Sadly, it’s hard to imagine the Jersey Shore now without associating it with a reality show from MTV. The boardwalks we know today in New Jersey have changed wildly since their inception and it’s hard to imagine them any other way. Thanks to the new book, Lost Amusement Parks of the North Jersey Shore, you can hop in a virtual time machine back to the late 1800s. Trying to find information on these early amusement attractions is nearly impossible which is why this book is such a gold mine of valuable information and photos.
One of these gems is Atlantic Beach Park, located near Mount Mitchill (which is actually misspelled in the postcard above). The park featured games of chance, a whip, fortune tellers, a “European” Ferris Wheel, a dance hall and more. What I love about Lost Amusement Parks of the North Jersey Shore is that viewing the images is like opening up a time capsule.
For example, I love this picture of the Bamboo Garden. One admission price granted visitors access to moving pictures and nightly dancing. Another interesting side note, this photograph was taken by a projectionist at the Bamboo Garden Daniel D. Dorn, who ended up being instrumental founding the projectionists union.
Readers will recognize this attraction as a scenic railway! This one was built by Daniel D. Dorn who was also known as the “Thomas Edison” of the roller coaster. Thompson created the first roller coaster in Coney Island around 1884.
This is my favorite picture from the entire book. A “water theater” was created in Pleasure Bay Park. This floating stage measured 40 feet by 50 feet and supported by empty wooden casks and tethered to the shoreline. Boaters and 1,500 grandstand guests could watch vaudeville acts perform twice daily, except Sundays. How great would it be to bring this kind of idea back?
One of my favorite rides anywhere are Steeplechase coasters. Two parallel tracks where riders hop on wooden or fiberglass horses and race through the track. The one above was located in Asbury Park and later converted into a traditional wooden roller coaster.
Miniature trains were also a huge draw. This picture was taken in Asbury Park as well. Lost Amusement Parks of the North Jersey Shore, whether intentional or not, manages to capture the look and feel of the time so well. Take a moment and look at how people are dressed. Dress shoes, fine jackets… even the hairstyles are well-kept. I love books like this just to see how society has changed over the decades.
Cowboy City was located in Farmingdale, New Jersey, which was made to look like the wild west. Visitors could visit the bank, post office, blacksmith and watch cowboys fight the bad guys on the streets. This article barely scratches the surface of the gems found in Lost Amusement Parks of the North Jersey Shore. You really should take a moment to click on the link below and pick up a copy from Amazon!
Images reprinted from Images of America: Lost Amusement Parks of the North Jersey Shore by Rick Geffken and George Severini (Arcadia Publishing, 2017).