Saturday, September 07, 2019

Freedomland USA, September 1960

Today I have a nice pair of images from Freedomland, USA - in The Bronx, New York. It was supposed to be the east coast's answer to Disneyland (and was conceived by none other than C.V. Wood, who was instrumental in the development of Walt's park, whether the Disney company cares to admit it or not). Freedomland only lasted four years before shutting its gates forever (the 1964 World's Fair - also in Queens - might have been partly responsible for Freedomland's demise).

First I have this nice shot of the Stagecoach ride, sponsored by American Express. All those children perched precariously on top make me nervous. I suppose it must have been difficult to make a believable western town in New York, but those boulder-strewn hills aren't doing much for me. A few bison (presumably alive) are sheltered beneath that crude covering. In the distance, the support towers for the Tucson Mining Company sky ride can be seen - but no gondolas are on the cables.

I have a soft spot for the "Danny the Dragon" ride, described as a 74-foot (23 m) long fire breathing dragon, suitable for children. Children of all ages, surely! It was located in the New Orleans-Mardi Gras area of the park. 

There is a Danny the Dragon ride at "Happy Hollow" in San Jose, and I have fond memories of riding this fanciful train with my niece when she was a toddler. It was guided by a wire embedded in the track... the train would follow the electromagnetic "trail". The ride was designed by Arrow Development, and there is an article all about it HERE, check it out!


"Lou and Sue" said...

Interesting. That scenery around the stagecoach ride leaves a lot to be desired - sort of looks like a garbage dump. The stagecoach and horses look fine, but that's about it. And nothing like seeing buffalo in their natural habitat, roaming the grassy plains.

I had never heard of nor seen the Danny the Dragon ride, before this post. That is really unique and looks like fun! Major, you say that you and your niece rode it . . . so where are the pictures?!

I enjoyed the attached article, especially the part about how the wire technology is also used in WDW's Tower of Terror - one of my favorites!

Thanks for today's fun post, Major!


Andrew said...

I've found Freedomland fascinating for a while and need to look into it more. Those sky ride towers are still used today at Six Flags Great Adventure, although the buckets are different. I've seen 'Danny the Dragon' in the American Coaster Enthusiasts documentary about Arrow Development - it's really interesting how that company went from building kiddie rides to mega-coasters. Thanks for another good post.

Major Pepperidge said...

Lou and Sue, I agree… at least in photos, the boulder-strewn hill looks pretty junky. Maybe it looked better in real life? Seeing the name “American Express” (which seems so modern) on that Stagecoach is a funny juxtaposition. Sadly, there are no pix of me and my niece riding Danny the Dragon at Happy Hollow - I took other pictures there, but somehow did not take any of Danny the Dragon.

Penna. Andrew, in the early 60’s, Freedomland was the closest thing to a “Disneyland of the East” that folks could attend. Even though there was no shortage of other amusement parks, as you well know!

steve2wdw said...

Love the authenticity of the telegraph wires and poles in that first shot......oh, never mind! Although never able to visit Freedomland, I think of it, every time I drive down 95 through NYC.

K. Martinez said...

This is one theme park that I would've loved to have seen once, but like the 1964 New York World's Fair it escaped me.

And yes, I'm familiar with Danny the Dragon's history as I live over the hill from San Jose and remember him as well. Thanks, Major.

Lou and Sue, Freedomland was built on a former municipal landfill. Perhaps that is why a garbage dump comes to mind.

JC Shannon said...

I love the smaller parks. They are often a little on the corney side, but very cool. Sad to learn this one is no more. Danny the Dragon looks pretty cool as well. Thanks Major.

Dean Finder said...

I've read elsewhere that the pylons for the sky ride at Six Flags Great Adventure come from the 1964 NYWF. Did they move from Freedomland to a new home in Queens before hading off to retire in NJ?

Andrew said...

Dean Finder, according to this site, the Great Adventure Skyride supports are from Freedomland, but the cables and cars came from the '64 World's Fair. However, the cable system seems to be all that is left from the fair, as the original cars have been replaced.

Major Pepperidge said...

steve2wdw, the Indians called them “singing wires”. I think. Freedomland might as well have been on the moon, I know my family would have never gone to it.

K. Martinez, yes, both of those (Freedomland and the ’64 Fair) would have been life-changing experiences. In spite of what I believe are Freedomland’s shortcomings, it still would have been incredible to see that faux Disneyland in person. Have you ever visited Happy Hollow in person? It’s mostly for little kids, but still might be worth a look.

Jonathan, Freedomland was a pretty big park, larger than Disneyland I believe!

Dean Finder, oh gosh, I have no idea about the history of Freedomland’s Sky Ride pylons. And oops, reading ahead, I see that Penna. Andrew answered your question!

Penna. Andrew, thank you for answering Dean Finder’s question!

Anonymous said...

Fascinating post, Major, and all.

Very interesting to read of the behind-the-scenes transferring of hardware from one park to another. I wonder if there were "ride brokers" facilitating these transactions? What a strange business that would be.

The Dragon ride looks like a lot for fun for all ages. It's so great you have the memories of that ride.