THE WHEEL AND A CEMETERY NEARBY

 

Chicago History in Pictures 1895It is well known that George Washington Gale Ferris Jr., 1859-1896 a structural and civil engineer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, built the colossal Chicago Wheel for Chicago’s World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. What is not as well known is where the huge wheel reappeared after the fair had ended.

The fair wanted a landmark, something daring, and unique. They wanted something that would surpass the Eiffel tower which was built in 1889. Ferris’s enormous vertical structure served their purpose, which rotated around a massive center axle weighing 71 tons, and featured 36 gondolas capable of holding up to 60 people each—for a total capacity of 2,160 people. It carried some 38,000 people daily who each paid 50-cents for a 20-minute ride. Some 2.5 million people rode the wheel before it moved to a quiet northside Chicago neighborhood.

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THE END OF THE LINE (no pun intended)

Cemeteries and Amusement parks share a common geographic trait, that both were on the “end of the line” of street cars, “L” lines or interurbans. The owners of transportation companies realized that amusement parks could be a boon to weekend revenues.

Cemeteries on the other hand, often were at the end of the line, because as early as 1865, Chicago banned burials within the city limits, banishing cemeteries well out of the then city. Before motorized hearses, funerals to these outlying cemeteries depended on funeral trains and street cars for transportation.       Hearses pulled by horses did not fare well on long trips and muddy rutted roads.

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Ghosts of Riverview Park

 

Most are now buried in Chicago area cemeteries, among our own families, and everyday Chicagoans. They are  unusual and memorable people who once walked the midway, riverwalk and bowery of Riverview Amusement Park on Chicago’s North side. Sadly they now exist only in our memories.

Just like real ghosts, they came in and out of our lives almost at will.  Even when they were alive, they could only appear to us after the second Friday of May,   only to disappear in October. Some, but not all, would then would reappear the following May to amuse and entertain us once again. Others not so lucky. So while they walked among us, their only job between July 2, 1904 until the fall of 1967 was to help millions of us Chicagoans enjoy summer days and nights. Continue reading “Ghosts of Riverview Park”

Hooray for HOLLYWOOD!

On a warm summer night my Father, Fred Fleig, would drive me to the Milk Pail on Devon for our weekly gallon of milk from Blanche. With a twinkle in his eye, he would say, “Would you like to stop at Kiddieland?”big shot small

We all thank the Klatsco and the Acciari families for Hollywood Kiddeland,  first opened about 1948. It was a fun and safe place on Chicago’s far north side,  at 6301 McCormick Blvd,. (the Southeast corner of Devon and McCormick) and just across the street from Thillen’s Stadium. Lincoln Village Shopping center was just to the south.  The park was a small, but memorable assortment of rides, ponies, refreshments, an arcade and the train.

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Shoot the Chutes!

For just a moment, “ laugh your troubles away”, savoring Chicago’s Riverview Amusement Park. Among others, please thank two bakers and an architect, now buried in our Chicago area cemeteries, Graceland, Oakland Memory Lanes in Dolton, and Eden Memorial Park in Schiller Park.. One of those men  had a special connection to that iconic  225 foot long “Shoot the Chutes” and it’s two creaky elevators.gate

For those of us who are old enough to remember, Riverview was our beloved go-to park for many years.  Once billed as the world’s greatest and largest amusement park, it reigned supreme from 1904 to 1967.

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