When did Waldameer first open? When was Waldameer built? Find out here.
The Caterpillar ride in the early 1900s. A ride on the Caterpillar cost 10 cents.
If you grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania, you know that Waldameer has been around for awhile. Erie's local amusement park is one of the region's longest standing attractions. It's not uncommon for people's parents to have worked at Waldameer as teenagers, or their grandparents to have met their sweetheart at Waldameer back in the day. Heck, some people even get married at Waldameer! (Weddings tend to involve the Ravine Flyer 2 roller coaster).
But how old is Waldameer? To find out, let's travel back in time for a quick history lesson...
Richmond, Virginia, 1888. The first electric-powered street rail car (also known as a trolley car) opened. Trolley car companies sprung up almost overnight. Trolley car companies thought to themselves, "Hmm, how can we encourage more people to ride our trolley cars, especially on weekends?" If they created an attraction, like an amusement park, along (or better yet, at the end of) their trolley line, surely people would use their trolley cars to ride to and from the attraction.
They were right! Just like that, "trolley parks" were born. In 1896, the Erie Electric Motor Company established Waldameer Park. This park amounted to 65 acres of woods along the shore of Lake Erie. Waldameer became a popular picnic area for Erie residents. Even today, Waldameer still has a variety of scenic picnic groves full of beautiful, shady trees.
Trolley Station at Waldameer.
Picnicking wasn't the only attraction at Waldameer however. In 1905, the park's first carousel opened to riders. This carousel featured hand-carved wooden animals, and was built by T. M. Harton of Pittsburgh. The building that housed this original carousel still stands and holds Waldameer's current, modern carousel.
Carousel at Waldameer, 1935.
Other attractions in the early days of Waldameer included bowling alleys, a large dance hall, a Hofbrau German Beer Garden (complete with singing waiters!), and a roller coaster. Waldameer's first roller coaster, called the Figure Eight, was also built by T.M. Harton.
However, one of the most popular attractions in the early 1900’s was Waldameer’s beach and boardwalk. Waldameer Beach included a 110’ bath house and--wait for it--offered bathing suits for rent! This was a common practice for that era. The wooded walk down to the beach opened to a natural lagoon and boardwalk, where boats and canoes were available for rent as well.
Bathing at Waldameer Beach, 1924.
Fast forward several decades to the Waldameer that you know and love today. While nearly all trolley parks have closed since the trolley park boom in the early 1900s, Waldameer is still going strong today. Established in 1896, Waldameer is the 4th oldest trolley park still operating in the United States.
Enjoy learning about Waldameer? Check out the Waldameer Mystery Files children's book series! In each book, a group of kid detectives solve a mystery at Waldameer while learning about Waldameer history. These books are perfect for elementary readers or Waldameer fans of any age! Teachers can use them in their classroom too!