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once the largest amusement park in the United States
Opened on June 19, 1960 (Father's Day 1960), Freedomland U.S.A. featured seven (later eight) themed areas based on United States history. The areas were contained within an 85-acre park layout based on the shape of the continental United States and were connected by eight miles of navigable man-made waterways and lakes.
Little Old New York focused on the period between 1850 and 1900. Attractions included horse-drawn trolleys; an 1890's-style ice cream parlor; a recreation of the original R.H. Macy's Department Store; an old-fashioned brewery sponsored by Schaefer Brewing Company; and tug boats in a re-creation of New York Harbor. There was also a live street show that included an 1880's Tammant Hall speech, suffragettes, and a gangland robbery of the Little Old New York Bank.
Chicago focused on the 1871 fire, which was re-created once an hour, complete with bucket brigades. Other attractions included a boat ride in which the guests paddled Chippewa war canoes, led by an Indian guide; a mock teepee village which housed Northwestern Indians making handicrafts for sale; and a boat ride through the Great Lakes on one of two 110-foot, 400 passenger sternwheel boats.
The Great Plains covered the years 1803 through 1900. A popular attraction in this section was a fully furnished apartment inhabited by the Borden Company's mascot, Elsie the Cow. The Borden Company also sponsored a full working farm that included horses, cows, sheep, pigs, poultry, corn, and hay. Other attractions included Fort Cavalry Stage Line, which carried riders past a buffalo herd and through the Rocky Mountains and ended with a mock robbery by actors playing outlaws, and a Pony Express ride that took visitors to The Old Southwest.
The Old Southwest, which focused on 1890, featured a live street show with actors having a Western gun fight, as well as an opera house and saloon, each of which had regular shows based on the era. Other attractions included a herd of Texas Longhorns, with cowboys looking after them; a ride on an underground mine train through lava pits, giant bats, and cave monsters; and an aerial lift ride to the top of the Rockies in gondolas designed to look like bucket ore cars.
San Francisco included a ride that simulated the Earthquake of 1906. There was also a mock-up of the Barbary Coast, San Francisco's entertainment district in the late-1800's and early-1900's; a mock-up of Chinatown; horse-drawn surreys that took visitors to The Old Southwest; and a boat ride that re-created an old northwest fur-trapping expedition. Hollywood Arena, added in 1962, featured animal acts, big top stunts, and appearances by a variety of popular entertainers.
New Orleans featured a pirate-themed boat ride; a horse-drawn wagon ride through a re-creation of an American Civil War battleground, camps, derailed trains, and burning houses, which ended in the middle of a mock battle; and a ride that simulated driving though the cone of a Louisiana tornado.
Satellite City was the park organizers' vision of a city of the future. The major attraction here was an authentic reproduction of a Cape Canaveral control room in which visitors could watch a simulated rocket launch from start to finish. Moon Bowl, added in 1961, was a performing arts stage and 15,000-square-foot dance floor that featured celebrity performers and guests.
State Fair Midway, added in 1962, featured a space-themed roller coaster.
Although Freedomland U.S.A. enjoyed great popularity at first, attendance began to wane after about a year. Freedomland U.S.A.'s gates closed for good and its owners filed for bankruptcy on September 14, 1964, about a month before the New York World's Fair ended its first season. Its boats, trains and rides were sold to amusement parks around the country and what was left of the park, including a parking lot that could hold 7,200 cars, was demolished to make way for what is now the Co-Op City housing complex. The exact circumstances behind the park's closing are still a matter for debate today. "Official" versions say it was unable to compete against the World's Fair, but many people who lived in The Bronx when the park was open say that it was almost always full of visitors. Some claim that the park's developers always intended to build a housing complex on the site, but used construction of the park as a means of proving that the site could support multi-story buildings.
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This page was last updated on 09/06/2018.