One summer as a youngster, I recall taking about a 45-minute drive with my grandparents and seeing what appeared to be the ruins of a large wooden roller coaster. The land around it seemed to be abandoned, although there could have been an active go-kart track. The image stuck in my mind, but I never thought to ask my grandparents where it was before they both passed away.
It very well could have been the site of the former Acushnet Park in New Bedford. Located Clark’s Point at West Rodney French Boulevard to East Rodney French Boulevard just north of Fort Taber, the park operated 1916 to 1938, and from 1939 to 1952. The ruins I saw were probably that of the park’s circa coaster that was disabled by the 1938 hurricane and salvaged for lumber thereafter. Fast-forward to early 2016 when the Things That Aren’t There Anymore, Southeastern Massachusetts Edition Facebook group began posting photos of some of the rare and awesome rides this park hosted before I was born. With that, my quest for more knowledge was on.
According to freepages.history.rootsweb.ancestry.com, Acushnet was built and operated by the Eastern Consolidated Amusement Company
“The very attractive ballroom included a 125 foot by 160 foot dance floor and a 12 foot wide piazza surrounding the pavilion. The ornate bandstand was said to be large enough to seat up to 45 musicians. An out and back roller coaster cost only 5 cents per ride and the circa 1910 Dentzel Carousel was a beauty,comprised of hand-carved menagerie of 42 animals including the traditional horses, elk, giraffes, rabbits, cats, lions, tigers and ostriches. To regular park customers,the merry-go-round became known as ‘Dobby Horses’.
The article continues: “Acushnet occupied 15 acres fronting on 750 feet of beach, offering many bath houses plus a number of interesting attractions and rides. One of the parks most popular riding devices was the ‘Tip Top’, an early version of today’s Paratrooper ride. Thrill seekers rode in small gondolas suspended under a large ring framework that rotated at an angle.
“In 1920 the park was sold and improvement and additions were made. A concourse was formed through the center of the midway,making a complete circle around the carousel. Added were Airplane Swings and a Boomerang. By 1928, Dodgem cars were operating.”
But perhaps the park’s biggest addition, literally and figuratively, was a massive terrain coaster designed by coaster legends John Miller and Harry Baker, and installed in 1926. Miller was the man responsible for inventing and patenting revolutionary coaster safety hardware which allowed this beast to run much wilder than the park’s original 1916 ride. Here it is under construction.
And when completed, to the right.
In addition to the Dodgem, Whip, Circle Swing/Seaplane and other amusement park staples of that era, Acushnet had a rare, but popular, Coal Mine ride in which live mules pulled riders in faux mining carts into mine-themed building. Coal Mine attractions were scattered throughout the country with the last surviving ride hosted at Old Orchard Beach, Maine — it was destroyed by fire in July 1969. Below is Acushnet’s Coal Mine.
Another unique attraction was the Enchanted House — a haunted swing ride. Without going into too much detail, think Dutch Wonderland’s Wonder House ride in Lancaster, PA.
Situated under the roller coaster was an Old Mill/Tunnel of Love ride called the Mountain Torrent.
The ride featured small water current-propelled boats that floated slowly past dioramas themed to a mountain river cave.
In later years, the Mountain was rethemed to the A Trip to the North Pole with
the scenery transitioning accordingly. It promised “Seven minutes of cool riding.” Rocky Point Park gave the same retheming treatment its Old Mill as did Paragon Park with its Mill Chutes around the same time. Seems the North Pole was trending back then!
From all accounts, the park’s Fun & Frolic fun house had enough to make today’s litigious patrons feel like they fell down on a padded floor and went to heaven!
Like Rocky Point, Acushnet had a Circle Swing/Seaplane deluxe. Folks enjoyed the Jigsaw Dark Ride that was installed by the prestigious Pretzel Amusement Ride Co. It’s to the right of the Arcade.
And an awesome miniature train ride.
A devastating 1932 fire destroyed the Pretzel ride and the idle miniature train. Many picnic tables, benches and chairs were also lost and the total damages amounted to over $20,000.00, a tremendous amount of money in the early 1930’s.
Acushnet had its share for eclectic games of chance including the “Dolls “below.
The park hosted some even more eclectic live performances including the elephant tightrope walker, although I’m guessing this was two guys in a suit!
No park would be complete without staples like the Whip Antique Car Go-Carts and the Ferris Wheel.
The 1938 hurricane did severe damage, destroying the Miller & Baker classic coaster.
The park reopened in 1939 and struggled along during and after World War II. A 1952 fire totally consumed the four-sided building housing the tunnel of love,candy game,shooting gallery and ball pitch. The Dodgem cars and other assorted amusement equipment stored in the building also went up in smoke. Whatever was left after that, the 1954 hurricane did it in.
I had read someplace that go-karts were operated on the property the early 1960s and that the coaster ruins were still there. Was it what I saw as a youngster, or was it some other park? I am still researching Acushnet Park and I welcome any new information! Please comment below!
Photo credit: Spinner Publications.
Special thanks to Gail Diane of the Things That Aren’t There Anymore- Southeastern Massachusetts Edition Facebook group.