July 9, 2008

I was up in Pennsylvania last week, on a quick trip to retrieve my boys from a week with my parents, and also because tradition demands that I spend July 4th at Conneaut Lake. (I can count on one hand the number of Independence Days that I have NOT spent there… but that is a story for another day)

During my brief sojourn I made a point to visit the grounds of Conneaut Lake Park. I have been visiting this century-plus-old amusement park since I was very young, and I have many great memories associated with the place. The Blue Streak Rollercoaster (amateur POV video here) is still among my favorite coasters, even though it is 70-some years old, wooden, and relatively small compared to the giant coasters of today.

Nowadays, things are not looking too good for the park. Years of bad management and serious financial troubles have contributed to its current state: closed and slowly decaying. Then in February of this year, an arsonist set fire to the Dreamland Ballroom – a 90-year-old landmark that featured a gigantic dance floor, supposedly “the largest dance floor uninterrupted by columns between New York and Chicago.” The building was a total loss, and shortly after the fire another building directly across from the ballroom collapsed in on itself. Not a good year so far for those who wish to preserve the park and its history.

I wanted to see the park and take some photos, even though I knew it would be depressing. And it certainly was. It’s bad enough to visit the place in the fall, when things are simply closed for the off-season (I have done that a few times in the past)… but now there is a much deeper sense of finality to the quietness that covers the old rides and buildings.

I don’t know if there is a real chance that the park will re-open in the future; the odds seem long at best. I like to think that there is someone out there who is willing to take a big financial risk and save the place for something besides condominiums.

If anyone reading this has been to Conneaut Lake Park, please add a comment to this post and share a memory. I will probably write some of my own soon.



  1. The new amusement parks just can’t hold a candle to the vintage ones. We grew up going to Euclid Beach Park in Cleveland, very much like Conneaut Lake Park, and, yes, it’s been replaced by condos.

  2. Ah, sweet memories. I’m so glad that my boys were able to experience this piece of history and nostalgia. I was pondering going to the park July 4th weekend, but for myself, decided not to go. Seeing this wonderful old park in its last throes of death was not what I wanted for a final memory. Now I hold it in my heart with memories of laughing children, the smell of electric motors, and the sound of the Blue Steak rattling on its wood and steel circuit. Farewell to a special park that has brought countless people to a happier place.

  3. P.S.
    Laura, thanks for the wonderful pictures. Like a person driving past an accident, I couldn’t help but stare at these photos.

  4. Hey Lo!
    What a great memory! I remember you taking us to your cherished park. Rick and I love those memories too. We loved being a part of your family for a weekend! Then, our own families happened and we kinda wore out our welcome! Do you realize that the park rides were our Nicholas’ very first rides ever. He was so little and as of tomorrow he’s officially a teen! AAAHG!! I am trying to dig up the photo of Rick and Nicholas on the ferris wheel. I’ll send it along if I find it. Maybe someday our whole gang could meet up at the lake(even if we have to go “slummim'” at a motel to make it work!).

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