Willow Mill Park

Willow Mill Park was an amusement park in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, nestled alongside Conodoguinet Creek. Today, the park is a public park owned by Silver Springs Township.

1920s to 1940s

The park was hosting group picnics as early as 1928. In 1931, Willow Mill featured tables, benches, swings and seesaws, as well as boats and canoes, a golf course, and the Willow Mill Farm Inn, which fell under new management in 1931. The Park and Inn had a Grand Opening on Sunday, May 24, 1931, as seen in the advertisement below.

1931-05-23 Harrisburg Telegraph (p3)
Advert from the Harrisburg Telegraph, May 23, 1931, page 3.

Cottages were added to the Inn in 1932. In 1933, the park added a lifeguard protection for bathing and water sports. They also hosted a band concert on August 6, 1933. In 1934, the park further grew with the addition of its first amusement rides – a carousel called Merry-Go-Round, a water toboggan slide, speed boats, and pony rides.

1934-06-02 Harrisburg Telegraph (p10)
Willow Mill introduced its first slogan in 1934: “The Place For Picnics.” Published in the Harrisburg Telegraph on June 2, 1934, page 10.

1934-07-09 The [Harrisburg, PA] Evening News (p13)
Scenes from Willow Mill Park. Featured in Harrisburg’s The Evening News, July 7, 1934, on page 13.
The park added its first roller coaster, Blue Streak, in 1935. It was originally constructed by Federal Engineering Company for White Rose Park, in York, PA, where it was called Flying Cloud. The coaster operated there from 1926 to 1934. It appears the owners of White Rose were forced to sell the coaster to avoid bankruptcy (which they were ultimately unable to avoid). Willow Mill management purchased the ride and moved it to their park. When it was installed, they chose to reduce the roller coaster’s size, resulting in a unusual layout.

1935-06-03 The [Harrisburg, PA] Evening News (p12)
A picture of Willow Mill’s roller coaster in 1935. Featured in the photo left to right are: Dorothy Arnold, Margaret Arnold, and Ethel Bowen. This photo appeared in The Evening News, Harrisburg, on June 3, 1935, page 12.
By the late 1930s, the park added a Ferris Wheel, and the primary focus for the park were group picnics. Advertisements for the park dropped off in 1938 and 1939, as the country was hitting another economic low during the Great Depression. The park itself continued to do well.

In 1941, the park expanded adding several new rides: a new carousel, a whip, a sky fighter, and a kiddie airplane ride. They also added a new and larger restroom.

1950s to present

By the 1950s, the Fasnacht family purchased Willow Mill, owning the park through 1971. In early 1972, they sold the park to Rohrbaugh family, who owned the park until it closed.

In June 1972, the park experienced a catastrophic flood when Hurricane Agnes hit Pennsylvania. Blue Streak was severely damaged, and the train was damaged beyond repair. It took several seasons, but the the ride was completely rebuilt in-house, and a new train was purchased from Philadelphia Toboggan Company. This train was painted red, so the ride was renamed Red Streaker.

Because of the flood, most of the Rohrbaugh family got out of owning the park. Ron and Cassie Rohrbaugh purchased the shares other family members owned, and they retained control of the park.

By 1990, the park was struggling and did not open in 1990. The park remained standing, but not operating, until 1994, when Silver Spring Township, who bought the park from the Rohrbaugh’s, with the intention of converting it from an amusement park to a public park, removed any rides from the property. The park was renamed Silver Spring Park and is still open as park today.

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