In 1894 a trolley park sat halfway up Mount Tom in Holyoke, Massachusetts that would later become the famous Mountain Park. It all started in when Holyoke Street Railway Company purchased 365 acres on the side of Mount Tom. In 1895 William Loomis had a trolley line built with the intention of turning the land into a pleasure resort. In the following years he had added a restaurant, switchback railway and merry-go-round. It quickly gained appeal after President William McKinley visited the mountain summit, stating that it had the most beautiful view in the world. Additions were again made to present a theater which often hosted opera as well as a casino large enough to seat 2,500 people. Although successful a majority of visitors preferred simply visiting the picnic groves and gardens. On October 8th 1900 the Summit house burned down only to be replaced by and even larger version with seven stories. Revamps later came to the ballroom, restaurant, dance hall and even the carousel building. Some attractions where replaced completely like the railway which made room for the “Gorge Scenic Water Ride”.
1929 brought about many changes for the park, some for the good but most for the bad. Pellissier took ownership of the park with big plans to add a roller coaster, bumper cars, roller skating rink and more. Although he did accomplish all these things and more, his success was thwarted with the arrival of the Great Depression. Popularity plummeted after the Summit House burned down once again, this time replaced with a much smaller all metal building.
In 1952 a man named John Collins took interest in the park and bought it from the Holyoke Street Railway. Collins would go on to lead the park through its golden years, at which point Mountain Park became known for its fun houses and dark rides. Most of the success can be contributed to three men, who alone designed and themed every ride in the park. The first dark ride introduced was called “Laff in the Dark” and was popular for having a nightmarish yet cartoon-y art to them. It was something that would be thrilling to adults yet not scare little children. Later a second floor was introduced to the attraction and six cars were added. Success continued throughout the 1960’s attracting teenagers with live bands and parents with the relaxing picnic groves.
A tragic year, and the start of the parks decline came about in 1971 when Collins leased the park to a food company service named ARASERV. They went about adding a few rides and most notably a chair lift which would bring passengers to the zoo, near the casino. June 11th of that year brought about tragedy in the form of a natural gas explosion that took place in the Tap Room and Stardust Ballroom as the Holyoke High School prom took place. Unfortunately two park employees died and neither building were ever rebuilt. In light of the events Collins took back control of the park the following year in hopes to turn it around. During the 1970’s the midway stage was home to everything from soap opera acts, to bodybuilding competitions and even bingo. The park remained popular through the 80’s despite Massachusetts entering a recession and even attracted the largest crowd the park had seen on Easter of 1987. However this could not stop the decline of the park as almost all profits were expended on insurance, despite having very few accidents. With the impending retirement of the park supervisor, Roger Fortin, and death of James Parsons, head of game concessions, Collin’s attempt to sell the park. He advertised the land and all rides for a hefty $4 million but was unable to find any buyers. Rides were then sold individually or dismantled. 1994 saw a series of fires that destroyed most of what remained and anything still standing was bulldozed in 2003.
A distraught Collins sold off most of the land, keeping 60 acres of picnic groves in hopes he could one day bring some aspect of the park back to life. He held onto the property until 2006 when a local entrepreneur named Eric Suher bought the land for 1.6 million. In 2009 he appeared in interviews stating he had plans to return the park to its former glory and revealed he had planned a serious of concerts to take place in August. This became a regular up until 2010 with entertainers like Sonny Landreth and groups like Counting Crows and MGMT. Rumors got around about plans to turn the area into a resort but after 2012 Suher’s biggest supporter, Alex Morse, dropped the idea, never being heard of again.
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