Celoron Time Line

CREDIT:  First, let's give credit where it is due.  With the help of the great librarians at the Fenton History Center, I was able to gather a number of copies of articles from The Post-Journal, Jamestown's newspaper.  One series of articles was based on the work of  Victor Norton, Sr. and Martin Arend.  An in-depth article about ferris wheels and Celoron's Phoenix Wheel was the work of Sherman L. Watson, MD.  Thank you to all who helped with those articles so that the information could be presented here.

It should be noted that the park was located in Brr-rr country.  Fall could be pretty brisk, and Spring could be cold and wet, and don't even mention Winter!  The park was generally open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and most of the following notations came from press releases for upcoming park seasons.

Check out 1976 for a first-hand account of the Skateland fire!

Use your browser's Back button to return to the Celoron Home page.

1891 May

Land for the park was purchased. The area was known as Prendergast Point, but the new owner changed the name to Celoron, after the French explorer.

The Hotel De Celoron was begun the following year, preceding the park by one year.  It was located on the east side of Dunham Avenue, near the lake. 

Celoron Park was begun by the Celoron Park Amusement Company owner Almet N. Broadhead, to operate in conjunction with Broadhead’s railway system and his Chautauqua Steamship Company.  Among the construction of that year: an outdoor theater that was built over Chautauqua Lake.
1893 May

Columbia was the name given to the double decker rail car built by the Pullman Car Co., in honor of the Columbian Exposition of that year.  She arrived for service in May.
1893 Dec

The floor was completed for the original Dance Hall at the eastern part of the park.
1894 May

Celoron Park became a full-blown amusement park, modeled after Coney Island

The Auditorium was built, as were the Baseball Field and its grandstands.
1895 Sep
 18 The Phoenix Wheel began service for the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta, GA
1895 Dec  31 The Phoenix Wheel completed service for the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta, GA.  Manufactured in Phoenixville, PA.

The indoor Celoron Theater was erected over Lake Chautauqua, on the site of the old outdoor theater, at a cost of $36,000
1896 Jun

The Phoenix Wheel was dismantled and moved to Celoron Park.  The wheel weighed 53 tons of fun.

The Imperial Hotel was built by its owner, Charles Johnson.
It was located on the NE corner of Dunham Avenue and Boulevard.
1903 Feb  4 The Bear Pit has been filling with water, endangering its occupant

The Scenic Railway opened at Celoron Park, on the site of the Loop the Loop, and the Circle Swing opened, too.
1905 Jun  6 The Steamboat Dock has been removed and replaced with a dock 150 feet long, with a 32 foot ell.
1905 Jul  4 The Elevated Bridge to the Searchlight Tower had one section collapse due to an overload of people trying to escape rain.  They still got wet, falling eight feet into a foot of water.

Celoron Park will renew its lease of the grounds for another twenty years,   OR,
1907 Jul  16 The Celoron Park grounds were purchased by the Celoron Amusement Company
1908 Apr  15 The Scenic Railway will be replaced by the Coney Island Tickler ride
1908 May  13 Hotel De Celoron and the Imperial Hotel were placed under unified management of John Penfold
1910 Mar  9 The Steamboat Pier was in danger due to high water level of Lake Chautauqua--a recurring theme
1910 Apr  24 The Steamboat Pier was destroyed by high winds and a high lake level that left only its piers.  The Steamboat Ticket Office floated away from the Steamboat Pier and was found downstream.
1912 May
Tom, the Bear was relocated from Celoron to Yardley, PA.  The remaining Zoo animals have been sold off and removed from the park.

Celoron Park was heavily damaged in Spring by water and ice, and suffered a streetcar strike, so operations in 1913 were minimal.  The park did not open until July 20.  Coincidentally, 1913 was the year Harry A. Illions joined the family business, M.C. Illions & Sons, at Coney Island.
1913 Mar  29 Celoron is cut off from streetcar service with Jamestown, due to unusually high water levels.  The lines would later be raised, in answer to the flooding, but that made them too high to accommodate the Columbia, so it was removed from service.  The Richmond Hotel had eight inches of water on the first floor, and the Theater was flooded to the beginning of the reserved seat section.
1914 May
The Outdoor Theater in the center of the park had its stage raised three feet
1914 Nov  21 Hotel De Celoron and the Imperial Hotel were destroyed by fire
1915 Jan  23 The Imperial Hotel is scheduled for rebuilding to two stories after a fire two months previous destroyed all but the first floor.
Toward the end of its life, it was known as the Yellow Submarine.  Yup.  It was destroyed by fire.  Click on the link to see a scan of a photocopy of a photo from the Post-Journal (not dated in my notes).  I suspect it is from the late 1930s or early 1940s, judging by the cars.  I don't see evidence of Skateland, which I thought was just across Dunham from the hotel, so that would place the photo before 1939.  In my recollection, the park entrance was further left, at the end of Boulevard.
This photo shows plainly where the Hotel De Celoron was located, just right of the hotel.  The Phoenix Wheel would have been to the far right bottom of this view, out of this photo.
1915 May  7 The Coney Island Tickler ride was removed, as was the Monkey House.
1915 Aug  5 The outfield of the Baseball Park is under water due to “unprecedented August high water”
1918 Mar  17 Celoron Park has been leased for five years from the Celoron Amusement Company by the Coney Island Realty & Amusement Company
1919 Jul  4 Celoron Park was visited by record-breaking crowds of about 20,000 for the day.
1920 Apr  12 The Moorish-style Auditorium was totally destroyed by fire
1923 May  24 The Cave of the Winds is a new feature at the park, located near the Phoenix Wheel
1924 May
The Greyhound Roller Coaster is under construction along the shore of Chautauqua Lake, and the Theater is being transformed in the Pier Ballroom
1924 Jun  13 The old Dance Hall at the eastern end of the grounds was destroyed by a suspicious fire.  It would not be rebuilt, since the theater is now a ballroom
1925 May  23 The Bear Pit will once again have bears:  2 large brown bears

The Custer Car Speedway is a ride with cars controlled by the children riding in them

The Electric Railway  is a new ride for children, travelling 2000 feet through the picnic grove at the lower end of the park

Greyhound Roller Coaster will be lit with 6,000 bulbs along the side facing the lake

Airplane Swings are a new ride attraction for the 1925 season, located on an island near the bathing beach
1925 May  31 Celoron Park was host to some 25,000 patrons on Memorial Day, breaking the old attendance record by 25%

Celoron Park was purchased by George and Thomas Carr, including 2500 feet of lakefront and 20 acres of land
1930 Jun  13 The Pier Ballroom in the former theater was destroyed by fire (started by a cigarette butt?) at 12:45 PM.  It was a total loss within an hour, and the fire also consumed seven concession stands to its east side.  The summer season is short, so a contract is soon let to build a new ballroom.
1930 Jul  3 Castle Gardens Ballroom construction began, expected to be completed in just 21 days, working 24 hours a day!
1933 May  26 The Dodgem bumper car ride is new for the 1933 season, but the Figure Eight Coaster has been dismantled, and the Leaping Lena attraction has been shipped to another park.  According to the article, the Monkey Island will house "a bevy of monkeys"
On the site of the Figure Eight Coaster will be a parking lot (hmmm, that became a theme, too)
1934 May  26 A Beer Garden has been established in the center of the park, selling beer at stands on the grounds for the first time in park history.  Beer will be sold at Castle Gardens, too.

The Celoron-Fluvanna Ferry was in operation during 1937, but I haven't learned what years it operated.

Celoron Park was purchased by J.G. Campbell

The Baseball Field was used for the last season.  Among the noted ballplayers to visit the park were Babe Ruth, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, and Connie Mack managed a team that played there.  During batting practice, The Babe launched one into the lake!
1939 Jun  1 Skateland is projected to open, constructed in the parking lot.  It is of a new type of construction, bow truss, to eliminate pillars.  In MY memory, the skating rink was at the eastern edge of the park;  in earlier years, the park extended the equivalent of a couple of blocks eastward, into what is now Lucille Ball Park.

Celoron Park was purchased for about $200,000 by Harry A. Illions, from the Jamestown Motor Bus Transportation Company president J.G. Campbell

Three (!) Ferris Wheels from the 1940 New York World’s Fair were installed 1943-45

The years 1943 and 1944 saw new attractions:
The Merry Go Round, the Rodeo Ride, and the 1942 model Skooter Cars were installed.

The Caterpillar Ride and the Crystal Maze were added.
1945 Apr  2 The Steamer Dock was again washed away, floating down the Outlet.  In this version, the dock was about ten feet wide and nearly 700 feet long;  The earlier dock was twenty feet wide, to accommodate trolley tracks right out to the steamship.

The Phoenix Wheel was taken down in Celoron because it had been frequently struck by lightning.  The metal structure had gondolas that held twenty people each!  The structure was built by the Phoenix Metal Co., in Phoenixville, PA.
1952 Feb  28 The Phoenix Wheel was announced to be taken down for overhauling.  It stands about 115 feet high.  By summer, the announcment was made that the wheel was dismantled and shipped to the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona.  Mr. Illions ran the concessions there, too.
1952 Jun  19 By summer, the announcment was made that the wheel was dismantled and shipped to the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona.  Mr. Illions was well-known as a concessionaire across the country.  The Merry Go Round was also being reassembled in Pomona, CA.
1958 Aug  18 Celoron Park was closed early to the public, and workmen began dismantling the remaining “amusement devices” at the park.  The older amusements were sold off, but Mr. Illions had plans to refurbish his park.
1959 May  16 The "new" Celoron Park got some new attractions:  The Flying Saucer Ride, the Helicopter Ride, and the Magic Carpet Fun House with its mirrored walls and wavy floors.  I remember a Ghost Alley attraction, too, but found no mention of it. 
Scared the bejeebers out of us kids!
1959 Jun  11 Greyhound Roller Coaster was heavily damaged by a tornado.  The Imperial Hotel lost its second-floor porch, too.
1960 Sep  9 Celoron Park was put up for sale by its owner, Harry A. Illions, who had owned the park since 1943.  He advertised ten major rides, seven kiddie rides, and a penny arcade, along with many amusement park devices.
1962 May  14 Harry A. Illions died suddenly at his home in Jamestown
1962 Jun  1 The "new" Pier Ballroom, formerly Castle Gardens, burned to the ground, the result of a fire of undetermined origin.
1962 Jul  25 Celoron Park has been sold by the heirs of Harry A. Illions.  The purchaser, Darrell Smith, owned a park near Pittsburgh, called Cabana Beach.
1962 Sep  11 Celoron Park was being dismantled by workmen, who were taking down fourteen buildings and two picnic shelters

John and Diane Evan become owners of Skateland roller rink.
1965 Mar  22 The board of the Village of Celoron authorized the purchase of the Celoron Picnic Grove: seven acres for $30,000
1976 Oct  31 Celoron Park's last "park" building, Evan’s Skateland burned to the ground during a Halloween party for kids.  Accounts ranged up to 300 participants, but no serious injuries, thanks to quick action by the Evan family members to evacuate the children.

"On October 31, 1976, I was a 17-year-old who was in the roller rink fire.  It was a Halloween party and many people had on costumes and were skating when all of a sudden there was a loud explosion by the entrance.  Everyone was scared and we were told to move to the opposite end of the rink.  Suddenly, the entire ceiling was on fire and it appeared that there was no way out.  There were doors along the side of the building...someone got one of the doors opened, I never knew who, I assumed one of the Evans had a key in their pocket.  Everyone started jumping out the door, which was about a three-foot drop, wearing roller skates.  A few cars started on fire and some people were so frightened that they started to climb the cyclone fence in their skates....the Yellow Submarine was across the street where we went to contact somone to pick us up.  It was quite an experience, one I hope not to go through again."                                  --Ron Nelson

John and Diane Evan open the new Evan's Skateland in Jamestown
1981 May  28 The Phoenix Wheel ceased operation in California, dismantled and sold for scrap when it was deemed unsafe.
1988 Sep  28 The Lakeview Hotel burned to the ground.  This was the last of the Celoron Park era buildings, according to the Post-Journal account of the fire.  At the time of its demise, it was a three-story wood structure.  My sharp-eyed friend Brian pointed out that the Lakeview was located at 33 Allegheny Ave.

Pier Point Park will be renovated and renamed for Lucille Ball.  Could you have gotten this far into these pages and not have known that Lucille Ball ("I Love Lucy") lived within sight of the park?  She also lived in Jamestown, the town of her birth, before leaving for a fantastic career.  You could say "Lucy" to people around the world, and they knew who you meant!

According to Edison LeRoy, the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds was torn down.

John Evan, Jr. died at the age of 81 on November 6.

Top of Page
Celoron Home Page