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Location DB > Canada > Ontario > Crystal Beach > Crystal Beach Amusment Park
Crystal Beach Amusment Park
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 Database Info
created by IanK1968 on 11/21/2004 6:50 AM
last modified by IanK1968 on 11/21/2004 8:05 PM
Publically Viewable Publically Viewable
This location has been labeled as Demolished, and therefore can be viewed by anyone.
Crystal Beach was a huge amusement park that entertained people for 101 years.
 Basic Information
Type: Outdoors/amusement park
Status: Demolished
Accessibility: Impossible/not there anymore
Recommendation: forget it
 Physical Information

Crystal Beach, Ontario
Owner: Was Ed Hall
  • See a map of this location
  •  Hazards
  • Residence telling you to get off their property
  •  Interesting Features
    Nothing now, A housing development now occupies the area.
     Security Measures
     Historical Dates
    Built: 1888
    Closed: 1989
     Required Equipment
     Recommended Equipment

    Crystal Beach began as a Chatauqua show area, or religious campground in 1888. There was an auditorium, tents, and picnic grounds for this purpose and it proved popular enough to draw 150,000 per season. Entrepreneurs saw an opportunity to make money from this by having side show performances between sermons and to offer refreshments. This was not lost on a group of investors who got together in 1890 and formed the Crystal Beach Company, as it was dubbed by one of the partners. They installed amusements and started a ferry service on July 16th after a pier was built. One unconfirmed source shows that a ride which may have been installed was a "Figure 8" roller coaster in 1905. It might have been in the park until 1909 when it may have been sold to Erie Beach Park (then called Fort Erie Grove - see further on), or may have lasted until 1915, after which The "Giant" coaster, which was installed in 1916, would have likely taken its place. They also built The Assembly House Hotel which was later renamed The Royal.

    The park profited well enough that it was sold to yet another ferry company in 1908. This new ferry company introduced a water system and built another hotel (The Bon Air) and bath house. They also revamped the midway with a new layout. In the background of an early photo (likely during the 1910's), it appears that there was a show that my have been called "Battle of Canada". The word "Warpath" also appears. Perhaps this was a live action show that depicted the indian/settler conflicts of Canada's early history.

    More amusement rides were installed around this time including the John H. Brown designed "Backety Back Senic Railway" roller coaster in 1909. Costing $50, 000, it was commonly known as the "Senic Railway", although there were no scenes along the track. It did, however, have a tunneled section. Perhaps there were scenes in that tunnel, but I have found no reference to such a setup. (Today, this coaster would have been considered a twister layout).

    The station for this ride somewhat resembled a riverboat, having a 3 story rectangular structure with rounded faces. On top was a peaked roof with two cupolas. The stories were supported by pillars which formed a series of arches that appeared on 3 sides of the building at ground level, and on all sides of other levels. The entire building was on a large boardwalk style area. Entrance was one step up from ground level through any of the arches. Riders then walked a short distance to a large stairway just inside where they climbed to a mezzanine level box office to buy tickets for 10 cents each. They then turned to their left to form a line a few meters long that ended at an admissions gate on the same level, at which point their tickets were given to an attendant and they climbed a short stairway to the second level boarding area.

    The trains consisted of two cars with 10 double seats that looked like victorian park benches, and between the cars was a position that contained a brake man. He sat in a seat that was the front of the second car. This setup is very similar to the rolling stock used on Thompson's "Senic Railways" and was likely copied from Thompson, or even bought from Thompson by Brown for the "Backety Back". There seem to be no restraints except for shore sides of the seats. After the ride, a train entered the station on the third level and spiraled passengers disembarked. They apparently ran 3 trains. The ride proved immensely popular and remained in the park until 1926.

    To bring even more business to Crystal Beach in the ensuing years, the company built two more piers and put more ferries into service (The "Americana" and "Canadiana"), to handle the crowds coming to the new hotel and bath house from both sides of the Canada/U.S. border. With the popularity of the "Backety Back", another coaster was constructed in 1916 called the "Giant". Designed by T. M. Harton, it was apparently modified sometime in the 1930's or 1940's. The "Giant" lasted until the parks demise in 1989.

    The village around the amusement area began to flourish with the growth of the park which attracted many seasonal tourists to the summer resort area. Cottages sprang up and many visitors stayed for the entire summer adding further to the village's prosperity. More than a dozen hotels were eventually built to house all these people, and they proved extra popular because they served alcohol, which the park did not. Even the day crowds would pass through the village to get to the park. They would buy supplies to enhance the picnic goodies brought with them, as well as souvenirs. Plus, after the park closed the crowds would hang out in the village and frequent the hotel lounges and stores that had built up around the park. All this success led the park owners to go public after World War I, where upon they secured many Canadian and American investors.

    On October 2nd, 1924, plans were approved for what would become the park's famous dance pavilion. Construction commenced in November of that year with the leveling of a huge hill of sand which was done in part with high pressure water hoses. Opening May 1st, 1925 as the "Crystal Ballroom", it was advertised as "The Quarter Million Dollar" hall, although it was actually built for $80, 790. It included a large concrete breakwater a short distance away from the building to prevent erosion of the sand upon which it was built. The wall was decorated with impressions of dancers etched right into the concrete. The space between the dance hall and break wall would later house the "Comet" roller coaster. The structure employed steel girder fabrication, which at the time bridged the largest unobstructed dance area in North America at 50 x 70 meters with absolutely no posts to break up the expense. This incredible 3500 square meter floor could hold up to 3000 dancers at once! It was so large that the orchestras and bands of the time performed on a octagonal stage dead center of the dance area. Above the stage were eight curved wood reflectors that directed the sound out toward the floor in order to have the music reach all areas. Later, as amplification became cheap and available, the stage was moved to one end of the floor and a house audio system installed to cover the far reaches of the room. Two bands a night played - one Canadian and one American. Each alternated sets so that both the early and late crowds would get to hear both bands.

    The park continued to add rides to its compliment including a "Tumble Bug" and in 1927 a most famous roller coaster, the $176, 000 "Cyclone". Build by Harry Traver, it was one of three similar rides built in North America, and was considered one of the most vicious casters ever built. It consisted of a twisted layer of track with a 30 meter lift hill and over 900 meters of track. After a curved drop that bent back upon itself, the trains traversed a 600 degree banked spiral and a very fast, low profile figure 8 section of track. There were no brake runs outside of the station as there were no level portions of track where brakes could be located! Reports say the ride drew 75, 000 riders on opening day and crowds were so heavy that a railing was broken by those pushing to get close to the new ride, One patron rode 67 times that day and on its second day of operation, two boys rode 52 times. Over 5 million rides were given in it's 20 year history.

    However, this ride turned out to be a maintenance headache due to the high forces generated, and in 1938 the entire ride was overhauled with many extra stress ties ahead. It was eventually torn down in 1946 because maintenance costs had again crept up. The steel structure was salvaged and used in part to construct the huge "Comet" coaster in 1948. This ride was designed and built by James Mitchell and Herbert Schmeck with assistance from John Allen. After Crystal Beach closed, the ride was sold and moved to The Great Escape in New York State where it operates today.

    The park continued to grown through the 1930's and 40's despite the depression. The owners purchased the former property of nearby Erie Beach Park which had classed in 1930 due to loss of business. They wanted to be sure that no competitor would buy the property to set up an amusement park that might lessen patronage at Crystal Beach

    A tradition that started sometime in the 1930's or 1940's was the Labor day parade to celebrate the end of the season. All the permanent residents, summer cottagers and day tourists would hold a big procession down the main street of the now, town of Crystal Beach. They would often wear funny costumes and dress up their vehicles. This tradition continued until the park's demise. At war's end, the park boasted 20 rides (including 6 kiddie rides), a dark ride, a fun house, 16 games, 4 refreshment stands, a rink, ballroom, penny arcade, shooting gallery, ponies, bicycle/race track, and picnic facilities.

    By the 1950's the big bands were waning as smaller groups took over, and the dance hall became less popular, with park attendance falling off as well. Ferry service from Buffalo was suspended in 1956 with the result that people had to arrive via busses and cars creating major traffic jams and parking problems. This served to lower attendance even further. In order to attract patrons once again, the dance hall was converted into a roller rink and many new rides were installed. (Note that one source says there was already a roller rink concession in the park run by A. Dexter during the 1940's. This information implies that Dexter's concession had ceased to operate and a new rink was required, or that it was popular enough to expand to the dance hall.)

    Sometime early in this decade a new roller coaster was added. An old brochure shows a 2 passenger car on rails. Kevin Braunshweigler of Mentor, Ohio says that this ride was a "Wild Mouse" It was situated north west of the "Comet". Sure enough, old photos indeed show a "Wild Mouse" ride next to the "Comet". Kevin goes on to say that the ride ran 4-6 cars which sat two passengers in tandem (toboggan style). The structure consisted of a red painted framework shaped like a large 3 dimensional rectangle with the tracks running internally. The front had a sign illuminated with yellow incandescent lamps that spelled out "Wild Mouse" in script. Additionally, the structure itself had the track outlined in clear lamps that enhanced the perception of speed at night.

    The ride started with a chain pull up the left side all the way to the top which was about 12 to 15 meters off the ground. The cars then traversed a path back and forth across the top of the framework with 7 or 8 sharp 180 degree turns at the edges of the frame, all the while building speed. At the end of this course at the top, the track dropped within the framework to become a violent rage of a coaster with very quick drops and lots of opportunity to grab your sweetie who was sitting between your legs to make sure she was safe and would not fall out! I have no exact years that this ride was at Crystal Beach, but Kevin says it was there from at least 1955 until at least 1972. On the other hand Tom Delano says the ride was in the park from 1957 till 1980, and also contributes that Mack was the manufacturer. Attendance continued to languish and in 1974 a fire severely damaged the dance hall, with the half million dollars it took to refurbish it cutting further into profits. Another $250,000 was spent to update facilities that had not been damaged by the fire. In order to boost patronage, beer and wine were served for the first time in the park's history at The Big Top Restaurant which had been built in the newly restored dance hall. In 1976 a pay-one-price policy was also introduced as another incentive, so that patrons could either pay a $1.00 admission charge and buy ride tickets or purchase the $5.50 POP (Pay One Price ticket) that allowed unlimited rides all day long. (The "Comet" roller coaster was excepted from the POP - it cost an extra 25 cents a trip.)

    More rides were added in the 1970's including a "Pirate Ship", "Chair-O-Plane", a boat ride, and a "Lady Bug". In 1978 The "Super Duper Mountain" water slides were put in. They consisted of three 116- meter adult slides and one 27 meter kiddie slide dropping through an 18 meter height difference. The intertwining slides were built on a landscaped hillside with wooden stairs returning riders to the top. 1980 saw the installation of a Chance "Flying Bobs". In 1982 The "Saw Mill River" Flume Ride by O. D. Hopkins was put in at a cost of $1.5 million. During this ten year period other attractions, including some to appeal to children were put in, but all to not much avail attendance was still weak.

    By 1983 with competition from Canada's Wonderland which had opened two years before and from Marine Land which had just installed a huge world record breaking roller coaster ("Dragon Mountain"), the park approached bankruptcy. It was sold in 1984 and the new owners pumped 7 million into it over the succeeding 4 years to prepare for the park's 100th anniversary. Part of that money came from the sale of the park's 1906 Philadelphia Toboggan Company carousel #12. This merry-go-round had 2 chariots, 23 horses and 21 other animals including a camel, giraffe, lion, wolf, and a St. Bernard dog. It was auctioned off piece by piece in December 1984. A very unhappy end for such a valuable antique. The funds allowed a new ferry service from Buffalo to be instated, some additional attractions to be purchased, and the park to be spruced up & rides refurbished, but it was too little, too late, so the park ceased operations after the 1989 season. Rides and buildings were auctioned off October 17th of that year with those unsold being demolished. (Sadly, those unsold included the "Laff in the Dark", "Giant" roller coaster and that beautiful ballroom - all of which were destroyed.) A housing development now occupies the area.
     Media Coverage

     Future Plans
    A housing development now occupies the area.

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     Photo Galleries
    Click to view gallery
    My visit in 1989 before total demolition
    Sun, Nov 21st, 2004
    posted by IanK1968
    42 pictures
    Click to view gallery
    Return Visit in 1990. No More Park
    Sun, Nov 21st, 2004
    posted by IanK1968
    17 pictures

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     Moderator Rating
    The moderator rating is a neutral rating of the content quality, photography, and coolness of this location.

    Category Rating
    Photography 8 / 10
    Coolness 9 / 10
    Content Quality 10 / 10
    This location's validation is current. It was last validated by ednothing on 12/20/2005 8:27 PM.

     Latest Changes
  • on Dec 20 05 at 20:27, ednothing deleted gallery Our return visit in 1990 no more park and its 0 pictures
  • on Dec 20 05 at 20:27, ednothing deleted gallery More Historical and its 0 pictures
  • on Nov 23 05 at 1:25, Emperor Wang deleted 5 pictures from gallery More Historical
  • on Nov 23 05 at 0:52, Emperor Wang updated gallery More Historical
  • on Nov 23 05 at 0:51, Emperor Wang created a new gallery
  • on Nov 21 04 at 20:05, IanK1968 made this location available
  • on Nov 21 04 at 20:05, IanK1968 changed the main information
  • on Nov 21 04 at 20:02, IanK1968 updated a gallery picture
  • on Nov 21 04 at 19:59, IanK1968 updated a gallery picture
  • on Nov 21 04 at 19:55, IanK1968 updated a gallery picture
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