Just when I thought I discovered all there is about pop culture history, a bit of information comes my way that I have to share. FREEDOMLAND U.S.A.! I have to shout, because this is something awesome, spectacular actually.
Cornelius Vanderbilt Wood wanted to make a theme park in the north east of the United States to rival that of west coast’s Disneyland. Oddly enough, he had a hand in the creation of Disneyland. He was hired by Walt Disney and is responsible for finding the site to build Disney’s theme park. A few years later, Wood split from Disney and founded Marco Engineering. He would go on to help create Magic Mountain, Pleasure Island and the big one, Freedomland U.S.A..
Wood’s idea was a theme park based on different eras & locations in United States history. He acquired about 200 acres of land in Bronx, New York. The land used to be a landfill which goes to show that cool things can come from garbage.. On a side note, Wood designed the shape of the park itself to look like the United States, without Alaska and Hawaii. On June 19th, 1960, Freedomland U.S.A. was opened for business.
The park featured seven areas of attraction. 1) Little Old New York set in the late 1800’s which had a horse-pulled trolley, a recreation of Macy’s first department store, a brewery sponsored by Schaefer, and a deli. There was 2) The Great Plains set in the 19th century with a replica of an Army stockade known as Fort Cavalry, an apartment sponsored by Borden featuring Elsie the Cow, a merry-go-round powered by mules, the Pony Express which was a ride that took you to the next area of the park, 3) The Old Southwest. There’s a recreation of a gun fight, a Mexican restaurant, an underground train ride through mines, and a herd of cows with a cowboy. Another part of the park was dedicated to 4) Chicago in the year 1871. That year is significant because of the Great Chicago Fire which is featured in this area. Guests and actors help put out a fire using 19th century equipment.
5) San Francisco in the early 1900’s featured a Chinatown, several places to eat, a simulation of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and a boat ride. There was a 6) New Orleans section of the park which allowed the visitor to go through Civil War battle grounds, a pirate-themed boat ride, a maze where the walls are mirrors, a bunch of rides one of which was through a simulated tornado. The seventh area was called Satellite Future. The focus here is on space and science from a rocket control room like what you would see at NASA, a moving sidewalk, a simulated rocket flight, and something called Moon Bowl which was a stage that many performers did their thing. Who? How about Bobby Darin!? And Bobby Rydell, the Everly Brothers, Brenda Lee and Patti Page. Whoa!
So what happened to Freedomland U.S.A.? It was simply not making a profit. Every year it was losing more money than it was making. I’m no expert, but I’m guessing that being it was a theme park in the northern part of the United States, it was a seasonal attraction. Unlike Disneyland which is in sunny California, Freedomland was only open from May to October. That’s six months of without revenue. Sadly, it stayed in business for only five seasons and in 1964 shut down.
When I hear stories about places going out of business I always ask, what happened to all the stuff. Much of it was simply destroyed, some rides were sold off to other parks, but there’s something from Freedomland U.S.A. that is still in one piece today; The Canadian which was the steamboat used in the park. According to a 2008 article in the New York Post, it’s docked in Port Chester, New York. It’s also been modernized, so while the shape remains the same, the exterior has a more modern look and it is now called The Showboat.
Check out the videos below to see what how fun Freedomland U.S.A. was to the visitors of the park.
[Via] All Classic Video
[Via] Hugo Faces