Thursday, February 5, 2015

Paxtang Park, Harrisburg, PA: A Postcard View

I recently came across this Postcard from the old Paxtang Park in Harrisburg, PA. 

Once upon a time in Harrisburg there was an amusement park. Paxtang Park was built in 1893 as a trolley park to boost weekend ridership, in what is a familiar development for the older Pennsylvania amusement parks. It boasted two different coasters, one of which was built by Miller and Baker, that boasted of crossing Spring Creek four different times. This postcard makes the park seem like it was a pretty tranquil place. 
Several causes are cited for the loss of the park. The first of which was that the park was dropped from ownership by the trolley line in 1923. A private individual was able to take control of the park, but it then closed in 1929. Up until this point, this once rural spot was becoming a suburb with housing surrounding the park. Between the growing suburb around the park, the start of the Great Depression, and competition from Hersheypark, this park closed.
Our friend Harry Michelson found these newspaper clippings that tell the story of Paxtang from transfer to private ownership to closure.

"On August 8, 1922, the owners of the land (the Rutherford's) agreed to transfer control of the land to an amusement company out of Newark, NJ. 

There wasn't a lease to sign in this case - the Rutherford's simply gave their power of attorney on the land to Kerstetter, essentially."

"This is the announcement that the East Harrisburg Street Electric Railway Company was leasing Paxtang Park to convert into an amusement park from July 20th, 1893"
Here are the plans for the 1923 season:
"Officially, the Steelton Bank & Trust Company closed the property on April 21, 1930.
One reason it lost to Hershey was also due to size - the more popular picnics outgrew Paxtang Park's capabilities - which Hershey was able to do.

Another reason was the Park's decline in popularity due to it's struggles opening for the new season; in the last few years of operating, the park didn't officially open until late June of each season."
Thanks to Harry for some great additional insights into the park to help put together the whole puzzle of this lost park.

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