Perhaps no amusement park ride has captured the imagination than the Ferris Wheel and its proverbial “stop at the top”… and perhaps a smooch! Whereas Rocky Point Park and Crescent Park had various forms of wheels early in their respective histories, today we are going to look at the two parks’ Eli Bridge Ferris Wheels. But first, a little history, please.
The two wheels have an interesting history. W. E. Sullivan, owner of Eli Bridge Company, a bridge building business in Illinois, rode the original 1893 Chicago Ferris Wheel at the World’s Columbian Exposition.
Inspired by this, he collaborated with machinist James H. Clements and their first Big Eli wheel debuted in Central Park, Jacksonville, Illinois, on May 23, 1900. Here’s another early model Eli Wheel installed in Indiana.
In 1955, Eli Bridge Co. produced its first non-wheel amusement ride, the Scrambler. Eli Bridge Scramblers can still be found in amusement parks and carnivals around the world. Both Crescent Park and Rocky Point purchased Scramblers in the 1960s.
Here’s Crescent Park’s..
…and here’s Rocky Point’s.
Now, getting back to the subject at hand, the Ferris Wheels. It is not known when Crescent Park added its first Eli model, but its believed to be shortly after World War II. It was situated across from the Bubble Bounce, in the center of the midway.
Rocky Point’s “second life” reopening in 1948 doesn’t show a Ferris Wheel in this aerial…
…nor in the opening day ride lineup announced in Billboard magazine.
However, the Ferris Wheel is promoted in this 1958 brochure.
Rocky Point’s Wheel took a major blow from the 1954’s Hurricane Carol.
But was repaired the following year. And if you look closely at this 1957 aerial, you’ll see it in operation in its longtime midway spot.
And it operated majestically into the 1960s and beyond!
Meanwhile, across the Bay, Crescent Park’s durable Eli Wheel ran right up until the park’s final year of 1978. It’s captured in these 1969 photos by former park employee Riondo Ribeiro.
Eli Bridge is still going strong in the Ferris Wheel and Scramber game…
…while other companies have entered the Wheel arena with taller, gondola models like this one below by Chance Rides…it gave me a great photo op with my son Evan at a 2004 Barrington, RI carnival.
So, there’s everything you wanted to know about Crescent Park’s and Rocky Point’s Eli Wheels. But, if you have something you want to add, please comment below!
Paul F. Lynds
Anita Cerri Ferla
You Must Be This Tall movie collection
Eli Bridge Company Archives