Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Freedomland, September 1960

What was built on 205 acres, shaped like a large map of the United States, and bore more than a passing resemblance to Disneyland? FREEDOMLAND!

After the spectacular success of Walt Disney's California theme park, other folks decided that they would go into the amusement park business. C.V. Wood was one of Walt's closest collaborators during the design and construction of Disneyland...the two men had a falling out, and Wood went on to beget three parks of his own. "Magic Mountain" in Colorado (not to be confused with the one in Valencia, California), "Pleasure Island" in Wakefield, Massachussetts, and "Freedomland" in the northeastern borough of The Bronx. There were a number of themed lands; "Little Old New York", "Chicago", "The Great Plains", "The Old Southwest", "New Orleans-Mardi Gras", "Satellite City", and more.

Below is a photo of a train at the station in the themed area known as "San Francisco", which had a mock-up of San Fran's famous Chinatown, as well as an "Earthquake" dark ride. Note the Skyway (...I mean, the "Tucson Mining Company" ore buckets), and the Santa Fe logo on the train station. This train has unusual open-air seating.


In this nice image (taken from an ore bucket!), we are looking down upon one of the Santa Fe trains. I can't find much information about Freedomland's trains, although you can see that this locomotive bears the name "Ernest S. Marsh". Hmmm, where have I heard that name before? Those yellow passenger cars look familiar too, there's even a "Grand Canyon" banner.


Freedomland opened on June 19, 1960 (only 3 months before these photos were taken). Due to a number of factors (blame even extended to the 1964 World's Fair), the park closed in September of 1964. It seems hard to believe that this park failed to find an audience with the folks in New York...almost no expense was spared in making this a serious competitor to Disneyland. It's interesting to imagine what it would be like if it had survived to the present day. I have more Freedomland slides (lots of train views, for some reason), and I'll post some if folks seem interested.

11 comments:

Davelandweb said...

DEFINITELY would love to see more slides of this place; too bad it didn’t survive. From your views, it looks like it had excellent design.

Matterhorn1959 said...

I second that motion. More images of Freedomland.

sundaynight said...

More Freedomland please.

Anonymous said...

Please more slides.

Tom
Anaheim, CA

Anonymous said...

Very nice! Thanks for posting these.

Chris Merritt said...

Nice! Color Freedomland shots are few and far between... I have some concept art from the place - the art was much more stunning than the final execution!

TiKiMOOSE said...

I'm interested! I'M INTERESTED!!!!

sundaynight said...

Wonder what it was like in the snow?
Just goes to show it takes more than a train and some themed buildings to make a Disneyland.

Anonymous said...

Yes, please post more slides. It's really fascinating to see places like this and wonder what the future holds for new amusement facilities like Dubailand.

Mike V. said...

Just went through all your Freedomland posts, and left a message in another location, too. Here's some info: Casa Loco "crooked house" had a faucet with water running up hill; told it was designed by Amazing Randy of TV fame; believe the closed train cars were used in Hello Dolly movie; trains were from Connecticut, and like many of the other attractions, such as the bison and other western animals, they had to be shuttled back to other locations in the off season; part of the park's problem was that it couldn't operate year round; Chuck McCann did a Halloween TV special from the park one year and a couple of us are trying to locate it without luck; one of the iron ore bucket houses was the last building standing while development went up around it; lasted until mid 70s; most of the park now sits on land occupied by the shopping center in Co-op City; the Mississippi River Boats were not actually boats - they couldn't move on their own. They were floating barges on a track; the remnant of one minus the Mississippian decor still floats behind buildings in downtown Port Chester in Westchester County; the other was destroyed years ago. I am a total Freedomland buff. More photos and info always wanted.

Anonymous said...

My older brother and I used to absolutely BEG our parents to take us to Freedomland!!!! I was only 7 when it opened and I think we only went about 3 or 4 times before it closed, but I remember the Main Street area (similar to Disney) had very intriguing shops (to us kids, anyway...the folks tried to rush us through that part so as not to spend any more money!!!) In Old New York they had Model T style cars we kids could "drive." The Mississippi Steamboats were a favorite as was Casa Loco, in the Southwest, which always amazed me with the water flowing up and the pool table where the ball would go in opposite ways than you would expect. I believe there was a flume type ride next to Casa Loco. As a kid I never realized that it was all laid out like a map of the US. Keep the Freedomland info and pix coming!