Nestled into scenic Cliffside Park of New Jersey sat a trolley park much like others of the time. Originally known as “the Park on the Palisades” the nearby scenic Hudson River attracted many evening and weekend passengers. The first rides were added when the park was sold to August Neuman and Frank Knox in 1908. Early amusements included a Ferris wheel and a diving horse attraction which became popular during the mid-1880’s. The newly renamed “Palisades Amusement Park” showed promise but was once again sold in 1910 to brothers Nicholas and Joseph Schenck who had emigrated from Russia to the US, specifically New York City, in 1893 and became involved in the primitive motion picture industry. A change in hands prompted a change in name which became known as the Schneck Bros. Palisade Park.
The Hudson River provided a unique advantage, allowing a massive 400 by 600 foot pool to be built and filled with it. Advertised as the largest salt water pool in the nation, the reputation only stood until 1925 when the “Fleishacker Pool” in San Francisco opened, holding 6.5 million gallons of water pumped from the Pacific Ocean. Regardless of its reputation it was remembered by many as an iconic part of the park.
In 1934 The park was once again sold for 450,000 to Jack and Irving Rosenthal, successful entrepreneurs who also emigrated from Russia to the US. Under their management the Palisades flourished and attracted more than four million visitors each summer. The following year saw the destruction of a portion of the park as a fire erupted. Jack and Irving refused to let this be the downfall of the palisades but were forced to reconsider their options in 1944 when yet another fire broke out. With massive amount of work the park was able to open for the 1945 season with the name being reverted to the recognizable “Palisades Amusement Park”. The park returned to its glory and attendance grew throughout the 50’s and 60’s due mostly to the advertising efforts by the brothers and the production of the “Palisades Song” composed by Chuck Barris. Admittance was merely a dime and free admission coupons could often be found in newspapers and on billboards. During the park’s prime years rock and roll shows as well as local radio personalities performed and brought crowds from far beyond the NYC metro area.
The eventual dissolution of the park was blame on poor traffic conditions which often found visitors sitting in grid-lock conditions in the attempt to find parking. In addition to parking there was an overall uncertainty of the parks future. With both brothers approaching old age, and with no family heirs the brothers saw no solution. In 1967 Jack Rosenthal died of Parkinson’s disease leaving only Irving, in his 70’s, to manage the park. Developers made many offers with hoped to take advantage of the surrounding scenery but were often declined. In January of 1971 a Texas developer Winston-Centex Corporation struck a deal to buy the park for 12.5 million under the terms that Irving could open the park for one last season. The gates opened for the last time on Sunday, September 12th, 1971. The Palisades Park was far from forgotten as two locals attempted, to no avail, to reopen the park for just one more season. In another attempt to keep part of the amazing history, the surrounding towns considered using the large pool for municipal recreation, only to find the filtration system was too greatly damaged.
The rides and attractions which brought an unprecedented crowd were demolished or sold off to other parks all around the US and Canada. Although luxury apartments now call the site home, there is some joy in knowing a monument, a small park named “The Little Park of Memories”, was erected to commemorate the grand Palisades Park which will live on in memory indefinitely.
If you’d like to find more photos and information about abandoned places in america, check out this great book.