Trolley Parks Revisted – One Nearby

 Strolling Through Canobie Lake Park

Don’t miss the story in today’s Lowell SUN about the surviving “trolley parks.” Oue regional and well-used Canobie Lake Park in neaby Salem, NH is featured. I’ve written before about these parks built by the trolley companies as a way to extend their business into the weekends and to provide access to a whole new realm of leisure activity. There are many books, postcards, phographs and posters celebrating this special era and much available memorabilia dear to collectors. Locally, Willowdale and Lakeview Parks were popular destinations.

As AP Travel writer Beth J. Harpaz tells us:

The parks were built by trolley companies at the end of the line in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as a way to get workers and their families to ride streetcars and railways on weekends. They had carousels, picnic grounds and live entertainment, and they were often located by lakes, rivers or beaches where visitors could take a boat ride or swim.

On Canobie Lake Park:

Canobie Lake Park in Salem, N.H., located 30 minutes north of Boston, also remains family-owned and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, according to marketing director Chris Nicoli. The park is three times its original size, and the old trolley station has been preserved as a Skee-ball building. A new exhibit at the park documents its dance hall, which through the years hosted Duke Ellington, Sonny and Cher and Frank Sinatra.

Canobie’s rides are a trip through history too: The carousel is a 19th century antique; the Yankee Cannonball wooden coaster is vintage 1930s, and the looping steel Canobie Corkscrew dates to the ’70s.

“We’ve got children coming on their eighth-grade field trip whose grandparents came on their eighth-grade field trip,” said Nicoli.

Canobie Lake Park continues and thrives as an amusement park today enjoyed by families across the Merrimack Valley. My granddaughters love the park. Do you have memories of days at Canobie Lake Park? special outings with groups or as a family? Do you still go to Canobie Lake Park? Do you remember Lake View Park? Share your stories.

Read more here in today’s Lowell SUN on-line.

This steroview from the collection at the UML/Center for Lowell History shows typcial weekend day at Willowdale Park in nearby Dracut, Massachusetts cira 1890s.


4 Responses to Trolley Parks Revisted – One Nearby

  1. PaulM says:

    As a kid growing up in Dracut at the far end of Hildreth Street (New Boston Village area in the early years of the town), my parents often took my two brothers and me to Lakeview Park to ride the merry-go-round, dodgems, and kids train. This was from the late ’50s to the mid-’60s. The ballroom that once was filled with music and dancers was an arcade with games and souvenir machines that dispensed postcard-size pictures of movie stars and recording artists. Near the kids train was a booth with the classic pick-a-duck game—the plastic ducks floated by in a small basin on circulating water built into the counter about kid-shoulder high, and you paid money to pick up one to see the number on the bottom that yielded a prize or not.

    Read much more about Lakeview in this article from “Carousel News and Trader” from 2008. The Park closed in 1971. The carousel was transported to Queens, N.Y., according to Alan MacInnes who wrote the story. Here’s the link:

  2. Bob Forrant says:

    Almost drowned in that pool and tasted pool chemicals for a year it seemed like afterwrds. But it was a cool summer trip from Beverly as was Benson’s Wild Animal Farm and in the winter Sanat’a Village. They just don’t make’m like they used to!

  3. John Quealey says:

    Marie I am sure Bill and all the Sweeneys boys have many many stories of leaving the Grove on a Monday morning in June and on our way to Canobie Lake Park for the ‘Altar Boys’ annual outing,the highlight of the Summer for most of us Sacred Heart boys.

  4. Nancye says:

    Canobie Lake is still a great place. We try to get there at least once a summer for the rides and fun. The vintage kiddie rides bring back memories to me of my days growing up near the boardwalk at Point Pleasant at the Jersey Shore (so different than the Jersey Shore depicted in the MTV reality show today, believe me).
    I always loved the merry-go-round. And my mother’s friend owned it, so we always got free rides. Nevertheless, it was always a big deal when we caught the brass ring and got to ride for free – even though every ride was free.
    Always a favorite memory of idyllic summer days from childhood.