More than just a spot to enjoy an inexpensive evening of roller-coaster rides and soft-serve ice cream, Lakeside Amusement Park is a place packed with living history. Built in 1908, the beautiful park has stood the test of time -- and in some areas within its gates, time has actually stood still -- retaining much of the end-of-the-Victorian-era charm that makes it a unique summertime destination for locals and visitors.
We can give you a million reasons why you should visit Colorado's oldest amusement park before the season is over, but instead we've compiled a list of some not-so-well-known facts about one of the area's most mysterious, most fascinating summer attractions.
10) Lakeside was opened as White City in 1908, one of many amusement parks with the same name and architectural style across the country
Built in the Beaux Arts style of the Chicago World's Fair of 1893, Lakeside was once known as "White City." It boasted hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights across its acres of park. The former formal entrance on Sheridan used to greet visitors with the still-standing "Tower of Jewels," which was once ablaze with 16,000 individual bulbs.
The park is still on the original plot of land (the same can't be said for Elitch Gardens, the only other amusement park in the area), and many of the original 1908 structures and buildings remain -- which is a rarity for a park of its age. Supposedly, there were dozens of White Cities built across the country at the turn of the last century, and Lakeside is said to be last remaining amusement park of this style.
Courtesy of the Western History and Genealogy blog of the Denver Public Library
9) Since Lakeside opened in 1908, it has only changed hands once
The park was developed by prominent Denver Brewer Adolph Zang and F.J. Kirshoff at the turn of the last century and then sold to Ben Krasner in the 1930s. Krasner's daughter Rhoda Krasner -- who is the namesake of the body of water the park sits on because her father renamed it upon purchase -- still runs the park today. Keep reading for eight more things you don't know about Lakeside.
Rocky Mountain Photo Company/ Denver Public Library Digital Collections (1925)
8) Lakeside Amusement Park used to have a swimming pool -- and a theater, full bars, a dance hall, a speedway and more
Back when social activities were more formal, Lakeside was home to the gorgeous Casino Theatre and the El Patio Ballroom. But it was also the site of the Lakeside Speedway (which closed in 1988 and has a tragic story behind it) and a public pool that was open until 11 p.m. every night.
Courtesy of Denverurbanism.com
7) Lakeside Amusement Park is located in Lakeside, Colorado
Lakeside isn't just the name of the amusement park; it is the name of the very small town where it resides. Why its own town? As the park was being planned back in the early 1900s, Denver's strict liquor laws would have prevented the park from serving alcohol -- something it did up until about a decade and a half ago.
As of the last census, the municipality of Lakeside had a population of eight people. This kitschy notion of a city isn't exactly something that makes everyone happy, though: As Denver Urbanism pointed out a few years ago, this "bogus municipality" led to the construction of a Wal-Mart in the tiny Colorado town right on the edge of Denver. Keep reading for six more things you don't know about Lakeside.
courtesy of Tom Lundin/the Denver Eye
6) The carousel on the property is the 1908 original
The location of the carousel may have moved within the park, but the beautiful roundabout ride is still the same. Some animals are original to the ride, but many have been salvaged from multiple carousels, giving it a particular charm and look.
The carousel's current housing was designed by architect, green-energy building pioneer and neon-specialist Richard Crowther. You'll spot many of Crowther's gorgeous Art Deco additions decorating the park in the form of ticket booths and other accents. Crowther's work can be seen throughout Colorado, but his legacy is definitely highlighted by his unique touches to Lakeside -- like the Cyclone Coaster's housing and the Hurricane ticket booth.
(This is unrelated to Crowther's design, but pay extra attention to the painting that runs around the center of the carousel -- it is a touch risqué in nature, as the women are portrayed with disproportionately huge breasts and the organ wagon in the illustration bears the number "69.")
Entrance to White City, later known as Lakeside Amusement Park (1908-1910)
Denver Public Library digital archives/L.C. McClure Collection.
5) Yes, there have been plenty of offers to buy Lakeside/develop the property... and no, owner Rhoda Krasner is not interested Owner Rhoda Krasner is notoriously uninterested in selling the property or partnering with an investor to put money into "fixing it up." The beauty of Lakeside may be in the eye of the beholder, but anyone who visits the park and gets its old-school charm knows the park is fine just the way it is. Krasner has been known to say that part of the reason she hasn't struck a deal is because she wishes to stick by her father Ben's original intent of keeping the park affordable to all. Keep reading for four more things you don't know about Lakeside
Postcard image courtesy of Tom Lundin/The Denver Eye.
4) Lakeside's famous Fun House that closed in 1986 was the last of its kind in the country
The Fun House -- an iconic attraction mentioned most by old-school Lakeside visitors -- that was located where the Dragon now sits was one of the most visually notable parts of the park. A giant, animated papier-mâché puppet woman known as "Laffing Sal" greeted riders there with her hysterical cackle; word is she may still be in storage somewhere in the park.
Painted-over crosses on Lakeside's Casino Theatre.
Courtesy of Tom Lundin/The Denver Eye
3) Lakeside has a Freemason connection
Throughout the park, there are subtle signs of Freemason influence. From iron crosses and Maltese crosses adorning the original buildings that have now been painted over to a carousel horse still dressed in Knights Templar garb, visual cues abound. Tom Lundin of local history blog The Denver Eye shared more about this connection in a recent interview with Westword. Keep reading for two more things you don't know about Lakeside.
Courtesy of coaster2coaster.com
2) Lakeside's 1940 Cyclone has been officially recognized as a historic coaster
Replacing the 1912 Derby Racer coaster, the Cyclone was designed after a coaster that owner Ben Krasner saw in New Orleans. One of only a few pre-World War II coasters in operation in the country today, the Cyclone's station architecture is possibly longtime park architect Richard Crowther's greatest work within Lakeside's grounds.
Courtesy of Tom Lundin/the Denver Eye
1) Lakeside's miniature train has been a park attraction since 1908
For a panoramic view of Lakeside after dark, take a ride on one of the park's miniature trains -- Lakeside owns both a steam-engine and diesel engine train. The tiny but mighty versions of these locomotives operate just like a full-size version, taking passengers on a slow but worthwhile trip around Lake Rhoda.
Lakeside Amusement Park is open now through select dates in September. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the park's website.
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