Next time, you visit the Circle Swing tower at Rocky Point State Park, take a moment to reflect.
The tower belonged to a historic ride dating back to its 1906 installation when it was the Circle Swing. The ride was installed by Harry G. Traver who had invented it a few years earlier after watching seagulls circling a ship’s mast during a trip he made to England. His ride concept featured “cable-suspended cars revolving around a central pole.” In 1903 he opened the doors to the Traver Circle Swing Co. on Broadway in New York City. From a tentative start, Traver’s income skyrocketed to $10,000 a year as he developed more ride designs and redesigned existing rides.
Here’s a July 1, 1906 Providence Sunday Journal ad promoting the new Circle Swing ride at Rocky Point.
The Circle Swing’s success at Rocky Point and other amusement parks prompted Traver to finally patent his ride in September 1906.
Based on this early 1900s postcards and photos it appears Rocky Point moved its Circle Swing at least once during that decade.
Traver’s Seaplane Deluxe, installed at Rocky Point in the 1920s, used the basic concept of the Circle Swing ride but the passengers travelled in model seaplanes. For this installation at Rocky Point Park, Traver removed the Swing’s wooden gondolas and replaced them with small scale seaplanes. Given the new liftoff ratio, Traver installed a wooden loading platform a quarter length up the tower. Rocky Point’s Seaplane Deluxe can be seen in the photo below.
The Seaplane Deluxe received some damage by the 1938 hurricane which pretty much leveled the park. When the park reopened in 1948, the tower was utilized by the Rocket ride which opened a few months into that season. The Rocket ride retrofit was manufactured by R.E. Chambers Engineering – the company that had purchased the Traver firm. Chambers had modified/retrofitted many of Traver’s original rides over the years, and the Rocket was a shining example. For the Rocky Point installation, the tower was moved towards the Palladium (see red arrow #1 in the photo directly below) and new arms were installed to hold three cable-suspended multi-passenger rockets, and a new wooden loading platform was constructed. The Caruso Family owned and operated the new Rocket ride for many years.
The Rocket Ride ran until the mid-1960s – replaced by the Scrambler. The ride was dismantled and the tower moved out of site behind the Arcade. It sits on that same location today.
If you’re wondering how the tower has stood tall these years, it was built of USA steel. Carnegie steel to be exact!
So why did Rocky Point retire its Rocky ride ending decades of use of the Circle Swing tower? Anybody involved in that decision has certainly passed on by now. I do know that most parks with Circle Swings/Rockets also retired theirs in the 1960s, perhaps a few lingered into the 1970s. Nearby Crescent Park retired its old Rocket ride after the 1961 season. Add to the equation the fact that the Chambers ride factory was destroyed by fire in 1968, removing any future mechanical support for these rides.
But while we may never why the Rocky Point Tower was retired, we should be grateful that the park didn’t scrap it back in the 1960s and in fact, some preservation-minded state employees decided to retain it for future generations to marvel at – in Rocky Point State Park. Next time you visit the Tower, think of how many thousands of people it carried by gondola, seaplane and rocket!
(Photo credits: themepark.com, Jake Tasho, Tim Forsberg Warwick Historical Society, John Carouthers Anita Cerri Ferla, You Must Be This Tall)