Friday, May 23, 2014

The former Four Mile Creek Park, Erie, PA in Retrospect

So our weekend journey last week took us to another former park aside from Cascade Park in New Castle, PA that we visited later on in the day. The park was called Four Mile Creek Park and it was located at the end of one of the many Steelhead Trout Lake Erie Tributaries. This park was on the way for us from the Fredonia, NY area to Waldameer Park in Erie where we went for a wonderful and relaxing afternoon. Similar to many parks, this park had a direct rival in the same region/city and it got the short end of the stick, similar to some of the other parks that we have talked about, including Allentown's Central Park, a park that was in crosstown competition with Downey Park, West View Park, which was in direct competition with Kennywood and a bunch of other regional parks, and others. As with most (if not all) parks in this time period, it was a place where some amusements were built in an area where swimming could also occur. I would like to extend a special thanks to Erie History and Memorabilia for letting me use their photos. Information is scarce about this park. It has been closed for 95 years.

Nowadays there is not much to see. A golf course is located on the entire site. This is the end of the road through the golf course. I did not take too many photos for there was not much to see. I read a comment on a page (not verifiable) that stated the only remnants from the park are located in this spot. A Ferris Wheel is supposed to have occupied this spot and a stairway/pathway is remaining. We did not get out of the car though because we were driving through the Golf Course Road and thought it would be best to move along.
 This is the view from the road. It is pretty grown in, but the creek is located here.
 Anyways, this park was not exactly lucky by any means. This is from a 1908 issue of Billboard Magazine, then based out of Cincinnati. Billboard served partly as a news source for park news in this time period. 
Four Mile Creek was a trolley park built in the opposite direction of Waldameer from the urbanized area of Erie. It was built in 1902, just six years after Waldameer. The park was devastated by a major flood in 1915, the Millcreek Flood of August, 1915. The park's wood coaster, seemingly similar to the Lakemont Leap the Dips, was a goner. That pales in comparison to the devastation that the city saw.

From the Erie Daily Times:
"Erie today realized the extent of its calamity for the first time.
Yesterday the flood meant a magnificent spectacle for some; a hard search for others; and for many, a gruesome search through the morgue for missing friends or relatives.

Today it is the same to all. A loss of perhaps a dozen Erie citizens; damage estimates to be close to five million dollars; several hundred families homeless and a two-block section the entire length of the city, devastated.

The excitement of the flood and the attendant scene of wreckage now mean homes gone forever, after years of close saving had made them possible; business plants demolished after hard work had placed them among the most prosperous in the city; and a part of the beautiful city of Erie in ruins. 

This devastating flood came from a huge storm that dropped six inches of rain in a short period of time. Hundreds of homes were destroyed and dozens of lives were lost.

“I could hear the rain and the roar of the rushing water; but it was dark. There was no moon, so I could see nothing. When the morning came we hurriedly dressed and as soon as the light broke we were eagerly looking for the creek. We saw with surprise and some fear that the water filled all the valley above and, running across the road extended up to within a few feet of our door-step.
Soon it became light enough so we could see that there was a heap of timber of all kinds jammed against the bridge, and the culvert of the tail race from the mill was clogged. The water was running in a swift torrent across the road and cutting deep gullies in it. At length with a noise of awful rending the bridge let go and went away down stream with all the mass of timbers following; the stone abutments went with the bridge; and the road itself seemed to be going with it, and through the yawning chasm a torrent nineteen feet in depth swept resistless.”

Jacob Albrecht - Interview from John Miller's History of Erie County (no, not the Miller we are familiar with)

The park somehow plugged on through, without a coaster, until 1919 when a fire burnt the entire park down. The movement towards Prohibition was at full throttle at this point, and this park was a "wet" park, meaning it sold alcohol. Waldameer was a dry park at this point. Prohibitionists were known to go in and smash any booze serving establishment and sometimes even torch them. I have not found anything about what the cause of the fire was, but maybe the Prohibition movement had something to do with this. This is just pure conjecture though.

I will leave you off to some happier times for the park. The first photo is of the Ballroom, located on the Lake Erie shoreline and the second photo is of some folks fishing in Four Mile Creek.

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