Attached to Lakeside's iconic Tower of Jewels, the Casino building has long been a big white ghost on the park's grounds. Its ornate architectural details are barely concealed under layers of paint, and the hulking structure stands as a giant reminder to Lakeside's grand past — a past that is surely worth re-examining in the 21st century. Seriously, just visualize this description of the casino building from Forsyth's book:
The casino was three stories, with the lower floor exposed on the lake side, but from the Sheridan Boulevard side only two stories showed. The lower floor housed the rathskeller, designed after the old German style, kitchen, ice cellar and storage rooms, with the overhanging roof supported by elaborate plaster columns. The second level held two dining rooms; one was enclosed for winter dining as the original plans called for the Casino to be open year round. The main dining room was open and allowed guests to look out on the lake and enjoy the "mountain breezes, cooled by 'the Snows five thousand summers old'" while eating off of fine china with "Lakeside Casino" printed on it. The third level held a rooftop garden and a small theater.4. Are there any plans for the Lakeside Speedway?
After reading about the Speedway's decades of success, it's hard to believe that Lakeside would just let the historic midget- and stock-car racing park waste away. But there it sits, year after year, captivating urban explorers with its empty bleachers and wooden sign resting on the ground while the paint in Pepsi colors fades away. Though the Speedway has been closed for almost thirty years, people who weren't even alive during its glory days are still eager to see what it's all about — and those who saw it in action surely have stories to tell.
3. Will the lake ever be used again as its own attraction at Lakeside?
Part of the lasting appeal of this park is its scenery — and Lake Rhoda plays a big role in that. There's no beating the view from the miniature steam train at night, when it travels the track and lets passengers take in Lakeside's neon majesty from across the water. Decades ago, speedboats were a part of the daytime action — as evidenced by the roped-off dock and bleachers to the north. And long before that, Lake Rhoda was a bathing beach and swimming hole. Will Lake Rhoda ever again take an active role at Lakeside?
2. What's in Lakeside's future?
Every year like clockwork, a new rumor surfaces that this will be the last year that Lakeside will be in operation. And every year, the admission gates open and the rumor is put to rest. When the gossip surfaced again this summer, we called Lakeside Amusement Park's offices, and the gentleman in charge of marketing assured us that the park wasn't going anywhere.
Part of Lakeside's charm is also what makes it fodder for such rumors: To some, the park looks rundown and outdated, but for others, that worn-in and retro look is what makes the place magical. Lakeside will never be a big, shiny, corporate theme park (thank God), but its unknown future is one of its draws — so get there while you can, because who knows what next summer will bring.
1. Okay, for real. Where is Laffing Sal?
Author Forsyth says that the notorious puppet creature with the belly laugh on a recorded loop is definitely still in the park somewhere. So when can we see her? Sal's as famous as the now-demolished fun house she once guarded, and it's high time she got the homecoming she deserves.
Be my voyeur (or better yet, let me stalk you) on Twitter: @cocodavies