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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hippodrome Opens On Decoration Day

Monday, May 30, 1910

Mammoth Hippodrome opens on Decoration Day at Rock Springs Park. Read more about this amusement feature for animal acts at http://rockspringspark.blogspot.com/2011/02/rock-springs-park-had-its-own.html .

Monday, May 28, 2012

Hippodrome Added in 1910

Saturday, May 28, 1910

The Daily Times of Beaver, PA, reported on this date that Rock Springs Park had been a “veritable hive of industry. The grounds have received attention and hundreds of workmen have put the finishing touches to the mammoth Hippodrome – an entirely new amusement feature - the animals for which arrived at the park several days ago." Read the full article at http://rockspringspark.blogspot.com/2011/02/rock-springs-park-had-its-own.html.

Saturday, May 28, 1938

And on this date 28 years later, an all-day boat excursion to Rock Springs Park was planned for Ambridge Senior and Junior High school students. “It was announced today when tickets were put on sale in the two schools. The schools have chosen the large sidewheel steamer St. Paul for the event. She is scheduled to leave the American Bridge Company wharf at 10 a.m. with her cargo of students and teachers. Captains Fred Way, Sewickley and William Pollock, Beaver, are in charge of the boat.”

Read about other riverboat excursions at http://rockspringspark.blogspot.com/2011/08/river-excursions-past-and-present.html.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The O&P Baseball League

According to The History of Columbiana County, Ohio by Harold B. Barth (1926), East Liverpool became a member of the Ohio and Pennsylvania or “O. & P.” League in 1908. Manager Tom Fleming was given the city’s franchise by then President Richard Guy. After a period of negotiations, he transferred his holdings to Rock Springs Park owner C. A. Smith, of Chester W.V. “Accordingly, a fine ball park with modern two-story grandstand, bleacher seats along the first base line and back of left field were placed in the northeast section of Rock Springs park then the Mecca for thousands of tourist during the summer months.”

Smith built his baseball park in Rock Springs in 1907 for $6000 and the following year promised "to give the people of East Liverpool the best base ball [sic] team it is possible to assemble."
Mr. Bill Phillips, of Charleroi, PA, a onetime pitcher with the Cincinnati Reds and later an assistant director of the New Orleans club of the Southern league, was procured as manager. He finished second, next to Akron, in the race that year with an outstanding group of ball players. His pitchers were himself, his half-brother, Barney Wolfe, formerly of the New York Americans; Johnny Fisher, of Noblesville, Ind.; John Nolly, of Alabama; Catcher Rapp, of Washington, D. C. worked behind the bat. Bob Tarleton, of New Orleans on first, “Scrapiron” Beecher sustained a fractured leg while sliding into second base that season with Woodruff, Gaston and Manning in the outfield. Kunkle, Mackey, McNeil and Cooper were other men that filled in during a part of the season. Phillips led the league in the pitching that year with 22 games won and four lost. One of the outstanding performances of the season was the 16-inning battle which he won from Pitcher Clyde of the Sharon team on the Rock Springs field.

Pitcher Arch Osborne, also of Charleroi, was the team’s manager in 1909, Bill Phillips having “taken over the direction of the Wheeling, WV, club of the Central league.” Again East Liverpool finished in second place with Akron, under Lee Fohl, winning the honors. The league president was Sam Wright, a newspaperman of Youngstown.

The season of 1910 began on May 5 and ended Sept 5. The Potters were directed by Guy Sample, of Jackson, Miss. Early in the season President Sam Wright passed away. J. H. Maxwell, vice president, headed the league the remainder of the season. On the final day of the season Akron and Canton had two games to play with each a possible winner. “The latter won the morning contest giving both a tie standing with each having won 72 and lost 53 contests.” Pitcher “Red” Nelson won the second contest for Akron by knocking a home run in the second inning after first baseman Tate had done the same for Canton in the first. The final score was 4 to 1. So closely contested was the race that year that Erie, finishing in last place, had led the league for two months of the season. East Liverpool won 63 and lost 61 contests that year and made a tie with McKeesport for third place.

In 1911 C. A. Smith gave up the franchise and East Liverpool had its final professional baseball the following year “when the O. & P. League failed by a few days to finish the season following the loss of club after club on it.”

Fact: East Liverpool had seven years of experience in professional baseball, two of which, 1906 and 1907 in the “class D” Pennsylvania, Ohio and Maryland league and four, 1908, 1909, 1910 and 1911 in the “class C” Ohio and Pennsylvania league. Twice, in 1908 and 1909 the Potter outfit representing the city finished in second place. In all other seasons the club concluded in fourth place. Except perhaps in 1911-12 the team was always a pennant contender until the final contests were played. The Potters team disbanded on August 20, 1911 and moved to Pittsburgh on August 14, 1912. The league rescinded its membership to the National Association when it placed the franchise in Pittsburgh.



Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Chester Bridge Completed

Wednesday, May 26, 1897

On this date in Rock Springs Park history, the 1,466 foot Chester Bridge is completed in just over a year. The trolley had its first run three days later.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The World’s Greatest Scenic Railway Debuts

Friday, May 24, 1907

The Rock Springs Park Scenic Railway opened on this date in the park's history. It was built at a cost of $35,000 according to Roy C. Cashdollar’s A History of Chester: The Gateway To The West. It was also reported that a section of the scenic railway was blown down shortly after its completion by a great wind storm and had to be rebuilt at a cost of $4000.Read more at http://rockspringspark.blogspot.com/2011/03/accidents-and-injuries-at-rock-springs.html.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Daytime Fireworks

Yesterday, I posted a “This Day in Rock Springs ParK History” blog about the grand re-opening of the park under new manager C.C. Macdonald in May of 1928. A story I also wrote about in April of last year, including the advertisement (above) from the Daily Times. But yesterday was the first time I noticed that the ad mentions daytime fireworks. I had never heard of daytime fireworks and wondered how they work. So, I did a little research and came up with a couple of examples.

It seems that daytime fireworks have louder explosions and more smoke than their nocturnal counterparts.

Just a couple of miles down the road from where I live today in Greensburg, PA, the small coal patch community of Crabtree features annual daytime fireworks as part of their summer festival at St Bartholomew Church. Their display consists of hanging fireworks from a crane and slowly burning them upward on strings, ending in a grand finale of huge explosions. See for yourself.
A quick Google search of “daytime fireworks” shows thousands of hits for a colorful display shown in the dessert at the Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, Qatar. Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang put on a large "explosion event" utilizing microchip-controlled explosives to form incredible designs and patterns. According to the posting, “Each set of explosions was calculated to paint a different picture.”
This year George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens will celebrate Independence Day with daytime fireworks during its annual Independence Day event. For the first time ever, visitors will be treated to spectacular smoke fireworks in patriotic colors fired during the finale of the National Concert Band of America's performance.

Washington may be the most famous visitor to Rock Springs Park and may, assuming he did a little hunting in the spring grove, have been the first to set off a gunpowder charge there, thus created the first-ever daytime fireworks display. Hey, it’s possible.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Grand Opening of the Macdonald Era at Rock Springs Park Is Heralded

Saturday, May 19, 1928

On this date in Rock Springs Park history, the "Grand Opening" of the Macdonald Era at Rock Springs Park was heralded in the Daily Times of Beaver, Pennsylvania. The advertisement describes the beautiful Virginia Gardens Ballroom featuring Billy Coppels Entertainers, many rides and amusements, a remodeled Crystal Pool and Boating, and many other new features and attractions. New that year was the zoo with "Monkey Island" and "Goat Mountain." The ad concluded see the "Ohio Valley's Most Picturesque Playground where the Famous Rock Spring Flows." See the ad and the “New Dangler” at http://rockspringspark.blogspot.com/2011/04/strolling-through-park-in-1928.html.

Monday, May 19, 2010

Also on this date two years ago, the book, Images of America: Rock Springs Park hits bookshelves 40 years after the park’s last season – 1970.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

It Isn't

Thanks to Mike Funyak of the American Coaster Enthusiasts (A.C.E.) group for identifying the mystery coaster 1941 in my previous post. Mike wrote, "It looks like the Dips at West View Park. They look like the Vettel Trains and train. The Dips at West View also had the train ride next to the ride. Look closely and you can see the tracks next to the large drop which was the first hill."

Looking through Charlie Jacques's book on West View, I did see the train tracks next to the coaster, the wooden arched light fixtures, and this exact same section of coaster track which Charlie refers to as "the homerun stretch." Even the cars are identical. As much as I wanted Rock Springs’ Cyclone to get the credit and to be displayed at the Carnegie Museum of Art, it makes more sense, as Lincoln Highway historian Brian Butko said that it “seems more likely to have been around Pittsburgh.”

Charles (Charlie) J., Jr. Jacques is the father of modern amusement park history books having penned and published his Kennywood Roller Coaster Capital of the World book in 1982, followed by Goodbye, West View Park, Goodbye in 1984. Charlie is the reason Rick Sebak started his local history series on PBS with his first outing “Kenntwood Memories.” As I tribute, I made sure Charlie made an appearance in my book (page 126 and below) and acknowledged him for his sage advice when I was just starting out.

Charles (Charlie) J., Jr. Jacques (left) and Richard Bowker at Hershey Park, PA.
Ride the Dips at West View Park in this video at counter 8:20.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Is It Or Isn't It?

A blog post which appeared on March 28, 2012 by art blogger Dr. Marcus Bunyan of the Carnegie Museum of Art features black and white photographs by African American artist and photographer Charles “Teenie” Harris. The posting regards a collection of Teenie’s images which were on display at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh from October 29, 2011, to April 7, 2012. I am sorry I missed the exhibit because one of Teenie’s photographs is of a roller coaster and is labeled, “Wooden roller coaster, possibly at Rock Springs Park, Chester, West Virginia c. 1941.” Check it out.

The style of the coaster and the cars fit, but I can’t picture where this particular section of track would have been located along the winding reverse L-shape of the Cyclone. In addition, most drops on the Cyclone reached the ground, according to the photographs I have studied, while the bottom of the slight drop in Teenie’s image is elevated. Also, this coaster has arched wooden light fixtures while RSP had lights hanging from the ends of candy cane-shaped conduit pipe. I’m not convinced it is Rock Springs Park, but I could be persuaded otherwise. What do you guys think? Is it or isn't it?

See more of Teenie’s photographs at http://artblart.com/2012/03/28/exhibition-teenie-harris-photographer-at-carnegie-museum-of-art-pittsburgh/ and http://teenie.cmoa.org/interactive/index.html#home.

According to the first website, Teenie Harris grew up in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, a neighborhood once called “the crossroads of the world.” A serious photographer from the age of 18, he started his professional photographic career in 1937 when he opened a studio and began to take on freelance assignments. In 1941, Harris was appointed staff photographer for the Pittsburgh Courier, the nation’s preeminent black newsweekly. His images were disseminated nationally through the Courier, and played a key role in how African Americans visualized themselves.

Don’t Believe Everything You Read

Most of us understand that not everything we read, especially on the internet, is true. As a teacher, I believe everyone should read, and read a lot. But don’t just take the author’s word for it. Don’t think that just because it’s published that the ideas were necessarily vetted.

The clipping above is a nice encapsulation of this lesson. It shows the midway of Rock Springs Park at the turn of the last century, including owner C.A. Smith’s crown jewel “The World’s Greatest Scenic Raiway” (right). A few of the caption facts are accurate, like the detail about the slow moving scenic ride being replaced by The Cyclone Roller Coaster and the fact that Smith owned the traction company, but many other “facts” are misleading or utterly wrong.

Here’s a few examples:

1. This photograph could not have been taken in 1898 as The World’s Greatest Scenic Railway was not constructed until 1906.

2. The Cyclone was profitable, but not for Smith. It was built as part of the park’s revitalization under C.C. Macdonald in 1926.

3. C.A. Smith sent park manager Mr. (J.H.) Maxwell not “Mr. Michaels” to Philadelphia for the plans for the Scenic Railway ride and not The Cyclone.

4. It was the Scenic Railway and not the Cyclone which cost 5 cents a ride and made back Smith’s investment in its first year of operation. The Cyclone cost three 5-cent tickets or in some cases "two nickels and a bottle cap" per ride.

Fans of Rock Springs Park appreciate any coverage the park receives in local newspapers and most especially seeing wonderful images of the park such as this one. But when it comes to the facts and details of the park’s history listen to your grandpa and “Don’t believe everything you read.”

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Unique Baseball Offer

Saturday, May 9, 1908

On this date in Rock Springs Park history, owner C.A. Smith and his partner, park manager J.H. Maxwell, come up with a "unique offer” to buy out their only competition - The East Liverpool Exhibition Company in order to take control of the Upper Ohio Valley's baseball business. The monies were raised by offering fans $4.00 a share in the Ohio and Pennsylvania (O&P) League payable in ten admission tickets to the games at Rock Springs Park. See the article at http://rockspringspark.blogspot.com/2011/08/unique-offer.html.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Tale of Two Bridges

Rock Springs Park owes its birth and death to two different bridges which spanned the Ohio River from East Liverpool to Chester, WV over the course of a century.

1. The Chester Bridge (1897 – 1969)
It was no mere coincidence that the Chester trolley line ended at the entrance to Rock Springs Park. Trolley companies around the country started building amusement parks at the end of their lines to build ridership and increase profits on weekends.
In 1890, East Liverpool attorney James (J.E.) McDonald purchased 170 acres of the Marks estate with a plan to commercialize the spring grove by building a local amusement park in conjunction with a new bridge project and street car line. Despite several setbacks, work on the bridge and park began in 1895.

The 1,466 foot Chester Bridge was completed in just over a year and the trolley had its first run on May 26, 1897. Three days later, on Memorial Day 1897, Rock Springs Park had its official opening, where more than 5000 jammed the dance pavilion, café, dining hall, shooting gallery, bowling alleys, walked the shady paths or watched a ballgame.

The bridge, the new town of Chester and the park were all part of J.E. McDonald’s plan to open up the south side of East Liverpool to investors and future home and business owners. A 1905 brochure explained, "A long graceful suspension bridge binds East Liverpool to Chester. Improvements in the course of its erection include street paving, street cars, and the beautiful Rock Springs Park."
Rock Springs Park owner, C.A. Smith purchased the Chester Bridge in 1901. The trolley line was discontinued in 1937 and Smith sold the bridge the following year to the State of Ohio for $2,185,000.

Smith made “Ripley's Believe It Or Not” in 1935 when the bridge was rebuilt without stopping traffic.

“Under Smith,” according to Roy C. Cashdollar, “the bridge was very prosperous with it being a vital part of the highway system known as the Lincoln Highway - U.S. Route 30 with thousands of autos traveling it. It was reported that it brought an approximate $360,000 in proceeds the last year of private ownership. The state of Ohio continued it as a toll bridge until June of 1951, when passage between Chester and East Liverpool became free. In 1969, it was closed by the State of Ohio as it was considered unsafe for use.”

For eight years Chester and East Liverpool had no direct connection. The closest passage was across the privately owned toll-bridge at Newell. But meanwhile plans were made and several sites considered for a new safer truss bridge to be constructed. Eventually it was decided that Route 30 entering Chester from Pennsylvania to the southeast could be widened into lands owned by Rock Springs Park and the new bridge crossing over Carolina Avenue into Chester could touch down near the park’s midway.

2. The Jennings Randolph Bridge (1977 – present)
(Courtesy of Rob Morrow)
The Youngstown Vindicator reported on the grand opening of the new bridge on November 8, 1977. “For the first time in eight years, there is now a direct link between East Liverpool and Chester, W. Va. A new, $26-million, four-lane bridge was dedicated here Monday”

The dedication ceremony included governors, mayors and the bridge’s namesake West Virginia State Senator Jennings Randolph. "A crowd of 2,000 witnessed the rain-shortened ceremonies held on one of the approach ramps leading to the superstructure. Musical selections were played by the East Liverpool High School Band and the Oak Glen High School Band near Chester."

In all the fanfare no mention is given in the Vindicator article about the loss of Rock Springs Park. However it does mention the old bridge. “The new bridge replaces the old Chester Bridge, a two-lane structure built in 1989 and determined to be unsafe for vehicle traffic in 1968. A deteriorated support cable on the Ohio side was blamed for the closing of the bridge to all traffic on May 14, 1969. The bridge was demolished a year later."

Many area bridges were closely inspected in 1968 following the collapse of the Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant, WV a year earlier. The Chester Bridge was mentioned by name in an article which appeared in the Pittsburgh Press a week after the tragedy which took 46 lives. “Ohio Highway Director P.E. Masheter ordered an ‘immediate’ inspection of three Ohio River bridges owned by the state. These are the Pomeroy Bridge, which drew heavy traffic in the wake of the collapse of the Silver Bridge; the Fort Steuben Bridge at Steubenville, and the Chester Bridge at East Liverpool.”

A 1975 book The Mothman Prophecies, claimed that Mothman was related to a wide array of supernatural events in the area including the collapse of the Silver Bridge. The 2002 film starring Richard Gere was based on the book.

Historical Marker Erected

Tuesday, May 6, 1980

On this date, the Rock Springs Park historical marker was placed at the site of the old merry-go-round. It has been moved several times since then. Read the details at http://rockspringspark.blogspot.com/2011/06/historical-marker-moved-three-times.html.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Rock Springs Park Map

(Click on all images to enlarge)
I hoped to find a map of Rock Springs Park while researching the book, but never came across one in any of the collections folks shared with me. Based on photographic evidence, personal recollections and aerial photos, I was able to map out the park in my mind and used that information to basically take the reader on a guided tour. You may be familiar with the aerial photograph (below) taken around the time the park closed in 1970, but perhaps, like me, you wondered what was housed in each of the buildings. I have created the map above to explain just that.

My son, Christian, drew the map of the park below when I was trying to figure out what was what.

Tish Hand, using the aerial photograph explained what was in each building when she lived above the park’s office building with her husband, Richard Hand, in the late 1960s. Here are some of her notes:

VIRGINIA GARDENS - By the time I got there the KENO hall in Virginia Gardens had become quite popular and filled the park on the nights it ran.

ROCK SPRINGS - The springs were at the back of a mountain and were directly under the fancy building on the midway. They had professional stairs leading to them and were thought to be medicinal way back when.

THE OFFICE - Virginia (Mom and Bammie as the kids knew her) was usually in the office and took care of the medicine room. I still have the moose leg table where the children sat in the medicine room to have their skinned elbows patched up. I lived above the office when Robert C. Hand (my first son) was 2. The roller coaster's curve was only ten foot from my window and roared by on the week-ends.

THE GARAGE - The building closest to the office going down the midway was the garage and storage building. That was a real wonderland. Beside the tractor and the cutter bar that it pulled, there were heaps and stacks of old park and arcade machines. There were pennylodians that you peaked into and turned the handle to see naked ladies dancing about. Lots of others. I'm sure these were resurrected when the park was sold but were just stored back then.

THE LADIES REST HOUSE - The ladies restroom was closed back then and you had to climb up the hill to get there. (That’s probably where the cabin was moved.) The old chain pull toilets were still there with the bowl nearly to the ceiling. Mom used this to store unwanted things and sent me there with Dick to see if there was anything I would like to keep. I still have the items I took. A brass candlestick holder with the handle on the side and a old copper frame which I later put an antique picture into of a little girl praying. I also have a large copper pot that was used to melt candy in for the candied apples. I love it and use it in my living room to collect all of the dog toys.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Stakes Through the Heart

The Midway of Rock Springs Park with the Fish Pond Game, Carport, Dodgem Cars and the Log House.

(Courtesy of Richard Bowker)

The same view with the Log House gone; moved by crane approximately 100 yards to the west. Only the foundations of the other buildings remain.
 (Courtesy of Rich Brookes, Photographed by Clarence O. Durbin)

The images above show the midway of Rock Springs Park. The first taken in 1970, the park’s final season, and the second in 1974, after the park had been sold to the state of West Virginia and the buildings and rides auctioned off to the highest bidder. The flagged stakes in the center and running through the heart of the midway show where the highway approach to the new bridge (pictured in the background below) would run. Travelers entering Chester, WV, along Route 30 today most likely have no idea that beneath their spinning wheels rests the remains of the onetime “Showcase of the East.” (Click on images to enlarge.)

The Midway in 1974 looking in the opposite direction toward Ohio and the recently erected truss of the Jennings Randolph Bridge. The Carousel Pavilion (left) was the last structure to be razed.
(Courtesy of Rich Brookes, Photographed by Clarence O. Durbin)

See more photographs of the park in the waning years in Images of America: Rock Springs Park, Chapter 6, "The Long Farewell: 1971 - 1974."

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Rock Springs Fills Lake to Provide New Picnic Area

Saturday, May 3, 1952

On this date, Rock Springs Park opens after filling in the lake "in order to provide additional picnic space.” The park began full-scale operation on Monday, May 19th after the weekend only start. Two new kiddie rides were added. Read more at http://rockspringspark.blogspot.com/2010/08/rock-springs-fills-lake-to-provide-new.html.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Rock Springs Animal Man Meets Death

Tuesday, May 2, 1911

On this day in history, Rock Springs Park animal man, James Hildebrand, is killed by his elephant “Daisy." The animal suddenly turned on Hildebrand, picked him up, pierced his body with a tusk, and threw him 30 feet to the horror of eyewitnesses. Read more at http://rockspringspark.blogspot.com/2011/06/rock-springs-animal-man-meets-death.html.