Situated perfectly on the Charles River in an area rich with history, a trolley like many other of the time rose up. In June 1897 directors of the Commonwealth Avenue Street Railway opened a park by the name of Norumbega Park in hopes to attract riders. They derived the name from the nearby Norumbega tower, directly across the river form the park itself, which was thought to mark a Norse settlement.
Due to the park’s location canoeing and pedal boating were popular attractions providing a scenic getaway, if only for the day. For some time the rive was one of the most heavily canoed stretch of water with over five thousand making the 5.8 mile journey. Beautiful gardens, picnic areas and even a zoo attracted visitors, but above all the Totem Pole Ballroom was truly a sight to see. Musicals, plays and even moving pictures would be shown commonly, making use of early technology like the komograph. The ballroom featured some of the most famous entities of the time including Harry James, Ozzie Nelson, Benny Goodman and even Frank Sinatra. Norumbega was also known for breaking records with the largest theater and zoo in all of New England. The 1920’s brought about a few renovations and additions, welcoming bumpers cars and a Ferris wheel. Popularity soared and the park continued to stay relevant long after the 20’s hosting high school proms and providing a setting where many memories were made.
The downfall of Norumbega became apparent after WWII when many other amusement parks lost their appeal. The once thriving Charles River had become polluted and other desirable destinations such as Nantasket Beach had taken its place. The park closed in 1963 and the famous ballroom the following year. Today the site is home to the Marriott hotel and is surrounded by ten acres of beautiful hills, meadows, woods and access to the river.