Those old enough to have walked through the ruins of Rocky Point Park in the fall of 1938 would tell you they had seen the apocalypse. With the exception of a few attractions, namely the Rock Cafe, the Flying Turns, the midway carousel and the Tumble Bug, most of the park was leveled by the September 21st hurricane.
Following the hurricane, the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC) repaired its Flying Turns coaster, a ride it had constructed at Rocky Point in 1931 and successfully operated there as a concession.
Given that the Turns was located just off the main access road, it became plausible for PTC to continue to operate its coaster. Patrons would not have had to navigate the midway debris to ride it. It’s been reported that the Rock Cafe was also repaired and served as a restaurant. The fact that the Cafe was on high ground undoubtedly saved it from destruction. The park was eventually returned to the family of former owner Colonel Randall A. Harrington. Both attractions operated for only two summers, 1940 and 1941 in front of the shuttered midway.
The downsized park eventually lost what little luster it had and the impact of World War II sealed the deal on the main gates closing after those two short seasons. According to an April document published by the Rhode Island Historical Society, Old Rocky Point by Horace G. Belcher, the state’s General Assembly later defeated a proposal to convert the amusement park into a state park. In 1945, the Harringtons sold the park to the Studley Land Corporation, which, in 1947, sold it to Rocky Point. lnc., headed by Frederick Hilton with Joseph Trillo of Providence as treasurer. Vincent Ferla later bought out Hilton’s interest and eventually became sole owner of the park. This announcement appeared in the August 15, 1947 edition of Billboard magazine.
The announced ride lineup included:
Looper (Allan Herschell)
Tumble Bug (Traver)
Laff In the Dark (R.E. Chambers)
Other attractions would include an arcade, bingo, photo stand, mini-golf, Chicken Coop restaurant and spaghetti house. It was also announced that the Rock Café would be converted into the Cliff House featuring an “enlarged cocktail lounge.”
The park had a soft opening in the spring of 1948. And as seen in this Providence Journal aerial photo from that day, not all the attractions were completed or operational.
Note that the Rocket Ride (formerly the Circle Swing and Seaplane Deluxe) was awaiting restoration and relocation of its circa 1906 tower. The foundation is circled in red.
Circled in red below is the adult Caterpillar. The ride featured a complete circuit of motorized vehicles which were connected end-to-end all the way around the ride, in a manner similar to the Musik Express. Also, the cars traveled a circular, undulating (wave-like) track and featured a green canopy that automatically began to slowly surround the cars and fully encapsulate them once the ride reached its maximum velocity.
Next to the Caterpillar was the Looper (circled below in yellow); an early version of the Rok n’ Rol.
In addition to the thrilling “heavy metal” rides, the park’s soft opening featured some milder attractions such as pony rides for the youngsters.
Circled below is the Chicken Coop which later became the Hilltop and Midway Foods.
The landscape changed dramatically for Rocky Point’s Grand Opening of June 6th. The Providence Journal reported a mammoth traffic jam as over 35,000 patrons swarmed into the park. At 4 p.m., bumper-to-bumper traffic extended along Warwick Avenue to Cranston and the effects were felt as far north as Allen’s and New York Avenues in Providence.
Here’s the report in the June 19th edition of Billboard.
Here’s a callout I designed showing some of the June 6th operating attractions.
In 1949, the Palladium ballroom was completed.
You can see the outline for the Palladium in 1948, far left.
And here’s the completed product, in a later photo.
Here are some post-1948 aerials of the park to show you the changes over the decades.
So, that’s a look at Rocky Point’s reboot. You can currently find two reminders of 1948 Rocky Point at Rocky Point State Park: the Water Tower and Circle Swing tower.
To read about the man who did the Art Deco design for Rocky Point’s 1948 midway, go here.
Rhode Island Historical Society
Barbara Denise Masi-Creati
Anita Cerri Ferla
You Must Be This Tall movie collection