Although trolley parks were a dime a dozen during the 19th century, many fell through as the main method of transportation shifted to automobiles. Only 12 operating trolley parks remain in the United States today. One in specific known as “Youngstown’s Million Dollar Playground” outlived other trolley parks due to its highly popular coasters called The Wild Cat and Jack Rabbit. Youngstown, Ohio was home to Idora Park, built by the Youngstown Park and Falls Street Railway Company and called Terminal Park in its early days.
The parks first season welcomed guests to enjoy an abundance of concession stands as well as a theater, dance pavilion, circle swing and a roller coaster. In 1929 Idora Park introduced The Wild Cat, designed by Herbert Paul Schmeck, which was ranked among the top ten roller coasters in the world. This massive 3,000ft wooden coaster was truly deserving of its fame being hailed by connoisseurs across the country. Roller coasters were not the only attraction in the park that broke records. The Idora Park Ballroom was also known as the largest dancefloor between New York and Chicago. With beautiful hardwood floors the open-air ballroom was quite the spectacle, a must see for all visitors. Despite the one of a kind beauty the ballroom presented by being open, it was later enclosed to allow the room to be used year round. Popularity of the radio increased park crowds as the ballroom became to host large well known bands such as Blue Oyster Cult and The Monkees. At one point John F. Kennedy even made a visit during his presidential campaign.
By the 1950’s the park was forced to address the growing issue of space. Idora was built with an impressively large swimming pool, filled with salt water, the first of its kind. The pool was filled with concrete to make room for an area called Kiddieland which hosted rides geared towards young kids. The park was entering a state of decline in which local competitors were abundant and with no room for expansion Idora was struggling to stay relevant. Many still found reason to attend due to the parks appeal for company, ethnic, and church picnics but all of that changed on April 26th, 1984. On a day like any other the clear blue skies were filled with pillars of smoke as a seemingly fire suddenly broke out. Attempts were made to control the inferno which grew to require the aid of twelve fire companies and caused severe damage requiring millions of dollars in repairs. Countless files were lost, and the park’s most popular ride was falling apart yet still saw one final season in the summer of 1984 before deciding to close its gates permanently. Many buildings and rides were simply abandoned with only a few rides being auctioned off.
Hopes to use the land for other purposes arose when the Mt. Calvary Pentecostal Church bought the land and announced plans to build a religious complex called “City of God”. The dream was short-lived as the church lost the property after accumulating over $500,000 in debt. Over time more fires broke out, eventually claiming the famous ballroom and destroying any reminder that the landscape was once home to Idora Park. Although many possibilities lie in store for the land, no plans have been finalized and surrounding trees and foliage have come to reclaim the land once again.
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