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Crescent Park

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Crescent Park

Crescent Park
Location Riverside, Rhode Island, U.S.A.

41°45′22″N 71°21′28″W / 41.756144°N 71.357833°W / 41.756144; -71.357833Coordinates: 41°45′22″N 71°21′28″W / 41.756144°N 71.357833°W / 41.756144; -71.357833

Opened 1886
Closed 1979 (carousel still open in 2011)
Operating season Easter-Columbus Day (carousel)
For the community of Crescent Park in Kentucky, see Fort Mitchell, Kentucky.

Crescent Park was a famous amusement park in Riverside, East Providence, Rhode Island from 1886-1979. After declining attendance during the 1970s the part was closed. The land was cleared for condominium and low-income housing. The only remaining structure is the 1895-vintage Charles I. D. Looff Carousel, designed and built by Charles I.D. Looff as a showpiece for his carousel business.




The fishing village of Wannamoisett, Rhode Island, which was purchased from Chief Massasoit of the Wampanoag tribe by John Brown in 1645, slowly developed into a summer residence and recreational area known as Riverside with cottages dotting the shore of Narragansett Bay.


George Boyden started the Crescent Park Amusement Park, near Bullock's Point, on Narragansett Bay in Riverside on land leased from John Davis, the owner of a hotel at the site. Boyden named the park after the crescent shape of the beach.


Boyden bought the Bullock's Point Hotel and changed the name to the Crescent Park Hotel. The 2½-story hotel had a beautiful vista of the bay across a lush grass lawn. The hotel operated until 1935 when it was razed to make room for a parking lot.



Charles I. D. Looff, the famous carousel designer and builder in Brooklyn, NY is contracted to build a carousel at the head of the 400' pier where river steamboats stop to unload passengers.


Because of the success of the first merry-go-round, Looff, was hired to build another at the head of the midway across Bullock's Point Avenue from the pier. This is the current carousel. The ride has 61 hand-carved horses, 1 camel, 4 chariots and a German band organ built by A. Ruth & Sohn. He installed his 4-abreast merry-go-round in a Hippodrome building.

Around this time, a large shore dinner hall was built on the shore of Narragansett Bay. Searles 'Famous 6 O'clock Bake' cost 60 to 85 cents and ran from noon-8PM.

Crescent Park became known as "The Coney Island of the East". Hot air balloon ascensions were a new thrill for patrons.



A scenic railway, built by LeMarcus A. Thompson, "the father of American roller coasters", is constructed behind the Looff carousel. The Flying Eagle, a giant swing that is powered by men with ropes is erected on the midway.


Crescent Park was purchased by the Hope Land Company under the direction of William and Fred Dexter. Colonel R. A. Harrington became the manager.


A huge exhibition hall was built at the east end of the midway. The New England Association for Arts and Crafts held their annual exposition at the new hall. The U. S. Government had many exhibits and attendance was over 1,500,000.


Charles I. D. Looff moved his carousel factory from Brooklyn to Crescent Park where he designed and built many merry-go-rounds for parks in New England and around the United States. Looff then built a roller coaster called the Flying Toboggan and a tunnel of love called the Rivers of Venice. Over a million and a half visitors thronged to the park each season during this era.


Fred Dexter, head of the Hope Land Company, dies.



Charles I. D. Looff moved his factory to California. He left his son, Charles, Jr. and his daughter, Helen, to manage his Riverside operations. On the west coast, Looff built many carousels and amusement parks, including the Santa Monica Pier.


Charles Looff, Jr. built a new shore dinner hall to replace the original on at the head of the Crescent Park pier. This restaurant could seat 1,500 people at one time. Rhode Island shore dinners and Indian-style clambakes included old-fashioned Rhode Island clam chowder, clam cakes, steamed clams with drawn butter, fried or baked fish with French fries, Cole slaw, sweet corn, white and dark bread with creamery butter, slice watermelon & a half lobster. Prices at the time were just over a dollar.


Looff, Jr. designed and built an excursion boat and named it the "Miss Looff" in memory of his younger sister, Anna, who died as the result of a traffic accident in New York city.


July 1: Charles I.D. Looff dies in Long Beach, California at age 66.



Charles Looff, Jr. bought Crescent Park from Hope Land Co. He opened up the floor space in the Alhambra Ballroom by installing huge trusses and removing the many slender columns holding up the roof.


The trolleys give way to the competition from the Consolidated electric train and stopped running from Providence.


September 1: In Radio Service Bulletin 65 issued on this date, the callsign WKAD was granted to Charles Looff (Crescent Park).


WKAD is on air, still on 360 meters (833kc.) sharing time with, among others, WJAR.


WKAD shifts to 1250kc/s and operates at 20 watts.


Charles Looff, Jr. died, at age 44, on January 25 in Long Beach, CA.


January 30: WKAD signs off by this date.

Beacon Manufacturing Company (Beacon Blankets) takes over Crescent Park after Looff, Jr.'s, estate defaults on the mortgage payments.



The 1938 New England Hurricane and Tidal Wave demolished the Crescent Park pier and the southern half of the 'Comet' roller coaster. Ed Leis rebuilt the coaster making it shorter and faster with diving turns. The pier was rebuilt, only to be devastated again by Hurricane Carol in 1954.



World War II hurt park attendance although many U. S. Navy sailors berthed in Newport, Rhode Island came to the park for some R & R.



Crescent Park is purchased by a group of park concessionaires including the Simmons, McCusker, Bessette, and Lake families for $325,000.


Charles Simmons, the husband of Helen Looff died at age 69 in Miami, Florida. Before his death, Charles oversaw the operation of the carousel for his wife.


A two-alarm fire burned out of control for two hours and destroyed the 200-seat Crescent Inn and damaged the adjoining Knotty Pine Inn as well as the park office. The park office was moved into the carousel building until a new building could be built.


Helen Looff Simmons died at age 78. Ownership of the carousel passed to Arthur Simmons and his sister, Dorothy.



The wooden roller coaster was torn down because of high maintenance costs. The lumber was used to build a new Dark ride called the Riverboat.


An 1865 Iron Horse train ride was installed on a ½-mile track which traveled through a tunnel and passed by an Indian village.


A group of Providence investors, Melvin Berry and Joe Paolino bought Crescent Park.


The Alhambra Ballroom burned down on September 2. The 326' by 122' by 49' wooden structure, originally built as an exhibition hall, was turned into a roller rink and then a ballroom. A candlepin bowling alley occupied the rear of the building. Many 'big bands' played at the ballroom during their heyday.



The Crescent Park Recreation Corp filed for Chapter 11 of the Federal Bankruptcy laws.


The Hartford National Bank took over the park property and operated the park during the 1976 and 1977 seasons.


The "Save Our Carousel Committee" is formed by Gail Durfee, Jobel Aguiar, Richard Lund, Linda McEntree, and Robin Peacock for the purpose of rescuing the carousel from the auctioneers' block.


Crescent Park was auctioned off.



In March, a fire broke out and destroyed the south side of the midway.


In July, after a long legal battle, an out-of-court-settlement was reached and Kelly & Picerne agreed to set aside 3½ acres around the carousel and almost seven acres across the street on the bay, including the beach. In October, Kelly & Picerne bought the park property from the City of East Providence for $825,000.


July 17: the Shore Dinner Hall burns down. Arson was suspected. On July 24, the carousel finally reopened. A grand restoration project restored the ride to near perfect condition.


The Rhode Island General Assembly proclaimed the carousel as "The State Jewel of American Folk Art".


The Department of Interior, National Park Service, designated the carousel as a National Historical Landmark.



The carousel's foundation was rebuilt with a $150,000 grant from "Save America's Treasures".



The original 115 year-old ring gear was replaced.

See also


  • Rhode Island Amusement Parks by Rob Lewis and Ryan Young (1998)Arcadia Publishing,Charleston, SC. ISBN 0-7524-1302-3
  • East Providence by East Providence Historical Society (1997)Arcadia Publishing,NH. ISBN 0-7524-0271-4
  • A Century of Fun - A Pictorial History of New England Amusement Parks by Bob Goldsack (1993)Published by: Midway Museum Publications, Nashua, NH. ISBN 1-880545-01-2
  • The Outdoor Amusement Industry - From Earliest Times to The Present by William Mangels (1952) Vantage Press Inc., NY Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 52-13299
  • Our Heritage: A History of East Providence (1976) Monarch Publishing, Inc., White Plains, NY Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 75-27782
  • The Carousel News & Trader November, 2010, Page 20. 11001 Peoria Street, Sun Valley, CA 91352-1631
  • Crescent Park's page on Art In Ruins
  • Echoes of Summer (copyright 1989 by Cable TV of East Providence)
  • Tribute site
  • Radio Service Bulletin 65 (September 1st 1922), p.3
  • WKAD listing in 1923
  • WKAD listing in 1924
  • WKAD listing in 1925
  • Radio Service Bulletin 106 (January 30th 1926), p. 7
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