Park Point Amusement Park

My mom, who was born in Duluth in 1935, was re-telling me stories about the amusement park at the end of Park Point. She recalled bumper cars (she called them “dodge-em carts”), a penny arcade, a carousel, spinning swings, a candy shop (Fritz’s) and various other amusements. I know the canopy for the carousel is in the Sports Garden, but I have never seen any pictures of this park and don’t know if the topic has been addressed here. Just wondering if anyone has any insight as to whether my mom’s recollections are accurate.

11 Comments

Mel

about 11 years ago

It was called White City, like the one in Chicago.



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I know there were some posts here about it before, but I can't find them.

Megan

about 11 years ago

What great photos Mel! I hadn't heard of this amusement park either. It'd be great to know more info.

Zeldfelder

about 11 years ago

The bumper cars were still there in the early 1960s, but the cars and the wooden pavilion were so dilapidated that the operator wouldn't let you bump.  Just drove around in circles.(!?) There also was a miniature train that carried children around a 50-yard loop.  They were located about where the wooden ore boat sculpture/playground/thingy is now installed.

Tony D.

about 11 years ago

From "Crossing the Canal: An Illustrated History of Duluth's Aerial Bridge (www.x-communication.org)

White City

On the last day of June 1906, Oatka Park opened on Park Point between Thirty-Ninth and Fortieth Streets. Reports claim ten to fifteen thousand people enjoyed the park on its first day even though the park had little more to offer at the time than a public dance pavilion.

Soon after, the park became White City, an amusement park operated by the Duluth Amusement Company. In 1907 the Duluth Evening Herald credited the aerial transfer bridge with the park's existence; the old ferry system could never have carried as many people as crowded into White City on weekends. On more than one Sunday in 1906, crowds using the aerial bridge to reach White City surpassed the record of 32,595 set the very first Sunday the bridge opened to the public.

Rides were added, including the "Mystic River" boat ride, a miniature railroad (operators claimed it had the smallest steam locomotive in the United States), and the "Fun Factory," where ticket payers lost themselves wandering on twisted paths and "[ran] up against all kinds of funny and startling adventures."

Other attractions included an automated baseball game, a Ferris wheel, a water slide, free acrobats and burlesque performers, sitting rooms (for the ladies), cafés and restaurants, bathhouses, swimming lessons, and vaudeville acts. The park also featured a corral of deer, and at one time its owners commissioned the construction of a $7,500 gasoline-propelled airship to be named Duluth No. 1, although it was never built.
 
After a brief name change to "Joyland" in 1908, the park shut down in 1909. Part of the property on which it stood became the home of Maggie McGillis—in fact, a portion of McGillis's home, at 4010 Minnesota Avenue, is made from White City's old band shell.

Rij

about 11 years ago

The park my mom was recalling was in existence in the 1940s and it was at the end of the point, where the current open field is.  The "White City"  referenced above was, I believe, an entirely different park.

Charles Willis

about 10 years ago

I worked out at the Park Point Amusement park in the summers of 1960 and 1961.  The park was operated by H.C. and Mae Onsgard.  In 1960, we had the bumper cars, carousel, chair-o-plane, kiddie cars, and a real steam locomotive (Chance-Ottaway engine) ride on a small track.  There was also a small penny arcade and a snack stand with a huge concrete ice cream cone on top of it.  The carousel was what I ran, it was a 1906 Alan Herschel 36 horse carousel, all the horses were hand carved wood.  The carousel and the bumper car ride were owned by the city. The other rides were owned by the Onsgards. Originally the carosel had been steam powered in its original configuration.  The bumper cars were in terrible condition and the building was pretty dilapidated.  If you bumped the cars, the steering chains would fall off the bottom, and two or three of us would have to tip the cars over on their sides and put on the chains, a greasy job at best.  We made .50 an hour, working 10 to 10, seven days a week. All the carousel poles were brass and had to be polished every morning, an hour long job.  It could get pretty cold out there in the early mornings and after sunset in the evenings.

Tony D.

about 10 years ago

It took over a year, but I finally got to the point of writing Lost Duluth to include amusement parks. Much thanks to Charles and Rij and other posters who tipped me off to this. I found no photos, but the following will appear alongside a write up (and many photos) of White City when the book comes out next May or June:

White City wasn't the only amusement park to operate on Minnesota Point. In 1938 the Minnesota Point Amusement Park opened near the entrance to the brand new Park Point Beach House and its surrounding facilities. The park had a penny arcade, snack stand, kiddie cars, a chair-o-plane, and like White City, a miniature steam locomotive. 

Duluthian Charlie Willis earned fifty cents at the park during the summers of 1960 and 1961, operating a 1906 Alan Herschel 36-horsepower carousel with hand-carved wooden horses suspended on brass poles and steam-powered when first built. Willis recalled on the public blog perfectduluthday.com that "The bumper cars were in terrible condition and the building was pretty dilapidated. If you bumped the cars, the steering chains would fall off the bottom, and two or three of us would have to tip the cars over on their sides and put on the chains." 

In 1964 Duluth Mayor George D.  Johnson proposed closing the park because he thought the point should remain natural and because the park drew crowds of "black jackets," likely young men with too much time on their hands. Johnson's proposal resulted in a failed petition to oust the mayor. The park closed that year.

edgeways

about 10 years ago

Looks good Tony. Small nit to pick  

This 
"Duluthian Charlie Willis earned fifty cents at the park during the summers of 1960 and 1961,"...

probably should be

"Duluthian Charlie Willis earned fifty cents an hour at the park during the summers of 1960 and 1961."

chiefly

about 10 years ago

At the risk of dating myself, I actually made a record in the penny arcade (assisted by my dad), that I still have somewhere. They had a machine that was a recorder, that actually cut a small disc. I believe you could record anything you wanted for a couple of minutes. If I recall correctly, I did "Hound Dog" by Elvis and another song that escapes me now. Very lo fi, but way cool.

Pete Peterson

about 10 years ago

What your mom said was true. The amusement park was open through 1964. My dad, my uncle and a few others opened the original skyport at the end of the point. My dad knew the Onsgards and did many mechanical favors for them at the amusement park so my sister and I got to ride for free throughout the early 60s. The rides were in pretty bad shape at that time but were still fun for little kids. The bumper cars, train, airplane swings and kiddie cars required almost daily repairs due to their condition and so much sand blowing into critical parts. The Onsgards tried so hard to keep the dream alive but it finally died in 64. Haven't been there in many, many years so I don't know what, if anything was preserved. I just know it was a fond memory for me. I'm sure I still have at least one picture of me in the kiddie cars buried in a box somewhere!

Tony D.

about 10 years ago

Thanks, Edgeways--that portion of the book has yet to be copy edited, let alone proofed!

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