The date Lakemont Park opened
Currently, Lakemont Park says it opened in 1894. A newspaper article from the late 1980s says the Lakemont Park Company received the title/deed of the park in October 1894, towards the end of the park’s first season. I assume this is the current rationale for the park opening in 1894.
However, two of the Tribune articles (7/3/1918 and 6/29/1953) are about the anniversary of the opening of the park. The 1918 article says the park opened on July 4, 1893, in the sub-headline of the article. The 1953 article says the park was celebrating it’s 60th anniversary on the Fourth of July. This is corroborated by the 7/1/1893 article in the Tribune, which says that the Fifth Regiment drum corps, of Altoona, had a parade on Friday, June 29, 1893, as an early celebration to the grand opening of Lakemont Park on July 4, 1893. That said, there are many articles from July – October 1893 which speak about groups having events at Lakemont Park. Clearly, the park was in operation in 1893.
Regarding the Lakemont Park Company, I found a “Notice of Application for Charter” listed in the Tribune on 7/6/1893. It said the application would be submitted to the Honorable Augustus S. Landis on July 12, 1893, at 10am.
A few of the rides at Lakemont Park
The 1918 and 1953 articles say that the park’s first amusement was a Dentzel carousel, which was destroyed in a fire in 1897. They then say the second amusement was a switchback roller coaster called Gravity Road (this is not listed in RCDB), owned and operated by Amandus Sink. The 1961 article from the Mirror states this coaster opened on May 12, 1894.
The article in the Tribune, May 11, 1894, is written by a reporter who visited Lakemont Park several days before Gravity Road opened. The reporter (no name was credited to the article) was able to be a test rider on the coaster. The reporter wrote:
“The Gravity Road is a narrow gauge, double track arrangement, the tracks being separated by a partition and walled in at the sides. The roadbed is undulating and thus it is that by the momentum gained in going down an incline the long, narrow car is propelled up and over the hump, if it so pleases you to call it, and so on to the end of the route. The length of the track is 1180 feet and the round trip is made from the starting point and back in thirty to thirty-five seconds. It seems pretty fast riding, but one trip over the line takes away all sense of fear and the situation is recognized as a thoroughly novel and enjoyable one.”
Gravity Road was closed in 1897. This was called an “inexplicable” decision in the 6/29/1953 Tribune article. I believe this occurred because Sink was going through bankruptcy proceedings as early as 1898, and as late as 1904. Since he owned and operated the coaster, could not afford to maintain the coaster. It seems Lakemont Park made the logical decision to go their own route. In mid-1897, they announced they were installing a new carousel to replace the one lost by fire, and they were replacing the switchback with a new “figure-eight” coaster.
That said, while these articles are correct about the park opening in 1893, they’re wrong about the 1897 date. The 9/23/1901 article from the Tribune is about the fire which destroyed the carousel. The article says the carousel was “a pile of ruins,” with no foul play suspected. It did say the carousel was erected when the park was opened at a cost of $8,800 and insured for $8,000. The 5/5/1902 and 5/30/1902 Tribune articles corroborate this. They say a new carousel was built to replace the carousel destroyed by fire in the fall of 1901. They also say a figure eight toboggan, the newest park amusement, had been constructed (Leap-the-Dips). This negates the “inexplicable” nature of removing the original coaster, since the carousel was destroyed in September 1901, rather than, as they misunderstood, being early 1897.
To further that point, it seems as though while not only was Sink going through bankruptcy, the Gravity Road was struggling. I found references prior to the Fourth of July 1901 which noted that there were tests being done on the coaster at Lakemont Park. One example…it was written on July 3, 1901, in the Tribune, that the park/Sink tested Gravity Road using 3000 pounds of stone. They were able to report “not a board was strained.” It seems evident that replacing Gravity Road was a logical thing to do.
Save Lakemont Park – What about the Twister?
Moving beyond the turn of the 20th Century, on May 2, 1936, Logan Valley Railway company announced that Lakemont had been suffering losses for many consecutive years. While they used to be able to afford taking the hit, they no longer could. They wanted to donate the park to a local municipal authority, otherwise they would close the park. They had no interest in selling the park to another for-profit company. That Memorial Day in 1936 was the first Memorial Day in 43 years for the park to not be in operation (since the park opened on July 4, 1893, 1893 was the last year the park wasn’t open on Memorial Day). The park never officially opened in 1936.
A substantial “Save Lakemont Park” campaign began in February 1937. A fund was created by the local Chamber of Commerce, but it required $10,000 in donations. They were able to raise the money and save the park, and officially open the park in 1937. Regarding where Twister fits in all this, it was definitely in operation in 1934. Unfortunately as of yet, no articles in 1935 mention any of the rides in the park, save the carousel as a reference point to pavilions near it. With the park amusements not operating in 1936, it was more than likely SBNO. When the park was reopened in 1937, plans included rebuilding Leap-the-Dips but not Twister. It was at this point Twister was definitively closed; a proposal of renovations to Lakemont Park actually has a map of the park printed in the Tribune; Twister is shown on this map, but with a path going right through the ride area, a certain indicator that Twister would be removed.
In conclusion, facts in short form.
- Lakemont Park: Opened, July 4, 1893. Did not open 1936. Reopened, 1937.
- Gravity Road: Opened, May 12, 1894. Closed, 1901. Length: 1180 feet. Duration: 30-35 seconds. Owned and operated by Amandus Sink.
- Leap-the-Dips: Opened, June 2, 1902. Under the management of J.M. Shuck, member of the Amusement Company of Pennsylvania. Measures, 95 x 250 feet. Cost, $15,000. 500 incandescent lights line the track.
- Twister: Opened, May 28, 1927. The build was completed on May 24, 1927. SBNO: 1936. Removed: 1937.
- 9 from the Altoona Tribune:
- From 1893: July 1, July 6
- From 1894: May 11
- From 1901: July 3, September 23
- From 1902: May 5, May 30
- From 1918: July 3
- From 1953: June 29.
- 1 from the Altoona Mirror:
- From 1961: April 14
I have a wide variety of interests, from sports to politics, music to Star Trek. I write about the history of amusement parks on my website, The Amusement Parkives, which I founded in 2016.