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Chippewa Lake Park
Chippewa Lake (near Medina), Medina county, OH

Date Opened: 1878
Date Closed: 1978
Location: County route 19 north of Eastlake Avenue
Remains: Most of the park & rides!
Trolley Park: ?

 

Some Bad News:

About 5PM on Thursday, June 13, 2002, the Chippewa Lake Park Ballroom, which has been standing idle, has burned down. The park closed in the late 70s and has sat dormant since then. Arson is suspected.

 

The Park

Chippewa Lake Park was basically just abandoned with many of the rides still standing. The park was home to 3 roller coasters - A Wild Mouse, A steel kiddie coaster named the Little Dipper and a larger wooden coaster. The wood coaster was earlier named the Big Dipper but was referred to as just "Coaster" in the later years. The ride was built about 1924 or 1925 by Fred Pearce. It is amazing that a Tumble Bug is still there considering how rare this ride is (only three in the US and one in the UK).

There have been several locations listed for this park, usually as Cleveland. It is actually located at Chippewa Lake and is near the towns of Medina and Lodi, quite a bit Southwest of Cleveland. The park is due North of the juction of Interstate 71 and Interstate 76. In my opinion, it is possible that the park was not a Trolley Park but instead a Railroad Park, since the B&O Railroad runs directly behind the park. Joel Styer - Nov. 1998

 

State of the park in 1997

The following is a description of the park as it appeared in 1997 that was originally posted on the rec.roller-coaster newsgroup. It accompanies the photos at the bottom of this page and is used with permission from the author.

I was very excited to go into an abandoned amusement park.  But in retrospect, I am also a bit ashamed.  In my eagerness to see the park up close, I trespassed in a person's yard, and was probably technically trespassing in the park itself, even though a neighbor said it would be OK. I understand that security around the park has been increased in the past year, and I hope I didn't contribute to that.  While in the park, I also took some risks I probably shouldn't have.  Some rides and buildings were in a dangerous state of collapse, and I should have stayed away.

I can't quite say I regret going into the park.  It was definitely a unique, thrilling (but sad) experience.  I'd love to do it again.  But I won't unless there is some kind of official tour.  The neighbors of the park deserve more respect and consideration than I gave them last time. Dave Sandborg November 15, 1998

We had no real trouble finding the park. The lift hill and first drop of the wood coaster were easily visible from outside. We could also see the ballroom building. When we started walking down a nearby street hoping for a glimpse of other parts of the coaster, we got into a bit of a chat with some of the locals. They indicated there wouldn't be any problem with our getting into the park--"There's a way through the fence in Linda's back yard." We later encountered Linda herself, who didn't seem to object to people wandering in the park.

At least one other person was back there fishing, and the path over the fence looked pretty well-traveled. The locals also mentioned that there was somebody in town who would sometimes show people around the park.

There isn't just one SBNO coaster in the park, there are three: the wood coaster (which appeared to be called simply Coaster; Cartmell's book mentions a _Big Dipper_ at this park credited to the Pearce family, I'm guessing it's the same ride), a fairly typical kiddie steelie with an oval layout (called the Little Dipper), and a standard steel Wild Mouse (there was a funky cupola structure next to the lift hill that may have been at the top). The latter two were quite overgrown.

There were a number of other rides hiding in the underbrush. Among them, a Ferris Wheel (stripped of all its cars) and a Tumble Bug (cars still on the track). There was a completely collapsed building that we believe may have housed a carousel. Also, there was a ride I've never seen before. It looked like the riders would stand up inside a cage, which would then swing back and forth like a pendulum. There were four cages on the ride. There were some railroad tracks that went through the park down to the lake, and also seemed to extend well beyond the fence we'd gotten in by.

There were quite a few buildings, in a variety of stages of decay. Some were almost completely burnt down; it was hard to tell what these might have been. On the site of one such building, we found some filing cabinets (with completely charred papers inside) and a whole bunch of old cash registers. Possibly the administrative building?

The ballroom was still standing, and we were able to walk around gingerly inside (on any wood floors, we had to be very careful to avoid rotten boards). In a room of the same building were two Little Dipper cars (two seats per car), plus a tub from a ride I couldn't identify.  Inside the ballroom itself were a bunch of pieces from the old miniature golf course, plus some very large speaker horns. Both of the long walls were lined with desks and benches.

Near the ballroom were scattered a bunch of cups commemorating the park's centennial year: "Chippewa Lake: Celebrate a century of fun this year." Some had dates on them. I believe the dates were 1877-1977, but I could be mistaken. I believe the Coaster wasn't running at this time; I seem to recall a local telling us it had stopped running by 1974. It's sad to think that the park was certainly dying at its centennial; that may even have been its last year of operation.

We also saw a ticket booth or two, a restroom building, and a maintenance shed. There was a whole mess of stuff in that shed. I also recall what appeared to be an outdoor stage, a building that may have been a picnic pavilion (it also seemed to have a stage), and a food stand of some sort. One of the entrance gates was standing (there were at least three entrances, since a sign mentioned a Gate 3). Towards the back of the park was a red caboose. It seemed to be about in the best repair of anything around.

Some windows were boarded up with old park signs. One window was boarded by two panels; one had what appeared to be a list of either park sponsors or picnic groups. Among them: "Greater Beneficial Union," "Kulture Gruppe Youngstown," "Concordia Soccer Club," and "Slovenian National Home." The second panel continued that list, plus had a listing of various food related items, such as Balkan Delicacies, German Bakery, French Fries, Corn-on-the-Cob, Fresh Lemonade, Betty's Pastry Shop, Coffee, Pirogi-Roast Beef. We were puzzled by this list, since it didn't just seem to be a listing of restaurants. The items were numbered, with numbers going up to 54, which is surely greater than the number of restaurants or food stands at the park. Some of the items were specific foods, others were clearly names of eateries. The numbers did seem to correspond to points on a park map, most of which was cut off, unfortunately.

As for the Coaster, we spent some time walking next to the track, as well as around the station area. OK, we walked in the station itself, in the tunnel, and along the brake run, but I wouldn't recommend anybody doing it! The layout was a straightforward out-and-back.   Immediately from the station, the train would go into an S-turn tunnel, pretty much a mirror image of the one on Conneaut's Blue Streak. It looked to me like there might have been a door to the tunnel entrance that the train pushed through, a la a Haunted House ride. The tunnel exited right onto the lift hill. After the lift was a 180 degree left turn, and then the first drop. There were three more hills, a 180 degree turnaround to the right, and then three more hills on the way back to the brake run, which had a slight dog leg. We estimated the coaster at about 50 feet high, but our methods were very primitive (I stood next to the top of the first hill, we compared my height to the scaffolding segments, and then counted segments). The coaster looks pretty long for that height.

The Coaster ran with four-seater cars. The cars didn't seem to be coupled into complete trains, but I'm guessing there were three cars per train. The cars could only be loaded on one side, because the lap bar release mechanism blocked the other side. The lap bars were unpadded metal, one-position, but seemed to go surprisingly low. The coaster used skid brakes with Big Ol' Brake levers (I think there were four separate levers). The transfer track was also manually operated. We got a good look at the undersides of the cars, including the upstop wheels and safety dogs. I was a bit confused because the transfer area didn't look like it accommodated the upstop wheels, and the cars sitting there didn't seem to have them.

As for the condition of the coaster, it actually didn't look that bad from a distance. Most of the structure seems intact, except for a few missing handrails. The wood seemed in surprisingly good condition, given how long it's been neglected. I'm not a good person to judge how easy it would be to move or reconstruct this coaster, but I could clearly see several major problems. First, the ground near the back end of the coaster is pretty waterlogged. Second, there is one spot where a tree has completely fallen over the track and wrecked it. Third, the undergrowth around the coaster would be a major problem. There were trees growing straight through the brake run tracks. Finally, the cars themselves were in terrible shape.

All in all, a fascinating experience. I'd be very interested in doing it again, either at this park (particularly with somebody who had seen it in operation) or another, such as Idora. I'd be happy to answer any questions anybody has (as best I can), and would love to hear from somebody who went there before the Coaster closed.

Dave Sandborg June 1, 1997

Picture Gallery
Click on any picture to see it full size
All photos are from the Spring of 1997

Roller Coaster (Big Dipper or Coaster)
coaster08.jpg (81091 bytes) coaster17.jpg (81785 bytes) coaster02.jpg (94602 bytes)
The lift hill The lift hill Dip
coaster07.jpg (111485 bytes) coaster09.jpg (106988 bytes) coaster06.jpg (95290 bytes)
Overgrowth Hill Trees growing through hill
coaster05.jpg (95771 bytes) coaster03.jpg (105086 bytes) coaster04.jpg (94226 bytes)
Trees growing in track Structure taken over by growth Buildings at coaster
coaster10.jpg (198569 bytes) coaster15.jpg (165958 bytes) coaster23.jpg (165051 bytes)
Turnaround Turnaround Close-up of turnaround
coaster14.jpg (94027 bytes) coaster16.jpg (89510 bytes) coaster21.jpg (92540 bytes)
Turnaround Turnaround & Car Turnaround
coaster01.jpg (69345 bytes) coaster22.jpg (106602 bytes) coaster20.jpg (70263 bytes)
Turnaround Yep, there is a coaster in there
station5.jpg (146229 bytes) coaster13.jpg (161308 bytes) coaster12.jpg (179250 bytes)
An early standup model? Uh, no. Trees growing through dip Brake run on left
coaster18.jpg (88745 bytes) brakes1.jpg (92531 bytes) brakes2.jpg (101215 bytes)
The coaster is in there Brake run Brake run
coaster24.jpg (47515 bytes) coaster11.jpg (65921 bytes) tunnel3.jpg (44053 bytes)
Front of coaster car Note lap bar mechanism Four bench cars
underside.jpg (58966 bytes) tunnel2.jpg (60633 bytes) tunnel5.jpg (52016 bytes)
Underside showing brakes & chain dogs Train in tunnel Tunnel - ready to collapse
transfer.jpg (44428 bytes) tunnel4.jpg (54713 bytes) tunnel1.jpg (60555 bytes)
Transfer table Note crash doors similar to a dark ride Part of the tunnel has collapsed
station4.jpg (68580 bytes) station2.jpg (54353 bytes) station1.jpg (82254 bytes)
Station Station Outside of station
station3.jpg (65281 bytes)
Station showing Big Ol' Brake Levers
Other Rides
littledip2.jpg (208543 bytes) littledip1.jpg (99628 bytes) stuff5.jpg (45709 bytes)
Lift hill of Little Dipper (Steel Kiddie Coaster) Little Dipper Little Dipper car "protected" indoors
wildmouse01.jpg (111683 bytes) wildmouse2.jpg (108651 bytes) cupola.jpg (87303 bytes)
Wild Mouse Lift hill of Wild Mouse Cupola sitting inside Wild Mouse structure
cars.jpg (76378 bytes) cars2.jpg (79155 bytes) tumblebug.jpg (108234 bytes)
Wild Mouse car Another Wild Mouse car A Tumble Bug with cars still on track - appears to be a Turtle
ferris1.jpg (86339 bytes) ferris2.jpg (99269 bytes) swinggym.jpg (113051 bytes)
Ferris Wheel Another view of Ferris Wheel Swinging Gyms or Swinging Cages
traintracks.jpg (145955 bytes) stuff7.jpg (46105 bytes) stuff8.jpg (38922 bytes)
Tree in train tracks! Rides Rides
Buildings
ticketbooth.jpg (61655 bytes) ticketbooth2.jpg (106150 bytes) stage.jpg (96180 bytes)
Ticket Booth Another Ticket Booth Appears to be a stage
restrooms.jpg (91781 bytes) building1.jpg (65908 bytes) collapsed.jpg (76053 bytes)
Restrooms Building Collapsed Building possibly a Carousel building
burned2.jpg (94414 bytes) burned.jpg (109329 bytes) burned3.jpg (112284 bytes)
Burned building Burned building Burned Filing Cabinet
caboose1.jpg (90581 bytes) caboose2.jpg (55967 bytes) building2.jpg (83402 bytes)
A Grand Trunk RR Caboose Inside of Caboose Buildings
lake.jpg (57888 bytes) signs.jpg (59833 bytes)
Lake seen through pavilion Signs used to close up openings - note the word "toilets" used
stuff1.jpg (99294 bytes) stuff2.jpg (51579 bytes) stuff3.jpg (39735 bytes)
"Stuff" in Ballroom "Stuff" in Ballroom Large, old horn speaker
stuff4.jpg (61104 bytes) stuff6.jpg (46509 bytes) cup.jpg (54527 bytes)
"Stuff" in Ballroom "Stuff" in Ballroom 100th Anniversary cup - the park never made it to 101.

 


More Information on Chippewa Lake Park:

http://www.geocities.com/theremaing2/chippewa.html


Thanks to Dave Sandborg for sharing his trip report and pictures

1998-2000 Joel W Styer. All rights reserved. Updated Friday, June 14, 2002
Story & photos 1997 by Dave Sandborg