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Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Former West View Park in Retrospective

I took a ride this morning to troubleshoot some car troubles and decided to take a ride to the old West View Park. There is not much to see, big box America now resides on what once held a great piece of Americana.

West View Park is one of the most storied parks that has left us. For Pittsburgh, the park was the northwest trolley park quiet retreat as Kennywood is the southeast of the city. The competition was fierce, but each held their own. West View was the home to several legendary designers, including the park's founder, T.M. Harton, who actually built a carousel for Kennywood that would end up being replaced by their current Dentzel beauty. Correct me if I am wrong, but the only remaining Harton carousel in operation is the unit at Conneaut Lake. That unit is beautiful and it dates back to 1905. Erwin and Edward Vettel were coaster designers that also hailed from West View Park. Their only remaining creations are the fantastic Conneaut Lake Blue Streak and the Lakeside Cyclone. The Blue Streak is an incredible ride that offers the closest experience to the coasters that were once at West View.

Here is the view that someone heading down on the old trolley would have seen. There are very distinct areas where you can see the old trolley right-of-way 
 Now at the intersection of Route 19 and West View Park Drive
 Here you can see the current "West View Park Shopping Center" sign
 This would be entering the park.
 A view down the entrance and main midway. This view would include the Vettel creation, the Dips roller coaster on the left. Additionally you would see a ski lift style Sky Ride down the main midway, similar to Waldameer in Erie and Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster. I always loved the concept of a Sky Ride going down the length of a midway. You can see how another wave of change is going through this area with multiple businesses vacant. On the right of the photo below, before the tower, you can see an old Pizza Hut. "Storechitecture" always fascinates me like "parkitectecture," my two made up words in regards to the architecture of retail and amusement parks. In the video below you can see a full video of the West View Dips and towards the end, a short video showing the Racing Whippet that was located approximately where the Giant Eagle supermarket is located now. A Giant Eagle replacing an amusement park? Sound familiar? Take a look back at McKeesport's old Rainbow Gardens and see what would eventually go on to replace that.

If you looked across the left hand side, you would be staring across the horizon the very large Dips from this spot judging by what I can tell from the old aerial that you will see below. 
1967 Aerial. You can see the out and back configuration of the Dips. The Dips stood on the left side of the current road, the side of the street that has mostly vacant businesses. Photo from the Brookline Connection
Below you can see the Google Earth aerial of the location today. Yawn.
 The fast food joints must be doing pretty well because the Wendy's, KFC, and something else were all newly renovated. Last time I went they were all looking pretty run down.  The middle of the strip has some vacant buildings though, like that Pizza Hut, and those other random lost businesses.
 It appears that the station for the Dips resided approximately in the spot shown in the photo below. 
Along this stretch, you would get this view of the Dips. This lowland area was originally a swamp and Harton would dam up the creek to create a lake. The Dips ran along this lake. This postcard is from my personal collection. 

 Back to that old Pizza Hut. I have no idea why, but for some reason I am always fascinated by old Pizza Hut locations. If the restaurant co-existed with the park, it would have a view of the Dips station. I find it interesting how one of the things that replaced the park has also ended up closing.

Below would be close to the view from the Pizza Hut (I think)

The kids ride at 35 Seconds appears to be located where this Pizza Hut building is located. 


 I guess this was "progress" from the park. I am always left questioning is "progress" is really progress at all. Things are always cycling and changing though. Based upon the view in the aerial, It almost looks as if the spot where the vacant building below was where a Traver Tumblebug ride was once located. I am not sure if they had one of those, but I do know that they had a Caterpillar ride that would end up at Knoebels.

 In the view below, you would be getting a look towards the large Racing Whippet and see a large and bustling midway in between.
These two old photos are from the Brookline Connection
 The area below appears to have been pavilions or other park buildings. They had some great haunted attractions, but I am not certain of where they were exactly located. Many of the different gags in the Knoebels Haunted Mansion came from West View in addition to the Lusse Auto Scooter Bumper Cars.
 Now below you see the wonderful big box places that replaced the park. The Giant Eagle to the right of the photo is where the Racing Whippet was located.


 Now this is where things get slightly more interesting. It is clear in looking at the aerial that Giant Eagle does not fully occupy the site of the old Racing Whippet. The back end of the Racing Whippet appears to have traversed the hill
Photo from the Brookline Connection
 Due to time and physical limitations, not to mention safety, I opted to not climb the brush filled hill. I did see this concrete slab though. It appears to maybe be a drainage contraption, but it looks pretty strange. It is very well worn, leading me to believe that this is pretty old. I wonder if this is a remaining footer from the Racing Whippet? I think the only way to tell would be if we could uncover more photos or if someone has some footer pictures from the Conneaut Blue Streak to see if there are any similarities. No matter what it is, it did spark my imagination.
 Anyways, all joy is not lost in this little town. There is this cool pinball repair shop just up Route 19 from the old park site. I had to snap a picture of this old machine that they had sitting underneath one of their awnings.
 Just think, 40 years ago you would be staring down at an Amusement Park from the top of this hill. It must have really been a thrill to ride down the valley towards the park in the old trolley or after a car ride.
We lost what was considered to be one of America's greatest amusement parks. We need to step in to ensure this does not happen to any more parks that we love. Conneaut Lake Park and Rye Playland come to mind in regards to threatened parks. We cannot let these parks slip away from us like this. Go support all amusement parks to ensure no other parks receive the same plight as this lost and beloved park.

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2 comments:

  1. Great article! I moved to Ross Twp. in 1979, so I only knew WWP as a decaying, closed park where fires were set. I remember when the Dips burned in 1980; you could smell the fire from where I lived a mile away. BTW, I also believe there is a footer (or two) from the Dips visible in the Long John Silvers' parking lot.

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  2. Great article and pictures, thank you! Does anyone know if there are any other remains of the park such as the footers? I would love to see any little part of the park that is left or ride any of the rides that still might be operating elsewhere if anyone knows of anything please share. Thanks!

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