Wednesday, May 04, 2016
Generations of Chicagoans who experienced Windy City summers between 1904 and 1967 have irreplaceable memories of thrilling rides, lively arcades and unforgettable freak shows...of mouths watering for cotton candy, throats hoarse from screaming, and hearts pounding faster than normal. These memories were born at a magical place where dreams were made, friends were found, and life was a delight – Riverview Park!
It opened as the German Sharpshooter Park on July 2, 1904, a hunting preserve, with targets set up on an island in the river and deer roaming in its woods. In 1906, after complaints from wives and children who found "nothing to do" at the park, a carousel was commissioned, the third largest ever built, with 70 horses handcrafted by Swiss and Italian woodcarvers. Thus began the process of building what became "the world's largest amusement park."
Located in the heart of Chicago, at Western and Belmont Avenues, this legendary destination was a place to "Laugh Your Troubles Away."
Some of the best-known rides and attractions included:
Shoot the Chutes
Boats traveled through a dark tunnel to an elevator that hoisted them to the top of a tower from which they slid down into a large splash pond.
The most popular of the roller coasters always had three trains running so that the wait would not be too long.
Originally the Eye-Ful observation tower, it became the first free-fall parachute ride to be constructed.
Dark and scary passageways led through a series of gimmicks and surprises, including the blasts of air that would startle the ladies as they bellowed out their skirts.
Among the many other rides were the Silver Flash, Caterpillar, Fireball, Wild Mouse, Tunnel of Love, Whip, Flying Turns, Water Bug, and Ghost Train.
By 1967, the land on which Riverview was located had become more valuable than the business itself, and so an era ended for its fans.
Says Riverview devotee and author Chuck Wlodarczyk, "Riverview was truly a wonderful melting pot for people of all races and nationalities, old and young. It was the happy meeting ground for the young in age and also the young at heart. We all miss it, don't we?
Links and Resources
Riverview History, News & Memories
Sharpshooters Productions Inc. maintains this site which includes a wealth of material to browse, including pictures of numerous Riverview attractions.
Tastes of Chicago offers such items as display boards featuring original ride tickets with various photos of Riverview, and a book that tells the history of Riverview Park.
For other Riverview memorabilia such as keychains, sweatshirts, Christmas ornaments, a video, and a book, Riverview: Gone But Not Forgotten, call Chuck Wlodarczyk at (847) 384-9353.
Traveling Riverview Show
17 Painting Series on Riverview
Riverview Runs Through His Memories
An article about Ralph Lopez, a former manager of the 22-man crew on the Shoot the Chutes ride, who now devotes himself to keeping memories of Riverview alive.
National Amusement Park Historical Association
NAPHA, in Mount Prospect, Illinois, is an international organization dedicated to the preservation and enjoyment of the amusement and theme park industry - past, present and future.
It was founded in 1978 by former Riverview employee Ralph Lopez, and has grown through the years to include amusement park enthusiasts from around the world.
Mr. Lopez advises us that a developer hopes to build Riverview II in Calumet City, near the Bishop Ford Freeway on 50 acres that formerly belonged to the Fina Oil Company. The first phase of the 80 million dollar project calls for amusement rides, children's rides, a theater, a food court, and an arcade. (You can find more details in the Riverview News area of the NAPHA.org website)
Your $40 Gift Membership will include: