Sadly, very little remains of this once popular amusement park located along the southern shore of Lake Erie near the eastern limits of Cleveland, Ohio. Euclid Beach Park once occupied a vast tract of land sandwiched between Lake Shore Boulevard and the Lake near East 159th Street, in the city’s Collinwood neighborhood. Depicted here is the restored and preserved entrance gate to this once-grand summertime destination. It now serves as a vehicular entryway to a number of high-rise apartment buildings standing where thundering coasters once soared.
Opening in 1895, as the City of Cleveland began its surge to become one of the five largest cities in the nation, Euclid Beach Park at first featured a beer garden, a dance hall, freak shows, and gambling. Modeled after New York’s Coney Island, it strove to offer entertainment for all ages and tastes, including raucous and vice-seeking adults. That changed in 1901, however, upon the park’s acquisition by Dudley S. Humphrey, Jr. and members of his extended clan. Orienting the park toward good, clean family fun, the Humphreys imposed a dress code and not only eliminated beer sales, but also denied entry to anyone who’d apparently just imbibed one. Other changes included improvement and expansion of the park’s beach, bathhouses and boardwalk, and a broadening of the venue’s selection of rides and attractions. In 1910, Euclid Beach Park and Cedar Point (farther west along the Erie shoreline, in Sandusky, Ohio) became the end points of a round-trip exhibition flight by aviator Glenn Curtiss.
For virtually its entire history (through to 1969), Euclid Beach Park featured thrilling wood roller coasters. Eventually, seven different coasters were to operate at the park, enticing legions of fans with such names as The Thriller, The Racing Coaster, The Flying Turns, The Switchback Railway, and The Figure Eight. Other unique rides — such as The Rocket, the Great American Racing Derby (a carousel of flying steeds), Turnpike Cars and The Mine Ride — attracted the parks many school-age visitors. An oft-remembered icon of the park is Laughing Sal, a life-size and grotesquely animated laughing clown-woman statue that occupied a place of prominence among the park’s fun-house activities. Occasionally still, Clevelanders may be greeted by the summertime sight of one of the original Rocket cars, long since converted to road travel, cruising down a neighborhood lane.
Since the Humphrey clan began as concessionaires at the park’s opening, they were quite capable of creating enduring treats for park attendees to enjoy. The most famous of these — the Humphrey Euclid Beach Popcorn Balls — can still be found at local area stores. Other popular concessions were the famed salt-water taffy and the distinctive Euclid Beach Frozen Custard.
The Euclid Beach Park entry gate has been named a Cleveland landmark, and is thereby protected from future demolition. In addition to the preserved entry gate, a portion of the former property of the private amusement facility has since been converted to the public Euclid Beach State Park, with parking area, picnic tables and shelters fronting on a stretch of Lake Erie beach. Another segment of the park’s original parcel has long been occupied by a trailer park.