title

aladdin's castle

Riverview Park was located on 74 acres in an area bound on the south and east by Belmont and Western Avenues respectively, on the north by Lane Tech High School, and on the west by the north branch of the Chicago River.

It was in the North Center community area and neighborhood on Chicago's north side.

 

carousel and swing
Carousel and Aerostat Circle Swing,
Riverview Amusement Park, ca. 1910

Shoot the Chutes
Scene from Shoot the Chutes

Riverview was the last of the big amusement parks that once dotted the city.
The park was opened in 1904 by William Schmidt, who had bought the 74 acres along the north branch of the Chicago River from the German Sharpshooter's Club for a few thousand dollars.
It was closed Sept. 1, 1967, and was sold for 6 ½ million dollars on October 3, 1967

 

It began with three rides: a small roller coaster, a carousel and a shoot-the-chute.

The leading attractions during the park's early years included a toboggan slide, the Strat-O-Strats giant circle swing, the Old Mill tunnel-of-love ride, the Shoot-the-Chutes water chutes, a carousel, a miniature railway, and a traditional midway featuring a variety of shows, games, and eateries.

The park's first coaster was the Scenic Railway, built in 1907. Though tame by comparison to later coasters, the Scenic Railway nonetheless thrilled riders with its gentle inclines and refreshing breeze

Silver Flash Coaster
"Silver Flash"

Riverview was most known for The Bobs roller coaster.

Other popular coasters were The Comet and The Silver Flash and the Jetstream.

Aladdin's Castle was a classic fun-house with collapsing stairway, maze and turning barrel. Hades, the Rotor, Tilt-a-Whirl, Wild Mouse and Tunnel of Love are just a few of the many classic rides.

Daily performances by German bands were very popular as well, especially among the northwest side's sizable German-American population.

gondola

riverpark carousel
Riverview Park, park goers riding a merry-go-round, June 1915

miniature train
Parkgoers riding a miniature train at Riverview Park," 1916

The first amusement rides were added to the park in 1904, and while some rides only lasted a few seasons, others became key attractions for decades. The park’s most popular rides included:

* The Bobs: This terrifying 11-car wooden roller coaster opened in 1924. At only 87 feet tall it may not have seemed initially impressive, but the steeply banked turns, abrupt drops, and wicked angles of the ride quickly gave it a thrilling reputation. "The Bobs" carried 1,200 passengers per hour and drew some 700,000 riders each season
*
The Derby: This wooden racing coaster was popular from the time it opened in 1909 until it was destroyed by an amusement park ride fire in 1932.
*
Velvet Coaster: Named for its smoothness, this softly undulating coaster was only one of 19 coasters the park would have during its history.
*
Shoot-The-Chutes: This quick ride ended in a thrilling splash and was popular for all ages.
*
Double Whirl: This innovative Ferris wheel was actually six wheels connected to a central pole, offering a fun though disorienting ride.
*
Flying Turns: This wooden bobsled coaster opened in 1935 and remained popular until the park closed in 1967. Today, a modified replica is under construction at Knoebel’s Amusement Park in Pennsylvania.
*
Aladdin’s Castle: This walk through fun house opened in 1932 and offered different rooms with disorienting features to keep guests guessing.
*
Pair-O-Chutes: This parachute drop ride was built on the reconfigured tower of the park’s original observation tower ride and offered a more exciting way to get a bird’s eye view of the park.

In addition to these major rides, Riverview Amusement Park was also home to an extraordinary carousel, a unique “Aquarasel” water carousel, dark rides, carnival rides, and additional roller coasters.

[http://themeparks.lovetoknow.com/Riverview_Amusement_Park]

the bobs #3
Riverview Park, park goers riding the Bob #3 rollercoaster
June 1915

Roller Coasters of Riverview Park

Aerial Coaster - operated 1908-1910
Big Dipper - operated 1920-1967
Blue Streak - operated 1911-1923
Bobs - operated 1924-1967
Cannon Ball - operated 1919-1925
Derby Racer- operated 1910-1931
Flying Turns - operated 1935-1967
Gee Wiz - operated 1912-1963
Jack Rabbit - operated 1914-1932
Jetstream - operated 1964-1967
Kiddie Bobs - operated 1926-1934
Pikes Peak Scenic Railway - operated 1907-1911
Pippin - operated 1921-1967
Royal Gorge Scenic Railway - operated 1908-1920
Skyrocket - operated 1923-1967
Top - operated 1907 1916
Velvet Coaster - operated 1909-1919
White Flyer - operated 1904-1920s
Wild Mouse - operated 1958-1967

coaster



greyhound at riverview



Riverview Park offered guests all manner of food and drink. In the 1930s, the first foot long hot dogs were introduced here.

 

While many guests visited Riverview Park just to tempt the thrilling rides, the varied entertainment was also enjoyable.

Monkey Show booth

Spectators standing outside the monkey show booth at Riverview Park
July 1916

Motorcycle races, variety shows, side shows, bands, and more could be found at the park, making it popular for special events and meetings.

On August 7, 1905, the 31st Annual Old Settlers picnic was held at Riverview park.

old settlers picnic

Old Settlers
Alexander Beaubien, Albert Lenmersaid, James Sinclair, W. H. Gale, George C. Foote and Samuel Flanders standing for portrait under a tree at an Old Settlers Picnic,
[upper left portion of image is missing including Mr. Beaubien's face].
Aug. 7 1905

 

Not all Fun and Games
During the Prohibition years, the park was known to sell beer and liquor illicitly.

Chicago political machines made good use of the popularity of Riverview during the 1920’s. Mayor "Big Bill" Thompson sponsored free childrens’ days at Riverview and paid the Western Ave. streetcar fare during the summer.
"The park also became a focal point for the developing rivalry between the O’Bannion and Capone gangs,"
[from Al Griffin in "Chicago History"]

The American National Socialist Party held its annual picnic and rally at Riverview in 1939. Thousands of Nazis marched and hailed Hitler on the amusement park grounds.

The movement of African Americans to Chicago's neighborhoods in the 1940's heightened racial tensions at Riverview. One of the midway games that started out as a "Dunk the Bozo the Clown" game in which contestants threw balls at a target that would release a man into a tank of water, turned into "Dunk the Ni***r" during the 1940’s. African American men were hired to sit in the tanks and taunt passersby, who often would throw the balls at the African American in the tank rather than at the target. The title of the game was later changed to the more politically correct "African Dip" and was eventually closed by park owners in the late 1950’s after pressure from the NAACP. By the time the game closed, "the men who lost their jobs were reportedly making over three hundred dollars a week in what was considered to be the highest-grossing concession in Riverview’s history."

Violence occurred more frequently at Riverview and by the 1960’s Riverview required its own police force. This increased violence and disorder was a reason given by George A. Schmidt, a grandson of the original owner, for closing the park.

When the park closed on Sept. 1, 1967, it had 120 rides, including six rollercoasters, a parachute jump and rockets.

Riverview was sold for approximately 6 ½ million dollars on October 3, 1967, and never reopened, sold by representatives of the Henry J. Merle family and George A. Schmidt, a grandson of the original owner. The rides were dismantled and sold.

The former grounds are now home to Riverview Plaza shopping center, the Belmont District Police Station, DeVry University, a manufacturing company and Richard Clark Park, part of the Chicago Park District.

The south end of Clark Park has a wooded area where many of the Riverview Park foundations are still visible and is currently used as a bicycle dirt jump and pump track park maintained by the Chicago Area Mountain Bikers. A sculpture entitled "Riverview" by local artist Jerry Peart (1980) stands in front of the police station.

 


Sources:
Pictures from Library of Congress and old postcards
Factual data gathered from wikipedia.org, riverparkchicago.com,
Jazz Age Chicago at http://chicago.urban-history.org/sites/parks/rivervie.htm,
Defunct Amusement Park Info at http://www.defunctparks.com/parks/IL/riverview/riverviewpark.htm,
Love to Know.com at http://themeparks.lovetoknow.com



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