Smaller Amusement Parks

Chutes Park, ca. 1905

Chutes Park, ca. 1905

Chutes Park
Chicago’s first Chutes Park was located at Drexel Boulevard and 61st Street in the as yet relatively undeveloped Woodlawn neighborhood. It opened in 1894 and featured a large water chute ride as its main attraction. Many of its patrons were visitors to the nearby World’s Columbian Exposition, which was held that same year. In 1896, the original Chutes Park was purchased and relocated to Chicago’s West Side. Located at Jackson Boulevard and Kedzie Avenue, the second Chutes Park was the leading West Side amusement park prior to the opening of Forest Park. Aside from its namesake water chutes ride, the new Chutes Park included two roller coasters, a giant swing, merry-go-rounds, and various smaller attractions. The park’s last season of operation was 1907. In early 1908, the Chicago Union Traction Company terminated the amusement park’s lease on the property. Two years later, the Chicago Railways Company opened a streetcar maintenance facility on the site, which was replaced by a Chicago Transit Authority bus maintenance facility in 1984.

Joyland Park
Opened in 1923 and located at 33rd Street and Wabash Avenue, Joyland Park brought the pleasures of the Chicago’s larger amusement parks to the city’s rapidly growing South Side African-American community. The park was one of the largest amusement parks in the United States owned and operated entirely by blacks. Its financial backers included several of the city’s leading businessmen and attorneys, including Augustus L. Williams, who had litigated several cases related to Chicago’s 1919 race riots. Joyland Park was much smaller than the city’s premier amusement parks, Riverview and White City. It occupied a plot of land barely two acres in area and featured only four major rides. Nonetheless, because it was owned and operated by blacks, the park offered black Chicagoans freedom from the indignities and hostilities they often faced when visiting the city’s predominantly white amusement parks. Despite this, it does not appear that the park remained in operation for very long, perhaps lasting but one or two seasons. The site is presently a parking lot for the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Luna Park
Located at the southwest corner of Halsted and 51st Streets, Luna Park occupied the site of a former picnic grove owned by Joseph Oswald and commonly known as Oswald’s Grove. In 1906, a group of investors announced plans to convert the ten-acre picnic grove into an amusement park. Construction began in the fall of 1906 and the park opened the following year. The major attractions at Luna included a ballroom, a roller skating rink, a small roller coaster, a merry-go-round, balloon ascensions, vaudeville performances, numerous games of chance, and souvenir stands.When business was good, the park reportedly attracted an average of 5,000 patrons a day. Slumping attendance, however, prompted park management to temporarily close the park in July 1910. Even after the park reopened, its future remained uncertain. In 1911, manager James O’Leary, looking to retire from the amusement business, announced his intention to sell the park to new owners. No buyers, however, came forward and the park ceased operations following its 1911 season. In subsequent years, the property was occupied by a city-owned market. Then, in 1916, developer James H. Milligan purchased the property and subdivided it for residential purposes.

Sources: The Broad Ax, 9 June 1923, 1; 30 June 1923, 3; 7 July 1923, 1; 14 July 1923, 1; Chicago Daily Tribune, 21 May 1901, 8; Chicago Sunday Tribune, 17 Dec. 1916, pt. 9, pg. 15; Billboard, 22 Sept. 1906, 8-9; 27 Oct. 1906, 36; 9 Mar. 1907, 44; 22 June 1907, 12; 1 Feb. 1908, 28; 23 July 1910, 28; 6 May 1911, 12; 18 May 1912, 50.

Image source: “Birdseye View of the Chutes, Jackson and Kedzie, Chicago,” postcard, n.p., n.d.