1977: The end of West View Park
When school picnics were a tradition, there were two places where the station wagon would take kids of the district: Kennywood or West View Park.
But Pittsburghers’ fondness for West View Park dwindled in 1977 and the Route 19 park closed forever after 71 years of operation.
"The directors blamed rising costs and reduced attendance as the reasons <…> The park was opened for only 80 days in 1977 because of the lack of school picnics," the Post-Gazette reported.
Jack Hickey, who used to sell tickets and arrange picnics at the park blamed the closing of the park on the cultural change: “It’s not the park, it’s the people that have changed. This is a picnic park, where families can pack a lunch and stay all day. But people just don’t do that anymore,” he said.
West View Park was more than just a picnic park, though. It had famous rides like “The Whip” and “Tumblebug,” “Scrambler” and “Tempest.” In fact, in 1910, four years after park’s grand opening, Pittsburgh native T.M. Harton, the founder and original owner of the park, unveiled the Dips, the first coaster in Pennsylvania to have dips and drops over 50 feet.
The park was a happy place: laughter, plenty of entertainment, lots of screaming and even dancing. West View Park was home to West View Danceland, a dance hall, with music, flashing lights and the big crystal ball that illuminated the dancing floor. People danced there to big bands music, rock groups, jazz musicians and records. But then in 1973 it was turned into ashes overnight. The famous dance hall that hosted Guy Lombardo, Harry James, Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey was leveled by an eight alarm fire and was never rebuilt.
Some would say that Danceland’s fire was a turning point, things went downhill from there and financial woes of West View Park worsened.
In November 1977, everything inside the amusement park went up for sale: the choo-choo train, distortion mirrors, the 40 “Fascination” games, lots of coasters and even the handcrafted merry-go-round built in 1906.
Since 1981, the grounds of West View Park have been occupied by the West View Park Shopping Center, offering a different kind of American entertainment.
On the day when West View Park closed its doors never to reopen them again, the Post-Gazette wrote: “In the deafening quiet that has shrouded the place, there seems to be nothing sadder than a merry-go-round fenced off with aluminum chain link, a boarded up cotton candy stand or an entire abandoned amusement park.”
Check out this video showing what it was like to have fun at West View Park (h/t John Schalcosky).
I wish I could have gone there, but I was just a glimmer in my mama’s eye whrn West View Park was torn down.