Discovering Noah’s Ark: In Reimagining Kennywood’s Unprecedented Treasure
In the beginning…! While this might not be the prologue you’d expect from a trip down an amusement park’s past, there’s no better or more biblical way to start taking a dip. eye to one of Earth’s most unique and little-known attractions – a latest-its kind of historic whale walkthrough found only in Kennywood Park just outside Pittsburgh…
A classic attraction that has survived the Great Depression, a world war, fifteen presidents, countless redesigns and (imagine that) a real flood, Noah’s Ark at Kennywood has been shared between nearly 90 years. by Yinzers. Like a story handed down from generation to generation, this ultra-original solution still floats today, swinging atop a mountain in the middle of “America’s most beautiful traditional amusement park”.
An ascent through Noah’s ark is history. So just as we explored Son of Beast, TOMB RAIDER: The Ride, VOLCANO: The Blast Coaster and dozens of other classic attractions in Theme Park Tourist’s Legends library, we hope you will join us on a journey to Noah’s Ark.
“In the Beginning” might be the best way to start Kennywood’s story, because for generations of Pittsburgh residents, the park just always has been. You can imagine why! Like so many amusement parks that dotted the American landscape throughout the early 20th century (long before the Disneyland Project, you think), Kennywood’s “beginning” is not so easy to pin down.
George Washington himself set foot there as a colonel at the Battle of the Monongahela in 1755. Sixty years later westward traveler Thomas Kenny settled there, believing that the 365-acre land overlooking the Monongahela river would make a beautiful farm and family property. By the late 1800s, a wooded area of the property nicknamed “Kenny’s Grove” had been opened to the public as a pleasant picnic park on the outskirts of an industrializing town.
In 1898, the Picnic Grove land was leased to the Monongahela Street Railways Company, ensuring that little Kenny’s Grove could provide recreation and entertainment for the town’s steelworkers … while cleverly increasing the ridership of the wagons. weekend. By the turn of the century, dozens and dozens of such “wagon parks” flourished in cities across the country, and like its contemporaries, the newly designated Kennywood Park added a carousel, casino hall, bandstand, a lagoon with rowboats and a dance pavilion to serve as a one-stop shop for Victorian entertainment.
In 1901 – 120 years ago! – Kennywood added his first dark ride: The Old Mill. Drifting along a canal powered by a rotating waterwheel, the riders passed through simple scenes of caves and caverns, highlighted by music.
For couples, the draw for these first rudimentary dark rides was the chance to canoodle in the dark – a rare occasion in the prudish Victorian era. For most people, however, the real draw of the Old Mill was the ability to see these interior scenes lit by the breathtaking new light bulb. (Restored and reinvented in 2020, The Old Mill remains the oldest dark ride in the world today.)
Fun House, Fun Boat
Although no one alive today remembers it, DAFE – the organization of Darkride and Funhouse enthusiasts – reports that in 1902 the park opened the “Pavilion of Pleasure”. Inside, guests could stroll through the ‘Cave of the Winds’ (where surprising currents of compressed air would send women’s skirts flying and men chasing hats) and the ‘Earthquake Hall’. (with shaking, rumbling and shaking wooden floors).
They would find relief at the “Spring Water” oasis … only to find that connecting the fountain’s pewter mug with a secretly electrified stream of water caused a “shocking” surprise. (It was, to say the least, a very different time … as also evidenced by a peephole through which guests saw the reflection of their own faces on the body of a “fat policeman making love to the cleaning lady. “.)
Finally, the guests climbed “The Crazy Staircase” (with steps that went up and down opposite each other, patented by George Tilyou of Coney Island) for a descent of the “Swirly Slide”.
Suffice it to say that Kennywood’s “Pavilion of Fun” would today be easily recognized as one of the very first of a new kind of amusement: a funhouse! Running alongside the first attractions of Coney Island in New York City, Kennywood added a handful of fun funhouses at the time: the endless mazes of the House of Trouble; the labyrinth of mirrors at the Laughing Gallery (the first of its kind, imported from the Paris Exhibition); The House of Mystery (ironically, for which no known image or description remains); and the Daffy Dilla Fun Factory (with a human roulette!).
One after another, Kennywood has refined the art of the walkthrough in the following facilities and decorations… The Tumble Inn; Hilarity Room; the insect house; Tut’s Tomb (capitalizing on the actual archaeological find from 1922, in real time) … You have to imagine that even in the 1920s, funhouses, slides, and tours outnumbered the darkest dark rides by far. traditional. (The definitive single-rail, busbar “Pretzel” dark ride wouldn’t even be patented until the end of the decade.)
While the meanders of old mills and tunnels of love may have given guests a respite from the summer heat in dark, musty rooms, guided tours were the way for guests to enter new worlds, filled with ‘special effects, laughing stuff and (sometimes literally) shocking surprises. (It’s probably no coincidence that, even with the cart-based dark ride at his disposal, Walt Disney himself initially envisioned both the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean as walkthroughs!)
But the most unique funhouse subgenre was coming soon …
And God saw that the wickedness of man was great on earth […] And the Lord repented that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him in his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man and beast, and the creeping thing, and the birds of the air; because I regret having made them
Dozens of religious texts around the world dating from Antiquity speak of a “Great Flood” brought from heaven, with only those selected by the divine spared to replenish the Earth. Noah’s story is one of the best known in the Western world. Chosen by God to pick up two of each animal, Noah and his family are said to have built and boarded a floating ark, surviving forty days and forty nights of rain before the water receded and deposited the ark among the mountains of Ararat. .
You might think of “Noah’s Ark” as a theological Atlantis: understood by some as a simple allegory or a myth, pursued by others as a treasure to be discovered. Of course, this latter set doesn’t have to look far, given that dozens of Arches have been found atop as many of Mount Ararats across the United States and Britain!
The first “Noah’s Ark” opened in 1919 at Venice Pier, California. Inside the oddly stranded boat, guests would walk through a maze populated not only with traditional “funhouse” gags like rocking floors and wacky mirrors, but also simple static vignettes stylized after Noah, his family, and animals. carved on board. Designed by Leroy Ramond, the uniquely themed walkthrough was a success.
In 1920, Ramond sold the rights to build more arches to William Dentzel (of the Dentzel Carousel Company), who sold and built arches across the country. In fact, “Noah’s Arks” became the funhouse-of-the-day for theme parks in the decades since. According to Joel Styler of Laff in the Dark, when Dentzel died in 1928, the Carousel Company was purchased by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (a well-known roller coaster maker to this day), which was able to sell the model on a larger scale. ladder.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Noah’s bows spread across the country! Nearly three dozen versions of the attraction have existed, from Coney Island in New York to Old Orchard Beach in Maine; Cedar Point in Ohio at Frontierland and Blackpool Pleasure Beach in the UK. Usually located in a pool of water (with access to the Ark via floating platforms) or at the top of a sculpted Mount Ararat (with tunnels and ascending bridges to the ship), Noah’s Arches were at about as synonymous with amusement parks as big wheels or bumper cars!
Today there is only one left … And on the last page, we’re going to take a tour inside to find out what can be found inside Noah’s last ark on Earth…