Monday, November 5, 2018

Chicago's Riverview Amusement Park, 1904-1967

(Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal; LstopToursSatellite, north of Belmont between Western and the river)

Paul Jevert posted
1952 - Riverview

At first I thought this was the same photo. But then I noticed the cars and signs were different.
Michael Brandt posted
The main entrance to Riverview Park Chicago.

Historic Chicago posted
Aerial view of Riverview Park. (1967)
John Renda posted
Ron Kendall posted
Riverview Park 1967.

I'm researching the location of the Riverview Amusement Park to help understand the orientation of this photo of Grebe Shipyard because the park is obviously in the right background.

MWRD posted
A view to the east showing a shipyard on the west side of the North Branch of the Chicago River, just north of Belmont Avenue, on February 11, 1922. Some of the rides at Riverview Park are visible in the background.

Christopher Janisch posted
They were on the Chicago River @Belmont. You can see Riverview park in the background.
[William Mullican added some photos from and a link to these notes.]
Ray Schmid: I see the Comet roller coaster and the brick smoke stack of Lane Tech HS.

And the ComEd's Northwest Generating Station is in the background of this photo so this view is looking west across the river.
Twitter from DNAinfo
Lisa Gagliano posted
Vanished Chicagoland posted
Here is an enormous sign from Riverview Park in Chicago. I would love to go back in time and be right in front of this thing.

For more typical photos of the park, see pintrest. GenealogyTrails has some details about the rides and more photos.

It occurred to me that amusement parks are a significant industry. There is more stuff in the world than just railroads and bridges. Take a look at Cedar Point, Holiday World (a family favorite), Disney Parks and Six Flags. We have already seen that interurbans built amusement parks to create business during weekends such as Dellwood. I remember going to Elitch Gardens in Denver when it was in its original location and had gardens and a ballroom. I've also gone to their newer location that reused abandoned railroad yards.

Riverview started either as a skeet-shooting club that added some rides to entertain the wives and children of the shooters [ChicagoTribune-remember] or as a sharpshooter park whose son added rides after he saw some of them during a trip to Europe. [DefunctParks, Richiezie].
Riverview eventually could claim the title of the "world's largest amusement park," its area and number of rides far outnumbering those at the more famous and sprawling four-park setup at Coney Island, N.Y., and of such rival local playgrounds as White City or Joyland on the South Side. Its slogan was simple — "Laugh Your Troubles Away" — and through world wars and a Great Depression, through divorces and deaths that's what people did. For the first generations of visitors, Riverview was the only place to take a boat ride, either on the wild slide that was Shoot the Chutes or on the more leisurely Tunnel of Love. For its early visitors it represented a place where the machinery of industry was transformed into things of play as it took the city from the Victorian age into the modern world. [ChicagoTribune-remember]
Vanished Chicagoland posted
55 years ago today, Riverview Park in Chicago closed for good on October 3, 1967. Here is photo of The Bobs Roller Coaster. I wished I rode this!
[There are a lot of comments. I didn't bother to read them.]

It featured what some insist was the finest roller coaster of all time, The Bobs. Other popular coasters were The Comet, The Silver Flash, The Fireball and The Jetstream. Aladdin's Castle was a classic fun house with a collapsing stairway, mazes and turning barrel. [ChicagoTribune with 49 photos] "In 1926 'The Bobs' was added an 11 - Car Roller Coaster with an 85 foot drop. The most fearsome Roller Coaster in America at the time, it was the fastest on record. The Bobs carried 1,200 passengers per hour it drew over 700,000 rides each season. The Bobs was the most popular ride throughout Riverviews Park existence." The 74-acre park entertained over 200,000,000 people before it was sold Oct 3, 1967 for $6.5m ($85+ in today's money). [Richiezie] The merry-go-round, with its hand-painted horses, was purchased in 1971, and it is now in "Atlanta at Six Flags Over Georgia." [whgbetcWhen the park closed on Sept. 1, 1967, it had 120 rides, including six rollercoasters, a parachute jump and rockets. [GenealogyTrails]
Despite being seen as a success to many, the park was sold on October 3rd, 1967. Shortly after, an article from the Chicago Tribune blamed violence for the park’s closure as Schmidt admitted that crime was a motivation for selling. Minorities felt increasingly uncomfortable as racism became more common. Aside from being made to feel generally unwelcome African Americans found themselves in complete outrage with the addition of an attraction called “Dunk The N*****” which was renamed “The African Dip”. Among this, increasing taxes, maintenance and more led to the fall of one of the greatest amusement parks of its time. Stories of Riverview have been passed down through generations and will most likely continue to be. [DefunctParks]

Reverview Postcard, 1909
[Chicago was the birthplace of amusement parks that featured mechanical attractions. Please click the caption link for an interesting history.]
(new window) 1952, silent [DNAinfo]
Also, John Calaberese shared. [A lot of the comments complain about yet another Riverview post.]

I read a couple of years ago that the Western overpass of Belmot was going to be removed. It was originally built to handle the traffic generated by the Riverview Amusement Park. Since the park is gone and the overpass needed repairs, it was decided to get rid of it. A street view shows this work is done. Given that it is a five-way intersection, I'm glad I don't have to use it.
Street View
On Belmont east of Western Avenue looking West at Western Avenue
But a satellite image still shows what it used to look like.
3D Satellite
Vince Black posted
Darla Reichwald At the end of Aladdin's Castle there air would shoot up to blow the girls skirts up over their heads. We never wore skirts to Riverview.
Sara Fieberg Riverview, Aladdin's castle, room of doors where you were channeled into a maze and had to find the right door in each group to go forward. Barrel roll. And the parachute jump! That was a test of courage! All the sailors with their girls sneaking a kiss at the ball toss booths.
Shirley Hartford Aladdin’s Castle was so much fun. The mirrors, the big roller to walk thru the crooked floo

Jerry Kasper commented on Vince's posting
Remember the magic.

Jerry Kasper commented on Vince's posting

(new window)
Here is my latest video of Riverview Park. Music by Les Baxter. Merry Go Round music by Roller Coster Tycoon. Roller Coaster(closing theme to What's My Line? and the instrumental version of Love, Roller Coaster by The Ohio Players. Most of the photos are the book Laugh Your Troubles Away, The Complete History of Riverview Park by Derek Gee and Ralph Lopez. Some additional photos were taken Bob Smitka. Other photos were obtained from the internet.

Screenshot @ 2:42
[We are looking southeast down Clybourn Ave. In the background is the big gasometer that is just north of Goose Island.]
1938 Aerial Photo from ILHAP

Vanished Chicagoland posted, cropped
Here is a 1961 slide taken at Riverview Park in Chicago.

Screenshot @ 4:40
This answers the question of why the main entrance faced Western Avenue instead of a parking lot. I'm reminded that in 1904 people would have arrived on the streetcar. They would not have a parking lot. Maybe they had a lot with hitching posts.
Screenshot @ 8:33
I wonder if the video is going to stay up. It seems to me he is violating copyright laws. Most of the images of rides are variants of rides I've seen in other parks. But this one that appears to whip cars upside down is one that I have never seen. I wonder if there were liability and/or insurance issues.
Screenshot @ 10:29

Screenshot @ 13:09
[Is this "The Bobs?" (Update: MarkNick's comment below indicates this was the Flying Turns.) That does look like an interesting ride. It would be a good ride to take a date on, you can't help but be cozy. I prefer wooden roller coasters to most metal ones because the cars have "character" (a little bounce/swerve). This looks like it would be fun. Maybe maintenance is why we don't see rides like this anymore.]

Screenshot @ 13:55
[Yep, it was a destination for streetcars. The cars and trucks look relatively modern for streetcars to still be running.]
Screenshot @ 14:12
[Really, you had to climb up into your seat? That climb would be more exciting than the ride itself.]
Screenshot @ 15:57
[North is to the right. I wish these maps had dates.]

Lawrence Shoop posted, cropped
Silver Flash 1st ride when coming in the park
Larry Hennings The Silverstreak and the Bluestreak were the first rollercoaster at Riverview.Lafayette Turner I liked the Bobs.

Lawrence Shoop posted, cropped
Boat Ride at Riverview
Ron Smolen This was The ShowBoat. The entrance was across from the Ghost Train (east side of park). You can see Aladdin in the rear (south) of the photo. ON the west side of the ride was the Roter. The Riverview Streamliner also circled this Moat. There was also a Small Island in the middle that the boat circled.

Neil Gale posted

Riverview Park (1904-1967), was the most loved, best remembered, and still the favorite of all the amusement parks that were in the Chicago area.

I present the park's history with over 230 photographs (click any picture and view all photos in an album), 5 films, ads, maps and more. Also included is a complete list of all the roller coasters and the park's name changes throughout time.
My friend, Deirdre Capone, Al Capone's Grand Neice, sent me a photo of herself at Riverview Park. Many of the pictures may jog your memory, so look them over before commenting. We all look forward to your comments about what you rediscovered.
CLICK TO READ ─► in my Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal™

Michael Brandt posted
A nice color picture of the Pair O Chutes at Riverview Park Chicago.
Renaldo Craighead posted
The parachute ride at Riverview. I never visited there but a coworker from many years had told me about it. As a kid I only remember Funtown amusement park near Stony Island.

The Chicago Tribune has a "fifty years later" article with a video, a gallery of 49 photos and some embedded photos.

VintageChicago aerial

19 photos


  1. Holy cow. I went there when I was kid. Just old enough to remember it, but not old enough to ride on "The Bobs". Even though I only went once I have scattered fragments of memory-images, especially "The Comet" or "Silver Flash" (not sure which, but it was enclosed and looked vaguely like The Burlington's Zephyr).

  2. I loved to ride the Flying Turns pictured above. It was like a Bobsled ride, the cars moved freely through the banked turns.

  3. The roller coaster that is identified as possibly the Bobs is actually the Flying Turns. The Bobs stayed on tracks the whole ride. The Flying turns went into the wooden cocoon which added to the excitement.

    1. Thanks for the clarification. I have added your information to the notes.