many influential park workers and performers lived just a few doors down from my old stomping grounds.

Just around the bend on 3rd Street from my house growing up in Chester were The Finleys. The friendly couple lived in one of only two ranch-style homes in the neighborhood made up of mostly two-story clapboards. I passed the Finleys' house daily on my way to school or the family drugstore in town. Their home was bordered on one side by a concrete Lincoln Highway marker and on the other by a house near the old bridge over the railroad tracks which had a small monkey tied to a tree in the backyard in summer. The concrete marker was something to leap frog and the monkey was vastly entertaining to kids in the neighborhood.

The Finleys would often sit on their small front porch and greet me on my way to and from town. What I didn’t realize at the time was Mr. Finley was a member of The Finley Family in town. The Finley Brothers Construction Company built nearly every iconic building in Rock Springs Park, including the octagonal carousel pavilion, and just about every other building in Chester as well. According to Sayre Graham, Jr., whose father worked for the company, they built the Chester High School, the City Hall, and C.A. Smith’s huge cattle barn at Hillcrest (seen above) among others.

The 1940 Census tells us that the Mr. Finley I knew was not one of the original Finley Brothers, but most likely a son or nephew. Listed was Joseph Finley who owned an older home across the alley from where the ranch house would later sit. Today 315 Third Street has a pool in its side yard. In 1940, the house and property are listed at a value of $6,000 and Joseph is identified as being 75-years old and head of the household he shared with his wife Ella and two daughters. His occupation is “contractor – lumber and building” and even at 75, he was not retired with number of hours worked during the week of March 24-30 listed as forty-four.

I am assuming at this time, until confirmed, that the Robert Finley residing at nearby 253 Virginia Avenue, my old street, was another Finley Brother. At age 69 Robert with his wife “Ollie” and son Robert, Jr. age 29. (Could Robert, Jr. be the Mr. Finley I knew?) Robert, Sr. was a carpenter at the lumber company, so I am sure he was a Finley Brother of the construction trade.

If only my interest in the Rock Springs Park had been as great back in the 1970s as it is today, I’m sure all of my Finley neighbors would have had some interesting stories to tell of the park and their buildings which I so admire. I did, however, have the occasion to visit the home of the other subject of this post that of C.A. Smith.

In 1978 I was asked to meet a fellow thespian to run lines for a high school production of the musical “Oliver!” at the old Smith residence. The cast member was playing the Artful Dodger and was a cousin of the William A. Watson Family who owned the big house on the terraced hillside at the time. She was one of two female Artful Dodges to play opposite my part in the show. My interest in the house at that time was not so much the fact that it had once been owned by former Rock Springs Park owner C.A. Smith but that it had an elevator inside. When we finished practicing our parts in the living room of the largest house in town, Jack Dawkins and Oliver Twist, of course, rode the elevator to the second floor. “Consider yourself at home!”
1978 Oak Glen High School Little Theatre Production of "Oliver!" I was too old for the part of Oliver Twist (red vest right).
By the time the census was taken in 1940, C.A. Smith was no longer the lessee or manager of Rock Springs Park. Since 1926, the park had been leased to C.C. Macdonald and by 1935 managed by his daughter Virginia and her husband Bob Hand.

On the census, the 73 year-old Smith is listed as “Corporate Exec” and “Pottery Mag.” (I wonder if “mag” is magnate.) It is interesting to note that Smith is listed at the top of the census chart (see image 1, above), most likely because his was the first home, geographically speaking, along Pyramus Avenue. But it is not too difficult to picture him making it a point with the census taker to be listed above everyone else. He had that kind of influence. His home was valued at $25,000 or 1 million in today's dollars.

The Smith residence is only one of two Chester homes I have come across in the 1940 census so far to have servants. The other, listed directly below C.A. Smith on the document is brother, William Smith, pottery salesman. The C.A. Smith household lists as its permanent residents: C.A., wife Mary E., and servants Ada Mobley and William DeVaugin. Mobley, age 46, was the cook and Devaugin, age 77 Mr. Smith’s butler. Mobley lists her birthplace as Jacksonville, Florida, while Devaugin’s is Camden, New Jersey.

Casino Dance Hall Opens

Saturday, April 21, 1906
On this day in Rock Springs Park history, the Casino Dance Hall opened at a cost of $30,000. It replaced the original Main Pavilion constructed by J.E. McDonald in 1897. The first floor featured a six-alley bowling court, billiard hall, Japanese tea gardens, shooting gallery, toilets, barber shop, and park offices.   The second floor was devoted entirely to dancing. The 18,000 square-foot white maple dance floor could accommodate 750 couples.  The onetime Chester icon would be featured on the cover of the first book about the park nearly one hundred years later. Read the details at

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Virginia Gardens Sign Hung in Memorial Park

Tuesday, April 19, 1983

On this date in Rock Springs Park history, an image and article about the placement of the Virginia Gardens sign in the new memorial park on Sixth Street appeared in The Panhandle Press. See the article and image Courtesy of Mark Gonzalez at http://rockspringspark.blogspot.com/2011/05/arched-virginia-gardens-sign.html.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

1940 Census, Part I: Clarence Durbin and Alvin and Hazel Babb

The 1940 census records were released online by the U.S. National Archives on Monday, April 2, 2012. The records, which include names, addresses, and income and employment information, are rich in personal details. It was interesting, for example, to find my own grandparents listed in the Chester, WV census and to see my father and his younger brother living as independents at ages 4 and 2. We all know our parents were kids once, but seeing this fact on an official government document crystallizes it some weird way. My grandfather’s occupation at the time was “manager retail drug store” and the value of his home was $4,000 or about $70,000 today. (Based on the dollar rate and not reflective of the property’s actual value.)

Fact: Census data for individuals is protected by privacy laws for 70 years after the census is conducted.

The records provide details into family history for genealogists, but they also are an important research tool for historians. By looking for the names of important individuals from the history of Rock Springs Park, I was able to uncover some interesting facts about which I was previously unaware.

One of the biggest surprises was the fact that a lot of folks who were involved with the park lived in my neighborhood. It’s no great revelation that workers in a small town amusement park were my neighbors, but I was not aware that a handful of them lived just a few doors down.

It should be noted that I was raised in the same house in which my father lived in 1940. My grandparents moved out of this house to the suburbs in the 1960s and our family moved in. My father was a pharmacist at the corner family drug store like his dad , and so our experiences growing up were not all that different. We swept and mopped in the store, stocked pill bottles, delivered hot meals to our dad on the job and passed the same houses on the way. And more often than not, these homes had the same families living in them in the 1970s who were listed on the census record in 1940.

Rock Springs Park photographer and the man whose pictures I have been studying and used in the book , Clarence O. Durbin, lived only two doors down. It was his father's house and Clarence, age 40 in 1940, lived there with his wife and son. Clarence’s dad, Elmer Durbin, at age 59 was listed as head of the household and was employed as a decorator and kiln operator in a local pottery. Meanwhile, Clarence worked as a “heater” in the local tin mill. Photography at that time was just a hobby for Clarence.

Two other Rock Springs Park notables were listed in our ward as well. Alvin and Hazel T. Babb rented an apartment around the block on Second Street. They actually met because of the park. The Salem News celebrated Hazel’s 100th birthday two years ago in an article released in May of 2010. She recalled, “I was born on May 22, 1910 in New Haven, West Virginia in a world vastly different from the world as we know it now. England had a king, the United States consisted of 46 states, William Taft was president and the Titanic had yet to sail. There were no televisions or computers. Heck, zippers didn’t exist yet in clothing. I moved to Chester, W.Va. and that’s when I met the love of my life at Rock Springs Park. Alvin was part of an orchestra playing at the dance hall. We spoke when the band had a break and I learned his band was leaving the next day for Spain. I asked if he would keep in touch and he replied that if I started dating him, he wouldn’t go. Needless to say, he stayed put.”

According to the 1940 census, Alvin worked at that time as a motor freight accountant. Alvin passed away in 1998 at “90 years young,” and his obituary tells us that he co-founded Y.E.L.P. Trucking service prior to World War II. A feature story about him appeared in The Youngstown Vindicator. In it, we learn that the Babbs lived and worked for most of their married lives in East Liverpool, Ohio, but in 1940, at least for a short time, they lived just around the corner in Chester.

Next time - The 1940 Census (Part II): The Finley Brothers and C.A. Smith.

Monday, April 16, 2012

ICC Authorizes Sale of Excursion Tickets to Rock Springs Park

Thursday, April 16, 1908

On this date, The Interstate Commerce Commission in Washington D.C. authorized the sale of excursion tickets to Rock Springs Park. Tickets were available daily, except Sundays, from May 1 to September 30. They were nontransferable and no baggage was to be checked. The ICC would rescind this rate in 1913 upon which the Rock Springs management announced “the poorest season the park had ever experienced in a financial way.”

History: As a result of the failure of states to regulate railroads, the United States Congress passed the Interstate Commerce Act in 1887. The Interstate Commerce Act required that railroads charge fair rates to their customers and make those rates public. This legislation also created the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), which had the authority to investigate and prosecute companies who violated the law. (ohiohistorycentral.com)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Winchester Disaster

The morning after Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, news of the ship's fate appeared on the front page of newspapers around the world. But did you know that Chester, W.V., before the time of Rock Springs Park, had its own titanic disaster on a cold February night in 1866?

Another ship, a paddle-wheel steamer named The Winchester, was on its maiden voyage when a fire broke out. Passengers jumped from the ship into the icy waters of the Ohio River and swam ashore on the beach where the Jennings Randolph Bridge extends into West Virginia today. This is the same spot upon which passengers would later disembark for a day of fun at Rock Springs Park.

When dawn came, the proud "Winchester" was burned to the water line. Estimates
of the loss of life ranged from 20 to 30 or more. In addition to the passengers,
about eight deckhands and roustabouts were drowned or burned to death. Legend and tradition say they were buried on the spot in unmarked graves. And
if they were, their mouldering bones are deep under the river now. The level
has been raised twice in the interim by the artificial pools created by dams.

Read more at http://www.genealogypitstop.com/winchest.txt, including the dramatic tale of a baby rescued from the ice.

“Mrs. Enoch Bradshaw, had watched the conflagration from her big brick house on the current site of the library. The next morning, somehow, she found herself in the custodian of a baby girl who had been found on the riverbank. The story was that the child had been placed on a floating cake of ice as the craft burned and had drifted safely to shore. Her parents could not be found. Mrs. Bradshaw agreed to care for the youngster until the confusion died and she could be restored to her parents. Mrs. Bradshaw kept the child for three or four months until members of the baby's family were located. And then came the sequel that spanned the generations.”

Supposedly, workers who were dredging for the new bridge in the early 1970s were told to keep an eye out for The Winchester's safe as it was never recovered and held riches from the wealthy plantation owners who were onboard nearly 100 years earlier.

“Doc” Fraser

The image below of Virginia Hand seated on the lap of a friend during a Christmas Party in the Log House at Rock Springs Park was sent to me by Tish Hand during one of our many e-mail discussions about the park. She knew the rosy-cheeked fellow in the photo only as “Doc” and thought that he delivered Virginia’s sons, Robert and Richard.

This was one of many photographs I considered using in Images of America: Rock Springs Park, but it was not chosen in lieu of one that showed the exterior of the log home as most would remember it. Doc’s name and identity remained a mystery until I posted this picture on Facebook and asked if anyone might know him.

That conversation is transcribed below.

Me: (in caption under photograph) I am uploading photographs to Images of America: Rock Springs Park in a folder labeled "Faces of Rock Springs Park." Most of the subjects have been identified, but a few are unknown. Does anyone know the name of the gentleman with Virginia Hand in this photo? He was a doctor.

PF: Do you know when the picture was taken; he looks familiar but not sure.

JCS: Could it be Dr. Wolpert?

JB: Was that the Doctor that lived in the house to the right of Washington School.

Me: Tish Hand thought that he delivered Virginia's boys. Is that possible?

CG: Thought Dr. Wolpert lived there.

Me: The Wolperts did live in the Old Stone House.

SM: Dr. Gotlieb delivered my brother Steve in 1944.

Me: I may be wrong, but I was under the impression this Dr was from ELO. It could be Dr. Wolpert, though. I don't know what he looked like.

PF: I believe that the picture is of Dr. John A. Frasier, he was the only practicing Dr. that I know of in Chester from the mid 30's up until the late 50's, he delivered me and all of my siblings along with most of the babies born in Chester at that time, I am not certain, but he looks like the Dr Frasier that I remember, but then that was over 60 years ago too.

PF: That would be Dr, John A. Fraser I found him on Google search, quite a history there from 55 years in Chester. He delivered 5784 babies, removed 1702 appendix. 675 C-sections, removed 521 gall bladders, 1089 hernia repairs, 4280 tonsillectomy including mine, 906 hysterectomies, and once removed a harmonica from a boys stomach, as well as having an office practice that took many hours of his time, he was actually quite the doctor and he did deliver most of the older generations here today in Chester and left.

PF: Here is a link to his picture and bio, I am pretty sure it is the man in your Photo http://eastliverpoolhistoricalsociety.org/Forelodrs.htm.

PF: I know it says East Liver pool, but remember Chester did not have its own hospital, his office was in Chester but his hospital was in East Liverpool, at the end of the Newell Bridge if memory serves me right.

CG: PF, when I was trying to describe him to my mom that's who she said it sounded like. In fact he delivered me.

PF: You, me and nearly everyone else in the county in those days from the looks of things, lol.

Me: Thanks so much you guys. Sounds like we have our man. It's just too bad Doc doesn't have a fresh white rose in his lapel in the photo. That would seal it (refering to fact listed in ELHS article).

Go to PF’s East Liverpool Historical Society link to read about “Doc” Fraser and see an older photo of him which appeared in an article about local doctors in the Review. What do you guys think? Is it the same man? There is also a picture of Dr. Wolpert on this site.

Here's a couple more Christmas Party Pics.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Disco Ball or Mirrored Ball

While watching the 70th Anniversary edition of Casablanca this weekend, I made note of a scene in which a huge mirrored ball turned in a French nightclub casting spinning spots of light on the walls as Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman danced in flashback. It reminded me of the ball I show in the last chapter of my book and made me wonder who invented them.

An 1897 article of the "Electrical Worker" discusses the Third Annual Ball held on January 6, 1897, at Roughaus Hall, Charlestown, a neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, and tells of a spectacular lighting display including a carbon arc lamp flashing on a mirrored ball. This may be the first record of a dance hall mirror ball on display.

Though the identity of the inventor of the mirror ball is lost to history, the mirror ball was first recorded on film in the 1927 silent German movie "Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt." Many accounts also describe its use in 1920s dance clubs.

We called it a disco ball in my day, but prior to the 70's it was simply known as a mirrored ball. The original mirrored ball used in Virginia Gardens, Rock Springs Park, still turns during dances and wedding receptions held at the American Legion Post 121 in Chester.

Rock Springs Coal Mine

Rock Springs Park owner, C.A. Smith, also operated a coal mine along the west bank of Beaver Creek near Island Run (downstream from Grimm's Bridge in image). The mine supplied coal to generate electricity for the streetcars, the city of East Liverpool, and the park. It was at the end of a 3-mile off-shoot or spur of The East Liverpool Traction & Light trolley line at the Pennsylvania and Ohio border northeast of Chester. It was common practice at this time for trolley generating plants to supply streetlights and homes with electricity before city power plants were built.

Coal was extracted from the hillside mine in large buckets hoisted from the depths of the earth and carried along a 1500 foot cable to the tipple. Images of the mine and tipple can be viewed at http://www.eastliverpoolhistoricalsociety.org/trolley5.htm. According to this website, “The so-called Island Run electric line was used until 1917 when C.A. Smith found that he could purchase cheaper power downriver.”
Fact from the site http://www.trolleystop.com/trolleycar.htm: Many trolley companies built and operated amusement parks along their lines, as a way of generating extra revenue, during the warm weather months. Before automobiles became available to the general public, many people would ride the trolleys, out to the company owned amusement park, to relax and enjoy their free time. So, the trolley companies not only made money, from the fares people paid to ride the trolleys to the amusement park, but they also made money, charging admission to the park, and selling tickets for the various rides in the park.

Happy Birthday C.A.

Sunday, April 14, 1867

On this date in history, Rock Springs Park owner, Charles (C.A.) Smith, was born in Wellsville, Ohio, where he began his climb from gas company waterboy to one of the Ohio Valley's wealthiest men. He was a noted transit company owner, pottery manufacturer, oil operator and gentleman farmer.

His obituary (below), which appeared in the Youngstown Vindicator on October 14, 1953, lists even more accomplishments. Smith’s death occurred almost three years to the day after he sold Rock Springs Park to Bob and Virginia Hand for $70,000 on October 7, 1950. (Click on image to enlarge.)

I Love this story about Smith told by Roy Cashdollar, "Mr. Smith was stopped by a State trooper on his way to New Cumberland, and Mr. Smith liked to travel fast as he was always in a hurry. He told the officer to make two citations as he would soon be coming back and traveling just as fast."

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Band Stand in 1906

This week, I posted an excerpt from The Transit Journal of 1906 describing a walk through Rock Springs Park during the early C.A. Smith Years. The article mentioned a band stand which rested on the hill above the lake.

“The grounds around the lake have been left in their natural state except that walks have been laid out, trees trimmed, and the grounds improved to make the hillside attractive and easy to access without destroying the natural scenery. In the midst of this wooded landscape has been erected the band stand where free band concerts are given by celebrated musical organizations.”
Many are familiar with the band shell (pictured above) which was added in 1940 during The Hand Years. It was the only structure built by Bob Hand. All the other structures were from previous owners, including the Ladies Rest House behind the band shell which was one of the original structures built by J.E. McDonald at the turn of the last century. (Courtesy of Mike West)
I was not familiar with the band stand mentioned in the 1906 article, however. I have examined every commercial postcard image of the park and hundreds of photographs, including many from the very early days of the park, but have not seen a band stand shown or labeled on any of them. This leads me to believe the Rustic House (shown below) must be the band stand. It sat exactly where the band stand mentioned in the article rested – on the hillside above the lake in the wooded area just below the crest of the hill.While postcards only label it as “The Rustic House”, I believe it must have also served as the band stand. Today, many bands play in park gazebos. The Rustic House is quite simply a rough hewn gazebo and would have provided ample room and a roof over the heads of band members.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Book Talk

Okay, it may not be ancient history, but on this day one year ago Joe Comm gave a book talk and slide show presentation on Rock Springs Park to the ADK Sorority Group in the Library of his alma-mater, Oak Glen High School. Read more - click here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Trolley Line to Rock Springs Park

The trolley line which connected East Liverpool to Rock Springs Park was only a small section of a much larger interurban system that eventually connected Pittsburgh, PA. and Wheeling, W.V.
By 1909, The Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers Journal reported, "There has been construction during the past two years, along the northerly and westerly banks of the Ohio River, between Vanport, Pa., and Steubenville, Ohio, about 40 miles of double-track, standard-gauge, electric railroad, which affords this busy, thriving, industrial section a high-grade interurban road."

By the end of the following year, completion of a short piece of track near Sewickly meant that the line, made up of several independent systems would "make possible through travel by trolley between Pittsburg [sic] and Wheeling." The report emphasizes that the line "precludes the construction of a future competing line." Anyone who has lived in the area or traveled it, even in modern times, will understand this notion. There is very little flatland between the river and the hills of the Ohio Valley along this stretch.

The railways described were made up of three constituent companies: The Steubenville and East Liverpool Railway and Light Company, The Ohio River Passenger Railway Company, and The Beaver Valley Traction Company.

As the map illustrates C.A. Smith's East Liverpool Traction & Light Company was only a small part of the overall railway lines. It is this trolley system which took excursionists to Rock Springs Park and therefore the one I will focus on in this blog post.

The East Liverpool Traction & Light Company - This company serves the East Liverpool district, which extends eastward as far as the State line between Ohio and Pennsylvania, and southward to the southerly limits of Wellsville, and includes the street railway system in East Liverpool, a branch line across the river to Chester, W. Va., and a 3-mile spur track to the company’s coal mine up Island Run. It also furnishes light and power for commercial purposes in East Liverpool, Chester, and Wellsville. The initial move in improving and increasing the transportation facilities demanded by this territory was made by this company. The road was originally a single-track line, lying wholly in the highways and streets, and had several dangerous steam railroad crossings at grade. In the reconstruction of that portion of the system which forms a part of the through main line, provision was made for a double track, which has been laid partly in new location, and as far as practicable on private right of way, improving the grade and alignment, and eliminating the grade crossings.

The major portion of this property was reconstructed during 1905 and 1906, thus preceding the construction of the stretches of road southward to Toronto and Steubenville, and northward from East Liverpool to Vanport, which has resulted in the continuous line of about 40 1/2 miles of double-track road described herein.

Additional information and images go to http://www.eastliverpoolhistoricalsociety.org/trolley5.htm