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Kennywood Park

Kennywood Park is Americas favorite amusement park, and a national historic landmark.  Founded in 1898 as a small trolley park near Pittsburgh, Kennywood was begun by the Monongahela Street Railway Company, which was controlled by Andrew Mellon. Today’s Kennywood still contains two major buildings dating from 1898 — a carousel pavilion and a restaurant (originally the Casino).

At the turn of the century, Kennywood was engaged in a fierce battle for survival with about a dozen other trolley parks and amusement resorts in Western Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Street Railway Company wanted to get out of the amusement park business in 1902 so it subleased the park to first a Boston Company and later to a group from Aspinwall. In 1906, Pittsburgh Railway Company assigned its lease to A.S. McSwigan and Frederick W. Henninger.

Many changes occurred between 1900 and 1930. In the early 1910’s, Kennywood built two large roller coasters: The Racer and the Speed-O-Plane. Important rides added in the 1920’s were three coasters: Jack Rabbit (Designed by Miller and Baker in 1920), Pippin (designed by John Miller in 1924), and Racer in 1927 replacing the old Racer built in 1910. The park added a huge swimming pool in 1925.

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The Great Depression from 1930 to 1935 was especially hard on the park. Dancing helped keep the park in business during this period as great dance bands played in the park from 1930 to 1950. Kennywood prospered in the second half of the 1930’s as new rides including Noah’s Ark (1936) were added. During the Second World War period, the park couldn’t add new rides, but it did buy a used ferris wheel and a miniature train. It still operates the latter.

In the 1950’s school picnics grew by leaps and bounds. The park added many new rides to Kiddieland. Some popular rides in this period included the Hurricane, the Looper, the Rotor (the first ride imported from Europe), the Wild Mouse and the Octopus. With the 1960’s and 1970’s came competition from “Disneyland” and other theme parks. Kennywood decided to spend the money necessary to remain competitive. The Turnpike was built in 1966 followed in 1968 by the Thunderbolt, which was redesigned from the Pippin by resident coaster whiz, Andy Vettel. With the Thunderbolt came the designation “The Roller Coaster Capital of the World.” The Dance Pavilion, a dark ride since the 1950’s, burned in 1975.

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In the 1980’sand 1990’s Kennywood had to keep up with changes in the amusement industry. They added the Raging Rapids in 1985. The park was designated a national historic landmark in 1987. One of the most popular additions to the park was a new steel-looping coaster the Steel Phantom in 1991. The Steel Phantom’s top speed was 80 MPH, its longest drop was 225 feet and it featured 4 loops. The park continued to grow with it’s largest expansion ever in 1995 Lost Kennywood. This replica of the Luna Parks from the turn of the century houses some of the parks most popular rides today. Some rides you can find in this section include the Exterminator, the Pittfall, the Pittsburgh Plunge and the Whip.

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As Kennywood moves through the 21st century it continues to keep a balance of change and preservation of tradition which has always been important to it’s success. Kennywood remains one of “America’s Finest Traditional Amusement Parks.”

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