The Queen of the Mountain
Mountain Park was built in 1894 by
the Holyoke Street Railway as a way to increase weekend business on the
company's trolley cars. Over the next 94 years, Mountain Park provided
the citizens of Holyoke and its neighbors a variety of entertainment.
When the park closed in 1987, so too did a chapter in the hearts and lives
of many citizens of Western Massachusetts.
Early on, one would get to Mountain
Park by riding the trolley from downtown Holyoke, for the cost of a shinny
nickel. Eventually, in the late 1930's, the trolleys gave way to
buses, and later the automobile (which often could resemble a bus thanks
to the park's carload promotions!).
Mountain Park's early attractions
were relatively tame by today's standards of high-tech thrill rides.
Around the turn of the century, one could take a day trip to Mountain Park
and take in the scenic vistas of Mount Tom, stroll through the deer park
and visit the bear den, ride the carousel and "The Great Gorge Water Ride,"
and watch live entertainment on an open stage all in the same day.
As time moved on, so too did Mountain
Park. In the early 1900's, the open stage was converted into the
Casino, which would house the summer theatre and play host to some of the
biggest names in entertainment. In 1909, the park constructed a dance
hall, where many a young couple first met. In 1927, the park underwent
its largest expansion, adding many new rides and attractions. The
Great Gorge Scenic Water Ride and the old carousel were removed and replaced
by the Mountain Flyer roller coaster and the carousel that still stands
The park survived the depression
and continued on strong through its heyday - the 40's, 50's, 60's
and 70's. During this time you could ride one of Mountain park's
28 rides, such as the Mountain Flyer, carousel, whip, dodgems, ferris wheel,
or funhouse, or watch a play put on by the Valley Players, who operated
from 1941 to 1962. Even in the 1970's, one could spend a day at the
park and still have money in his or her pocket - you could ride all day
for $1.50 in 1972.
The early 1970's and the 1980's spelled
the beginning of Mountain Park's downfall. The dance hall burned
down on the night of Holyoke High School's prom in 1971 and that same year
the Casino was torn down. Changing urban conditions and diminishing
popularity slowly began to take their hold. In 1987, the park's final
season, there was a fatal accident on the miniature train ride. The
park could not recover from the negative publicity and the resulting increase
in insurance premiums and as a result closed down forever in the fall of
Many of Mountain Park's wonderful
rides were auctioned off, leaving behind only the Mountain Flyer roller
coaster and many buildings. As we entered the 1990's, the former
park fell prey to arsonists, with the Mountain Flyer finally being bulldozed
in 1991 in order to prevent a catastrophic fire. All that remains
now is a few partially collapsed buildings, the carousel house, an overgrown
miniature golf course, and many, many wonderful memories.
One piece of Mountain Park still
stands tall, however. After the park's closing, a movement was started
by John Hickey and the school children of Holyoke to purchase the carousel
intact. In 1991, that dream became a reality and in 1994 the Mountain
Park carousel rose from the ashes to live on in Holyoke Heritage State
So, as you can see, "The Queen of
the Mountain" still reigns supreme, both in our hearts and in the unsilencable
music of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round.
The horses of the Mountain Park Carousel still ride on...