Teaching Cleveland

Lesson 20

EUCLID BEACH AMUSEMENT PARK IN THE 1890S

One of the nation's best known amusement parks was located here in Cleveland. Euclid Beach Park opened in the summer of 1895 and was located on the southern shoreline of Lake Erie at E. 156th and Nottingham Road. Its original investors hired William R. Ryan Sr. to manage the park. Ryan was a local businessman and politician. He looked to Coney Island, New York as a pattern for the new Euclid Beach. He built a beer garden, a dance pavilion, provided vaudeville acts and band concerts and side shows. On the Fourth of July a grand fireworks display was presented at a cost of $1,000.

People could arrive at the resort via ferry steamers that were operated by the park owners. These boats made daily trips from downtown Cleveland. They were painted white with bright red lettering and were affectionately called the "Euclid Beach Tubs." Patrons could also arrive at the park by street car lines. By 1896, the street railway offered departures from downtown Cleveland every ten minutes, and a schedule of nine round trips daily was made by the "Tubs."

By the summer season of 1896, Euclid Beach Amusement Park added new attractions to entice customers. Patrons could see the mystic wonder of the century at The "Crystal Maze", visit "Bonner, the wonderful talking and trick horse," ride the "Switchback Railway"(an invention similar to what is now considered the beginning of the modern roller coaster), a Ferris Wheel, Swings, and a Merry-Go-Round. An attraction was also built for bathers. A chute was built down which bathers could slide into the lake. The Fourth of July Celebration grew to not only include a $5,000 fireworks display, but also a balloon ascension and parachute jump, and acts by Svengali the Hypnotist and Pawnee Bill's Wild West Show.

The 1897 summer season included the addition of a fifteenth of a mile bicycle track where championship riders would appear and race. Captain Paul Boyton was brought from Coney Island to present a water show. Other acts included Minerva, the World's strongest woman; a diving horse; plus a number of minstrel acts. By 1897, Euclid Beach had also become the spot for a number of annual outings including the retail grocers, the butchers, the Press newsboys and the Knights of Pythias.

In 1898 the park included "high class" vaudeville acts that presented patriotic plays. The theater continued to also offer well-known vaudeville acts. There were fireworks displays, baseball games, a balloon ascension, a double attraction at the theater, and a band concert.

Through the end of the century Euclid Beach continued to offer vaudeville acts, band concerts, and a variety of side show attractions. They also added a "Ladies Week" where all the ladies who attended the park were admitted to the theater without charge. Organizations continued to hold their annual picnics there including the telephone company and the retail grocers, who offered a $500 carriage as a raffle prize. Euclid Beach quickly became the "Coney Island of the West" providing summer entertainment and resort activities for the surrounding Cleveland community.

from Euclid Beach is Closed for the Season, by L. Bush, et. al.
Amusement Park Books, Inc., 1988.


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