Images: White City Amusement Park Postcard photos courtesy of John Frato.
By John Frato, Carousel Operations Coordinator, Cleveland History Center
The financial success of the Humphrey Family at Euclid Beach Park spawned a number of amusement parks in the Cleveland area. The owners hoped to garner a share of Cleveland’s growing amusement park market. Each had their own plan for success which in many instances mirrored the Humphrey operation, but each added their own nuances to make their operations unique. During this golden era of amusement parks in Cleveland, no idea or attraction was too grandiose as the park owners experimented on how to draw the most amount of visitors. One of Euclid Beach’s most short lived competitors was located only a mile west of the Park’s entrance arch on Lake Shore Boulevard at East 140th Street. To put the location in perspective today, the Easterly Water Treatment Plant occupies much of the site. Manhattan Beach Park opened to the public in 1900 as a summer resort. Along with the beach that was available for swimming, a dance hall and baseball fields were also built.
In 1905, Manhattan Beach was purchased by Edward R. Boyce. He was the owner of Dreamland Park at Coney Island in New York. His hope was to bring the successful concepts that worked so well at Coney Island to Cleveland. Visitors would be drawn to the park by the attractions and entertainment featuring celebrity performers. Reportedly within a period of only eleven weeks Manhattan Beach was transformed into White City Amusement Park. The park opened in 1905 with a scenic railway, dance pavilion, boardwalk, Shoot the Shoots (predecessor of a similar ride at Luna Park), and an animal show. White City shared a number of similarities with Euclid Beach. Beyond the proximity of the two parks, they each shared a common street car line, Clevelander’s could visit both park’s in the same day, the original manager of Euclid Beach before the Humphrey management was William R. Ryan who coincidently was the manager of White City, their entrance arch’s on Lake Shore Boulevard were hauntingly similar, and each offered a beach along Lake Erie’s shore.
Unlike Euclid Beach, White City charged for admission and alcohol was available. Another striking difference were their midways, Euclid Beach featured family friendly rides, attractions, and food concessions. Along with the rides and food concessions, White City offered a number of unique attractions which included Drs. Couney and Stewarts Infant Incubator Hospital. Park visitors could visit the state of the art facility and see up to twenty premature babies on display with their attending Cleveland physicians. By today’s standards this would surely be viewed as a rather odd form of entertainment for an amusement park, but it did provide a much needed public service. Facilities such as this were not common place and the care provided saved lives. The hospital’s first patient and star performer arrived just in time for opening day in June 1905 and the hospital operated at almost full capacity the few short years the park operated.
White City entertainment concept was never fully embraced by Clevelanders and the entrance charge was definitely a contributing factor to its downfall. It was also plagued by two major disasters. The entire park was destroyed by a fire in 1906. The park was quickly rebuilt but the grounds were ravaged again by a high wind rainstorm in 1907 and subsequently closed in 1908. There were a couple of rebirths that were not successful. Going back to the Manhattan Beach days, the park re-opened as Cleveland Beach Park and operated again like a summer resort. By 1911, the park was again in financial difficulty. The bank sponsored auction brought a new owner. M. F. Bramley purchased both Luna Park and Cleveland Beach Park with the intention of operating two amusement parks in Cleveland. He upgraded the property in 1911 and re-opened as Bay Park. Within several months, the park closed forever. White City is another amusement park in Cleveland that is a mere footnote in history.