The Old Mill dark rides took “boaters” on a cruise through dark and narrow wooden tunnels, at Rocky Point, Crescent Park and other local amusement parks.
The forerunner to the electric, single-rail dark ride, the Old Mill, aka Tunnel of Love, was a staple in amusement parks stating in the late 19th century. The concept was simple: small boats seating six or less passengers are propelled through narrow tunnels by a current generated by a paddlewheel. Think a consolidated, dark and eerie “It’s a Small World” and you got the picture…as in the one below from the Kansas State Fair.
In addition to the Kanas State Fair, the Minnesota State Fair and the Iowa State Fair have Old Mills. The later Mill is pushing 100, while the other two surpass 100 years of service. Any Old Mills still in operation…well, they are going to be old!
The closest one to Rhode Island is the circa 1929 Ye Old Mill at Playland Park in Rye, NY – seen below.
But today we’re going to look at the former Old Mills in Southern, New England, starting with Rocky Point Park’s below.
Not much is know about Rocky Point’s Old Mill other than it was operating in 1911. and that it had “startling features”, as confirmed by this Providence
Sunday Journal newspaper ad.
Later on it was given a North Pole theme as seen below.
A second Old Mill-type ride appeared at Rocky Point in 1926 as part of a package deal with the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC) which installed a Tunnel of Love underneath the Wildcat coaster. This was a common practice in the amusement park industry; a great way to utilize space under a coaster, and at the same time, hide the tunnels from park patrons. Rocky Point’s Tunnel was a PTC Mill Chute model which offered the added dimension of a lift hill and splashdown — a forerunner to Log Flume rides.
Sadly, both the Wildcat and Tunnels of Love were destroyed by the 1938 hurricane. You can see the Chutes lift hill in this post-hurricane photo.
Across the Bay, Crescent Park had its own Old Mill: the Rivers of Venice, installed in the early 1900s.
Rivers had the distinction of having wax figures serve as displays. The head of one of them is part of veteran Crescent Park employee Ed Serowik’s collection. Below is the surviving head.
Crescent Park’s Rivers of Venice was replaced by the Bubble Bounce in the mid-1930s. Heading over to Newport, Easton’s Beach had an Old Mill installed under its circa 1913 Scenic Railway. Both rides were removed in 1931 to make space for a larger roller coaster.
Travelling east to New Bedford, the former Acushnet Park had this Old Mill which they named Mountain Torrent.
And later renamed it the North Pole. Sound familiar?
Heading north in the Bay State to Hull’s former Paragon Park, it had a Mill Chutes for the longest time, starting with the Red Mill — of course, tunneling under the coaster.
It was rebuilt in 1964 as the Congo Cruise with a jungle theme.
In 1977, it was rethemed again as the Bermuda Triangle. Paragon Park closed following the 1984 season.
Head further north to Old Orchard Beach’s Palace Playland in the 1930s and you’d enjoy this Old Mill under the Cyclone coaster. Alas, both were lost to a 1948 fire.
And if you tracked back south to West Haven, Connecticut before 1967, you’d find both an Old Mill and a Mill Chutes.
So thanks for Milling around with me! To ride the nearest Old Mill, go to:
Ride the Kanas State Fair Old Mill below.
To read more about Old Orchard’s Old Mill, go here.
More about Paragon’s Mill Chutes is here
Crescent Park’s Rivers of Venice, click here.
Anita Cerri Ferla
You Must Be This Tall
Tales of Rocky Point Park
Paragon Park Memories
Paragon Park Book
Kanas State Fair