Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Blast From The Past - Paragon Park's Giant Coaster

This series on relocated coasters started back in early October and over that period of time we have taken a peek at seven classic woodies that were relocated and over the years contributed to the success of there new homes. This week's look at Paragon Park's Giant Coaster will be the end of the series (at least for now.)

Paragon Park, located in Hull, Massachusetts opened on Nantasket Beach in 1905. The seaside amusement park, was very popular with visitors arriving by steamship and harbor ferry.

Paragon was also once home to the World's Fair exhibits. The park had many of the traditional rides off that time, Turnpike cars, Auto Scooters (bumper cars) and a Ferris wheel.

The park also has a Philadelphia Toboggan Company carousel, with hand craved horses and the Red Mill, which was one of the first ever "tunnel of love" rides In 1917, PTC also a built a wooden coaster for the park.

The Giant Coaster was designed by John Miller and built by Harry Baker was, at 4000 feet long and 98 feet tall, one time the largest roller coaster in the world. In 1932, the Giant Coaster was nearly destroyed in a fire and Herb Schmeck was brought in to redesign a large portion of the ride.

Paragon Park closed in 1984 and the Giant Coaster was removed from the park in 1985. While the coaster would live on, condos now occupy the park's former site.

The Giant Coaster's future home has a very unique history. Located in Upper Marlboro Maryland, Wild World's history dates to 1973, when Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot and a pair of Irish animal trainers proposed turning more than 400 acres of Maryland corn and tobacco fields into a wildlife preserve. ABC Television bought out Perot and Company and in 1974 the park opened as a drive through safari called The Largo Wildlife Preserve. The park was far below the projected attendance, so in 1975 narrated safari train tours were added. The park still wasn't generating revenue and citing major losses ABC baled in 1976. Somehow the park managed to stay open for the 1977 season, even with a decreased staff. But, it closed in 1978.

The park was sold to one time Wild Kingdom host, Jim Fowler. The safari train returned, a children's playground, animal shows, and a petting zoo were added. And, even though the park continued to lose money, it stayed open through the 1979 season. Fowler's company bowed out and the park was closed during 1980 season. A group of local businessmen purchased the park and reopened it in 1981. The safari train remained, three flat rides, two kiddie rides, and with a merry-go-round were added and the park became Wild World.

  1. Water slides and a children's water play area were added and with these modest improvements the park was finally generating some revenue. More rides and water slides were added the next year and the parks attendance improved but Wild World was still losing money. In 1983 season, the animals were sold and the safari train was removed. In 1984, most of the adult rides were removed and while some of the children's rides remained; Wild World's focus became the water park.

    With the park's attendance relying on the water park, it was nearly a ghost town on cooler days. As such the rides returned in 1985 and management decided they wanted to add a major wooden roller coaster for the 1986 season. It was determined the park could not afford to build a new coaster.

    But, all hopes were not lost, it was well known in the industry that Knoebels Amusement Park had acquired a used roller coaster from a defunct park in Texas. So Wild World's management recruited Charles Dinn, who played a key role in Knoebel's acquisition of the Phoenix, to find a similar coaster for Wild World.

    Dinn knew Paragon Park's Giant Coaster was for sale and thought it would be a great fit for Wild World. In the spring of 1985, Wild World bought the old wooden coaster, Dinn, Leonard Adams and company began working their magic, moving the coaster south and rebuilding it on the former site of the animal park. The Wild One opened in the fall of 1986 and while the park has since gone through several name and owners changes since the ninety-three year old Wild One remains a paragon of the park.


Unknown said...

If the Giant Coaster was originally built in 1917 (as per, wouldn't it be 93 years old, not 83?

NewsPlusNotes said...

You bet! I changed that.

Scott and Carol said...

Thanks Coaster & Mike,

It was a hectic week and I was tired when I finished the story and missed that error when proofing reading.

I can add, really,


Abby said...

It's actually Nantasket Beach, not Nantucket Beach. I grew up in Hull, so I know it quite well!