Although St. Louis Park did not any amusement parks
within its borders, Parkites have had access to several such
parks through the years. Here are a few of them:
was a 40 acre park located on Lake Marion in Lakeville, Minnesota. Colonel Marion Savage built Antlers Park to attract passengers to the Dan Patch Line.
One reader tells us that "in the 1960s and
early 1970s it regularly hosted picnics for many thousands
of people on weekend days during the summer, typically
sponsored by major corporations and unions in the Twin
Cities metropolitan area, e.g., Northwest Airlines, IBEW,
UAW, Honeywell, and Hitchcock Industries. When the last
owners retired, they sold the park to the city of
Big Island Park
lasted from 1906 to 1911. This 65-acre park was situated on
the heavily wooded Big
Island on Lake Minnetonka. It was purchased in
1905 and operated by the
Minneapolis and Suburban Railroad Co., a subsidiary of the
Twin Cities Rapid Transit Co. (TCRT). Park-goers would take
the new electric streetcar, which ran just south of St.
Louis Park on 44th Street, to the Excelsior Dock, where
passengers could take one of 9 streetcar boats (named Minneapolis, St.
Paul, Minnetonka, Como, Minnehaha, White Bear, Hopkins,
Harriet and Stillwater) to the park. The official opening was
on August 5, 1906 . The boats operated until 1926.
Excelsior Amusement Park
This, the site of many a school picnic and provider of Free Rides for Good Grades, opened on May 30, 1925 with a crowd of 20,000. The property was owned by the streetcar company to create traffic for its routes, especially on weekends. The company contracted with Fred W. Pearce, Sr., of Detroit to operate the park. During his career Pearce built 26 complete amusement parks and 30 roller coasters. Pearce soon purchased the park, and hired his cousin Bill Clapp as general manager. He also hired friend Joe Colihan as superintendant.
Image courtesy Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Historical Society
The streetcar ran from Minneapolis down 44th Street in Edina just south
of St. Louis Park to the park
until 1932, when it was replaced by a bus from Hopkins.
One of the biggest attractions was the wooden rollercoaster,
first called the "Mountain Ride," then the "Cyclone."
(Folks in Excelsior just called it the Roller Coaster.) It was designed by John A. Miller and completed in April
1925. Pearce built the coaster on what had been swamp
land. At a height of 65 feet it was called the highest roller coaster in
the Northwest. (A higher one was built in Detroit, at
110 ft., but it was dismantled in the 1920s.) The
coaster at Excelsior was 3,000 ft. long. While Pearce
claimed he built the world's first large roller coasters, he
credits the invention of the device to the Russians. One
memoir says that in August 1928 a cyclone hit the park and
blew the coaster apart, strewing parts onto the highway.
It took ten carpenters, six laborers, and three electricians
to put it back together again. When the park closed it was torn down in the
winter of 1974.
For many years in the 1940s and '50s the Miss Minnesota (Miss Universe) pageant was held at the park. Hopkins girl BeBe Shopp was crowned Miss Minnesota in the park in 1948, and went on to become Miss America.
Queen Anne Kiddieland
This cute little park was on Highway 100 in Bloomington, south of Edina and St. Louis Park. Here's an article about the park from the Edina Historical Society's newsletter in May 2011:
The park was owned by Tom E. Casey and his wife Anne, whom he referred to as "Queen Anne." After the land was taken for the highway, the park moved way out to Blaine, truly the middle of nowhere at the time. The Caseys were true entrepreneurs; they built the Queen Anne Courts manufactured home community that is still in operation in Lakeville. Casey was also an avid ham radio operator, and once got in trouble with the city for erecting a radio tower at his home on Kipling Ave. Anne Casey retired to Arizona and died in 2011.
Here's a film from 1965 for those of you on Facebook.
was on the south shore of White Bear
Lake in what is now the City of Mahtomedi, Minnesota. It was there from
roughly 1898 to 1938 and was quite a popular place. It was
much like Excelsior Amusement Park on Lake Minnetonka. The
park was owned by the Twin City Rapid Transit Corp.
For pictures from the Minnesota Historical Society, click
was built by H.A. Donnelly on 10 acres at East Lake Street between 31st and 33rd Avenues, in today's Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis. The park, which lasted from 1905 until 1911, featured a 120-foot-high electric tower which drew in visitors, roller coaster, miniature train, a floating theater, and the "House of Nonsense." The most popular attraction was an exhibition of premature babies in incubators, a common curiosity of the times. More than 70,000 visitors attended the park on opening day. For pictures from the Minnesota Historical Society, click here. For a video, click here.
This information comes from a variety of sources: newspapers, books, yearbooks, phone directories, interviews, etc. Given the varied sources, we cannot guarantee that all of this information is correct, and welcome any additions and corrections. Please contact us with your contributions and comments.