From slow dances under the pavilion to the countless hours spent at the penny arcade, there was something for everyone at the Rocky Springs Park nestled just outside of Lancaster PA. Rocky Springs was the ideal scene for young couples, families and even those just looking to appreciate their surroundings on a slow stroll. In 1855 a butcher by the name of Michael Trissler purchased a plot of land on the Conestoga River with plans to build a two and a half story hotel. In addition to the hotel, the grounds were home to the annual Lancaster Maennerchor picnic which drew an outstandingly large crowd. Nearby residents would be provided transportation to the park via omnibus in Lancaster City. Lively music and great spirit filled the park creating a sanctuary away from ones problems and truly transforming the grounds into something uplifting.
In 1899 Mr. Thomas Rees bought Rocky Springs and brought in Herman Griffiths to manage the park. Big plans to bring in new events were successful which included horse training shows, water shows and more. An auditorium was built to seat 2,000 and presented vaudeville, music and variety shows. Later additions included a figure 8 roller coaster and a carousel. Rocky Springs became a highly sought after location for large private events such as those held for the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Events like this one brought in upwards of 10,000 people from Delaware to D.C. who attended and camped in tents for the duration of the convention.
Around 1923 a young, ambitious Joseph Figari moved to Lancaster and began working at the park. He got his start selling shaved ice and managing a few other concessions. By 1935 he became well known when he acquired not only a candy factory where he once worked, but also Rocky Springs Park. He brought much success to the park with additions like the Wildcat, the whip, a fun house and ferris wheel. Other popular attributes included a baseball field, penny arcade, swimming pool and roller rink which showcased an organ and organist supplying constant music for skaters. Figari ran the park flawlessly, continuously expanding until its closing in 1966. In the late 70’s it was purchased by Ben Brookmyer, Mary Corthouts and Michael Ranck who aspired to fix up the park and bring it back to its former glory. Attendance was more than lacking and despite the appeal it was forced to close for the final time. Rides were auctioned off and the east side of the park was sold for condominiums. Many believe the downfall of the park came about in the 1960’s when a lawsuit was brought against Figari for denying two African Americans the right to swim in the public pool. Rocky springs was one of three county pools who were sued for discrimination at this time, all of which lost.
Despite the reason behind its downfall, Rocky Springs Park was adored by children and adults alike. It played a large role in residents’ lives, being cited as the center for social activity for those living in/around Lancaster. Today a stunning Bed and Breakfast sits atop the land with many of the original buildings remaining. The grounds, which seem to be kept well, are nostalgic and even bring a tear to your eye as you can easily vision how the park once stood in its glory days.
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