Amusement parks that fell by the wayside: 7 nostalgic sites in southwest Ohio

One of the most nostalgic places in Butler County received new attention this week when the public learned the site of Monroe’s old LeSourdsville Lake / Americana Amusement Park had been sold

Butler Tech purchased 36 acres for expansion, and the city plans to develop part of the land which later included Fantasy Farm as park space and a recreational trail.

» A look back at LeSourdsville Lake / Americana Amusement Park
» Butler Tech expands with purchase of former Americana Amusement Park

As theme parks like Kings Island and Cedar Point grew ever larger and offered bigger thrills, smaller local amusement parks fell by the wayside. Here’s a glimpse of a few more lost parks that once thrilled residents of southwest Ohio. 

Argonne Forest Park, Dayton

The Argonne Forest Park was located at the site of the current Possum Creek MetroPark.
Photo: Handout

The Argonne Forest Park was located in what is now Possum Creek Metro Park along Frytown Road southwest of Dayton.

The park was in its heyday during 1920s. It had a go-kart track, swimming pool, baseball fields, canoe and pony rental, dance hall, concessions and a carnival midway, according to Five Rivers MetroParks.

Business slowed during the Great Depression, but Argonne Forest operated in the 1940s. Campers could rent one of four old Dayton streetcars for $12 per month, according to reports.

The current park has an Argonne Lake, and an area remains named Argonne Forest

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Fairview Amusement Park, Dayton

Shooting the Chutes was a ride consisting of a flat-bottomed boat that slid down a flume and into a lagoon at Fairview Park in Dayton.

Operating from 1897-1915, Fairview Amusement Park in Dayton was located near the the original site of E.J. Brown Elementary School.

It was no accident.

According to a Hillview Neighborhood history, families who lived in newer Dayton neighborhoods to the north met in 1911 at the old Fairview Amusement Park Clubhouse and planned the new school. One site the school board considered was outside the city limits, on the grounds of the shuttered amusement park.

In 1916, they purchased about seven acres of the park’s grounds and began construction.

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Forest Park, Harrison Twp.

Forest Park Amusement Park and Race Track, 1950. DON LEET

Also called Frankie’s Forest Park, this amusement park along North Main Street in Harrison Twp. sported both a rollercoaster and an auto race track in the 1950s.

The wood rollercoaster was named the Comet and operated from 1928-58, according to the Roller Coaster DataBase website.

Later the site was developed into the Forest Park Plaza, which was popular in the 1960s through the 1970s.

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Lakeside Amusement Park, Dayton

In 1890, Lakeside Park opened on seven and a half acres at Gettysburg and Lakeview Avenues. The park offered several different rides over the years. Shown here is the Derby Racer wooden roller coaster. Submitted

Lakeside Park was located on the land opposite today’s VA Medical Center. It opened in the summer of 1890 at Gettysburg and Lakeview Avenues and took visitors until around the mid-1960s.

The park evolved from an 1887 attraction, a 40-foot high cyclorama depicting the Battle of Gettysburg. It grew to a full-fledged amusement park.

Thrill seekers of the day had several options over the years such as the Derby Racer wooden roller coaster. In 1930, the same year the city annexed the park, the Wildcat roller coaster was added. A huge carousel offered riders a choice of 48 hand-carved horses. People could make a splash by riding a boat from the top of a water chute into the man-made lake below. A ride called the Flying Turns was popular with couples since one of the riders had to sit on the other’s lap, according to Dayton author and historian Curt Dalton.

The park also had a popular dance hall named the Crystal Room which featured big bands such as Glenn Miller. The dance hall later became the Lakeside Palladium.

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Sandy Beach Amusement Park, Indian Lake

The amusement park bridge over Indian Lake is seen during the 1930s when visitors flocked to Sandy Beach.
Photo: Sandy Beach Bridge Restoration

The Sandy Beach Amusement Park built by Pappy Wilgus and his son, French, opened in 1924. The centerpiece of the park was the Minnewawa Dance Hall, featuring two bandstands. It was advertised as the best and largest in Ohio, according to an account by the Indian Lake Chamber of Commerce.

The park offered amusement rides, boat excursions, fun houses and games of chance. A boardwalk spanned the lake, giving swimmers access to Sandy Beach Island, a popular swimming area with slides and diving towers.

The park survived the Great Depression, but a 1935 fire destroyed the Minnewawa Dance Hall, along with other wooden structures and part of the roller coaster. A new dance hall was built and famous big bands continued to perform at Sandy Beach.

Indian Lake was officially designated as one of the original Ohio State Parks under the jurisdiction of the new Ohio Department of Natural Resources in 1949, and the park thrived throughout the 1950s. But the turmoil of the 1960s took its toll on the park as riots erupted around July 4 celebrations a number of years.

In 1967, the Sandy Beach Amusement Park was renamed Indian Lake Playland, and it continued the struggle. The park didn’t open in 1976, and a few years later the rides and concessions were torn down, according to the chamber’s history.

» RELATED: Restoration of historic Sandy Beach Bridge

White City, Dayton

Across the river from the Dayton Canoe Club was once a park called White City, named after the White City Amusement Park Company that owned it. The park had a dance pavilion, canoe lockers, and amusement rides. Unfortunately, the flood of 1913 washed out the bridge that crossed the Miami River, cutting off access to the park and damaging a number of the buildings. The city wasn t sure if the park was worth reopening.Then, on July 12, 1913 the Dayton Canoe Club held its first regatta. Hundreds showed up to watch the events. It was a great success, as were the ones in August and September. Dayton s city officials decided to rebuild White City. After completion, it was agreed that the park needed a new name. When members of the Dayton Canoe Club suggested Island Park, it was enthusiastically received and the rest is history.

White City was across the river from the Dayton Canoe Club. The park was named after owners, the White City Amusement Park Company. Today it’s Island MetroPark.

White City had a dance pavilion, amusement rides, canoe lockers, refreshment stand, and other recreation features. By 1907 the park had become run down and not well maintained, according to a Five Rivers MetroParks’ historical account.

In 1910, Dayton started leasing the park land for $3,000 a year, and in 1911, a recommendation to buy the land was proposed in the report submitted by the renowned Olmsted Brothers firm.

The Great Flood of 1913 damaged a number of buildings at the White City Amusement Park. In July of that year, the Dayton Canoe Club held its first regatta. D.W. Begley, the owner to the boathouse across from White City Park, ferried spectators across the river free of charge. After two more successful regattas, Dayton city officials agreed to rebuild White City. On June 20, 1914, the park formally opened as Island Park.

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