The Dark Side of Kennywood
By: Rick Davis
The Early Years
Long before Kennywood Park existed, the area that wou1d become the park was well known. Reportedly, George Washington and his scouts were the first white visitors to the area having crossed the Monongahela River near what is now Kennywood. Later, Washington was selected by English General Edward Braddock to join his expedition of 2400 British soldiers in an attempt to take Fort Duquesne. His army set up camp on the western edge of what would become the future park and prepared to cross the Monongahela in an attempt to surprise the fort's force of 900 French and Native Americans defending it. Over 1200 of Braddock's men were killed or seriously injured. Colonel Washington, being the only staff member still alive, to led the remaining troops to safety.
Moving forward in history to 1818, we find Thomas Jenkins Kenny making a 300 mile journey from his home in Chester County in search of farm land. As fate would have it, he would find 365 wooded acres in the same location used as a campground by Braddock's army. Kenny purchased the land for the sum of 5 Pounds, 10 Shillings, six pence... and a barrel of whiskey!
Kenny soon found that his farm land sat atop a rich vein of coal and started mining it. Situated on the banks of the river, he was soon shipping coal as far as New Orleans. Kenny also established a bank across the river in the city of Braddock.
The 365 acres were more than the Kenny family could use, so they allowed local residents to use this picturesque wooded land for picnics. Soon the land would be known as "Kenny's Grove".
Kennywood was one of Pennsylvania's first "trolley parks", starting in 1898 when the Mellon family leased 100 acres of the Kenny land in order to create a park to generate business for its Monongahela Street Railway trolley line. The trolley's chief engineer, George Davidson, would lay out the park and become the first manager of the park that would be named Kennywood. The first attractions included a lagoon with row boats, a merry-go-round, Ferris wheel, and a figure eight coaster. The Mellon's the park would soon be acquired by a Boston based company operating as the Pittsburg Steeplechase & Amusement Company.
Around 1902, the Morehead brothers became managers of the Pittsburg Steeplechase & Amusement Company that controlled Kennywood. This occurred after its former manager was ousted following a series of lawsuits against the park lodged when W.S. Dodge had the audacity to keep the park open seven days a week. Stock in the park soon changed hands as Boston investors disposed of their stock following the suits. Pittsburgh investors, happy that the park would return to the "respectability and popularity" it had enjoyed under the Mellon Brothers management, soon purchased enough stock to have controlling interest in the park.
A few years later, the Morehead's would retire and the park would be acquired by the Pittsburgh Railway Company which would operate the park for 1905 and 1906. Later, former park managers, Andrew McSwigan and A.F. Megahan, and Fredrick Henninger would take over the park that would then be operated as the Pittsburgh Kennywood Park Company Limited. In 1916 it became simply the Kennywood Park Corporation.
The Pittsburgh area was home to some of the giants of the amusement park industry of the time-George Ferris (Ferris wheels), Harry Traver (coasters, Laff in the Dark, Tumble Bug, and many other rides), Fred Ingersoll (coasters, mill rides), and Zarro (early funhouse attractions). A 1954 Pittsburgh Press article about the inventors even claimed that Zarro invented the funhouse around 1900 at Kennywood! (George Tilyou invented many of the stunts that we associate with funhouses for his Steeplechase Arena at Coney Island, but it is possible that Zarro was the first to devote a building to just those devices.) With that in mind, let's take a look at the history of funhouses and darkrides at Kennywood Park.
The Long Dark History
The history of Kennywood's funhouses and darkrides is almost as old as the park itself. According to the 1939 History of Kennywood Park by Marie McSwigan, Ye Old Mill was constructed in 1899, but 1901 is the date generally cited by most sources as the first season of the ride. This water ride was propelled by a large paddle wheel and featured a small hill at the end.
The six minute long ride had "gorgeous grottos or musical caves" lighted by state of the art....electric lights. Now over a hundred years old, the Old Mill is the oldest of five remaining in the US as well as being the oldest ride at Kennywood.
During the first few years of the 20th century, Kennywood erected the Wonderland building in an area to the left and forward of where the Turtle ride is today. Wonderland originally housed a scenic railway but around 1902 a steeplechase ride was installed and the building became known as the Steeplechase Arena. In addition to other attractions, the building also housed a "pavilion of fun", the first of a long line of attractions that we would know today as "funhouses."
In 1903 you "could go like the wind, landing a hundred feet below with your nerves tingling with excitement" on the Slippery Slide and you could enjoy stunts such as Spring Water (a "shocking" experience!), Cast Up By the Sea, California Red Bats, the Cave of the Winds, the Crazy Staircase - said to give you the impression of being at sea in a storm-and the Earthquake Floor "which trembles, shakes, and sinks beneath your feet." Patrons also could peer through a "peep-hole" and see themselves as "a fat policeman making love to the house-maid".
Spring Water was literally a "shocking experience" since it was electrified and produced an electrical shock for the hapless thirsty person that took hold of its tin cup and stuck it in the stream of water flowing from its spigot! Things were much different in the "old days."
California Red Bats offered a more amusing surprise to patrons that climbed the steps to peer into a box. The "bats" were pieces of broken red bricks. (A piece of a brick is known as a "bat".)
The Cave of the Winds was a series of floor mounted air jets meant to send the old fashioned skirts flying into the air and to send men chasing after their hats, a stunt that would be a part of the traditional funhouse for many years to come.
The Crazy Staircase had two parallel sections that moved up and down in opposite directions making climbing them difficult. It was invented by George C. Tilyou in 1899 for his Coney Island park. Several other Coney Island inventions would find their way to Pittsburgh in years to come. Following its success at Coney Island, the Dew Drop was installed in 1904. This thrilling spiral slide was almost as tall as the building itself, about three stories and was an instant hit.
The Steeple Chase Arena was not the only funhouse type attraction at the park. "A source of fun with no end!" was the House of Trouble. The attraction with its many mazes, promised "You will have trouble getting out of Trouble!"
Located near Ye Old Mill, the Laughing Gallery with its "funhouse" style mirrors was "A sure cure for the blues". They said that "you would get all the laughs coming to you when you entered the Laughing Gallery". At the time, this was the only such attraction in the US, having come directly from the Paris Exposition. Fred Ingersoll's Amusement Construction Company installed the Gallery which featured 4 foot by 7 foot distortion mirrors that were hand made in Germany.
It's a Mystery!
In 1906 the House of Mystery came to Kennywood. What type of attraction it was is still a mystery! Although Kennywood has a very extensive collection of news clippings and photographs dating back to the early days of the park, little is known about some of these early attractions. The articles generally featured "teasers" for the new attractions but actual descriptions were rare.
The early part of the 20th century must have been a fascinating time to visit amusement parks with new attractions being invented every year. Current events also entered into changes at the park as well. Capitalizing on the big news of the day, park advertising in 1907 said that the Old Mill had been remodeled to become a "Panama Canal". The brochure also promoted the Daffy Dilla Fun Factory in the former Steeplechase building (It was converted sometime before the 1907 season). Daffy Dilla borrowed a phrase from another Pittsburgh icon, the Heinz factory, and claimed that the funhouse offered "57 other varieties of attractions" including a human roulette wheel among other great old funhouse stunts.
Fire occasionally changed the face of many of the early parks and Kennywood was no exception. An arson fire in 1911 which destroyed the Penny Arcade, the theater, and the shooting gallery also damaged the Old Mill. It is thought that the damage from the fire prompted remodeling or totally rebuilding the Old Mill. A brochure from around 1912 mentions the new $10,000 water ride, the Rapids or Gorge which was called the Old Mill Rapids Gorge in a subsequent brochure.
This same season Daffy Dilla was gone and Hilarity Hall took its place. The old Steeplechase building was removed to be replaced by a new 60 foot by 80 foot building constructed by the Zarro Amusement Device Company of Beaver Falls, PA. With a new look and new stunts, park patrons that season were thrilled by such devices as- the Joy Wheel, the Bull Moose Glide, the Shaker Stairs, the Earthquake Stairs, the Electric Slide, the Revolving Divan, Ring the Bell, the Tango Hustle, the Bumping Twister, the Jumble Board, the Rocker Walk, the Turkey Trot, the Sliding Stairs, the Alternating Floor, the X-Ray, the Electric Grip, the Lung Tester, the Perfume Machine, the Hot Foot Walk, the Rolling Wave, the Virginia Shuffle, the Undulating Walk, the Wire Maze, the Crash and Bumper, the Dog House, and the Maple Slide.
The Rapid's Gorge again became the Old Mill for the 1915 season. Along with the name change came some new features. The channel was deepened and pumps were added to move the water instead of using the paddle wheel. Zarro Amusements created several new mechanical scenes as such as the Venetian scene, the New York Harbor, a marine scene (with moving waves, battleships, boats, and a lighthouse), and a spring scene with a Maypole and 5 animated figures.
Zarro Amusements also built the Tilt House that same season in the area that is now Kiddieland. This was not what we think of as a "tilt-house" today, it was an attraction that is commonly called a "haunted swing". Tilt House was a simple wooden room that held 16 people and gave park goers the illusion that they were spinning upside down while the room remained stationary. In actuality, of course, the "floor" was actually a platform suspended between two pivot points and the room revolved around the spectators.
The Tumble Inn also made its appearance in 1915 at a cost of $10,000 featuring devices such as trick floors and wobbling steps. Again, not much is known about this early attraction.
The often modified Old Mill was renamed once around 1917 and would be known as the Fairyland Floats keeping the same basic ride structure, but receiving new scenery inside.
In 1921 Hilarity Hall became a new funhouse called the Bug House with the Human Roulette Wheel and the Lover's Tub being featured attractions. The Bug House claimed to have "57 varieties of rib tickling devices" such as the slide, the barrel of fun, the witching waves, the laughing mirrors (probably recycled from the former Laughing Gallery), and vibrating floors.
The Old Mill became the Tour of the World in 1922 with a make over inside and out including a new front. Designed to educate, as well as amuse school children, it contained scenes of Washington, San Francisco, Tokyo, Paris, London, and a scene "across the Rockies". The Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC) also supplied new boats "resembling the gondolas of Venice" for the ride. It is thought that this is when the boats received the two hand-carved dragon heads on the front featured for many generations to enjoy.
New for the 1923 season was the Mysterious Knockout. To quote a Kennywood letter it was "an amusement giving promise to great popularity, something more than a fun house- a big surprise- uneasy to describe." While the newspapers all printed the park's "teasers" at the start of the season, no record of exactly what the attraction was has yet been found.
The Bughouse was redesigned and redecorated in "a clever camouflage design" in 1923 to make it "funnier and more laughable". New device installed included electric shockers, barrels of fun, grotesque figures, laughing mirrors and "other fun provoking and laugh producing implements". Kennywood claimed that "there are a hundred laughs for every cubic inch of space in this building."
In 1924, capitalizing on America's fascination with the opening of King Tutankhamen's Tomb, Kennywood changed the name of the Bug House to Tut's Tomb. The Dayton Fun House and Riding Device Company of Dayton, Ohio, added 39 new devices to the funhouse for the 1927 season.
Around 1926, the Old Mill was rebuilt and enlarged and a new facade and queue area were constructed. The queue area would basically remain the same one until the ride became Garfield's Nightmare in 2004.
After a few seasons Tut's Tomb reverted to Bug House. Park goers could enjoy the whole day in the funhouse if they desired for the cost of fifteen cents! "Tricky passageways and rooms built upside down" were among the entertaining features of the attraction according to the Kennywood Illustrated News in 1928.
The Bug House Through a Child's Eyes
Each week during 1928 the Kennywood paper would print the winning essays from its children's writing contest. A young Isadore Goldberg of Pittsburgh had this to say about the Bug House - "The amusement that I like best at Kennywood Park is the Bug House. I am going to describe the Bug House to you and I want you to see if my choice is a good one.
As you walk into the Bug House a hole in the floor greets you with a gust of air. It blows the ladies' dresses up or blows the men's hats off. There are about ten or fifteen of these holes scattered about.
There are the rocking boardwalks. They are boardwalks that rock back and forth like a boat. Much fun is had walking on these boardwalks.
Another amusement which is full of fun is the revolving barrel. This is a huge barrel which continues revolving around. You have heaps of fun walking through it.
At the end of this barrel is a large wheel. A group of boys and girls sit on it. It starts to turn around slow, then faster and faster until almost everybody falls off. The only way to stay on this wheel for a long time is to sit on the exact center of the wheel. This is hard to do because everybody else tries to get the center also. Everybody that goes on this wheel can't help but have fun.
Near this wheel is a flight of steps. Walk up these steps to the second floor. Then walk up another flight of stairs to the third floor. Turn to the left and you will see a large slide. It has two loops and is built from the third floor to the first floor. Take a ride down this slide and see if it isn't very good.
There are many other amusements which would take too much time to describe, but, if you don't believe that the Bug House is good, just go there once and see for yourself."
It was said that is was impossible to enter the Bug House in the afternoon, a fact that may have eventually lead to its demise. Some old timers say that the high temperature in the building during the summer may have been another reason. In actuality, it was likely a financial decision: People could stay in the attraction as long as they liked for the price of one ticket. Later funhouses were designed to keep you moving towards the exit at all times.
End of an Era and a New Beginning
The 1934 season was the final one for the long standing funhouse as the Bug House became the Skooters bumper cars the next year. It was said that many of the funhouse stunts laid dormant in the upper levels until the building was removed in 1979.
Kennywood's first traditional darkride, Laff in the Dark, arrived in 1930 when the old Dodgem Car building was enclosed. Constructed by Traver Engineering of Beaver Falls, PA, Laff had 825 feet of track, and featured 10 two-seat ride cars and 10 stunts.
The stunts of the 30's seem very tame in comparison to the animatronics of today. Most of the gags in the Laff in the Dark were simple, flat, painted, wooden cutouts of popular cartoon characters and other funny things like a kicking mule that rocked back and forth. Traver would add new stunts to the ride in 1932.
The stunts of the 30's seem very tame in comparison to the animatronics of today. Most of the gags in the Laff in the Dark were simple, flat, painted, wooden cutouts of popular cartoon characters and other funny things like a kicking mule that rocked back and forth. Traver would add new stunts to the ride in 1932.
Building an Icon
1936 saw the installation of a Kennywood icon - Noah's Ark This unique funhouse was a walkthrough boat that sat atop a miniature version of Mount Ararat challenging the ba1ance of guests as they tried to negotiate the boat while it teetered end to end. Herb Schmeck of the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC) assisted Kennywood in the construction of the Ark using plans from the then defunct Noah's Ark Company.
This venerable attraction with its hand carved human and animal figures by James V. McDonough, was constructed at a very appropriate time- Pittsburgh was experiencing heavy rains and severe flooding! Despite the weather related problems, they persisted and finally completed the $20,000 attraction which would become a Kennywood trademark for generations to come.
By 1937, Fun on the Farm had been removed to be replaced by "the spookiest place on earth", the Old Haunted Castle at 13 Spook Street, designed by WF. Larkin. Spook Street had previously appeared at the Great Lakes Exposition of 1933 in Cleveland, Ohio. This walkthrough funhouse contained 8 scenes created by Larkin and a collection of pop-up "comic spooks" by PTC in the building which Kennywood constructed. Cost of admission? One thin dime!
R.E. Chambers rebuilt the Laff in the Dark ride cars in 1938 while Traver was adding new stunts such a witch, a hoot owl, rats on a wall, a gorilla, a frog on a mushroom, and an Andy Gump figure. (Andy Gump was a popular cartoon character that appeared in the comic strip The Gumps which ran from 1917 until 1959.)
In 1939 PTC added a few new stunts as well as a Magic Carpet to Spook Street. Weary Kennywood guests gladly seated themselves on the comfortable cushioned bench at the top of the funhouse only to be surprised when it collapsed, depositing them on the now moving Magic Carpet that gently carried them to the exit below.
Leo Kate of Cleveland, PTC, and Traver would continue to add new gags to Noah's Ark from 1939 to 1948 with PTC doing a major revamp around 1941. The Ark in the 40's was a wonderland of stunts. Physical stunts such as the wobbling lily pads,knocking floors, air jets that send skirts flying, sirens, and air horns were a few things that happened in full view of the spectators on the ground as guests made there way up the ramps and stairs leading to the Ark.
Inside, on the upper deck, there were a variety of scenes such as a policeman and Dopey, a tiger and a squirrel, a hound dog and a cat, and falling barrels. Below in the hold walking in the dark became difficult as guests encountered a tilted floor, vibrating floor, and an oscillating floor. Further ahead were a few surprises such as the Goofy Ghost, the Rising Skeleton, and the Falling Coffin (containing a figure that looked like Hitler) as well as another vibrating floor panel before exiting the Ark.
During this time period, Kennywood would also install a ballyhoo at the front of the Ark. Set into Mount Ararat on the right side was a PTC Laughing Luke figure, known as "Old Man Noah" for several seasons. In later years he would himself be replaced, finally becoming Bozo the One Man Band for his final years.
When World War II captured the America's attention, people were looking for more lighted fun. Kennywood responded by replacing the scarier 13 Spook Street with the more comical Daffy Klub in 1941. Re-themed by PTC, the funhouse now included new dark passageways, a tilted room, and a room of doors as well as a new facade.
Guests would encounter a variety of new stunts as they made their way through the dark including a hallway in which "snakes" would brush against their legs: Just when they felt safe, a large snake would suddenly light up and spring at them. Snakes weren't the only hazards lurking in the dark: A charging Rhino, a dog pouncing from his dog house, and falling boxes were other dangers to be dealt with. Less frightful, but equally surprising were two Jack-in-the-boxes. For comic relief, Daffy Klub also included a large blow up duck, a "quick lunch counter" scene, and a scene featuring Pinocchio and Geppeto.
Before exiting the funhouse, guests had to negotiate a blow-up floor air bag in the dark before encountering a set of trick, noisemaking turnstiles as they crossed the stage area in full view of spectators outside.
Laughing Sal came to Kennywood in 1941 to work at the Laff in the Dark while the ride received a new art deco fa�ade in the forties as well.
The distortion mirrors originally made for the Laughing Gallery, which had been in storage since the thirties, were re-silvered and installed in Daffy Klub sometime between 1948 and 1951 along with a few new stunts. Also around that time, the Old Mill received new scenes and a mechanical Monkey Band was installed over the loading platform. (The Monkey Band would be removed in 1974.)
The "Modern" Era Begins
In 1954, the Modern Arts Studios of Chicago re-themed the park's former ballroom as the Enchanted Forest. Toy soldiers adorned the flat, painted fantasy castle facade which marked the entrance to a children's walkthrough attraction that featured scenes from favorite children's stories. A state of the art addition in 1957 brought a closed circuit TV camera to the Forest. The camera was mounted in a corner of the tilted room while the monitor was atop the cashier's booth so everyone could get a glimpse of the fun happening inside. The idea of becoming a "TV star" for a moment increased interest in the Enchanted Forest for several seasons.
The 1954 season also saw the introduction of the Mystery Ride. With a new building front designed by John C. Ray of California, the former Snapper (or Cuddle Up) ride location was converted to a darkride featuring the brand new Pretzel spinning darkride cars. What was the mystery? Why the name of course! It was part of a public relations campaign sponsored by the WDTV television show Happy's Party to name the ride. When the contest was over, the Mystery Ride became the Zoomerang- an African themed ride with elephants, lions, and apes as well as cannibal figures supplied by the Animated Display Company of Minneapolis.
While Zoomerang was "in", Daffy Klub was "out" in 1955 as funhouses were falling out of favor at the park. Replacing the long standing attraction was the new Pastime game building.
The Old Mill, which had been re-themed several times in the previous years, received yet another make over in 1957. This version had a "trip around the world" theme with nine new scenes depicting a bull fight in Spain, a Hawaiian Hula dancer, a tiger from India, a Chinese dragon, an Aborigine and kangaroo for Australia, and an Arabian Harem to name a few. New scenes including a "relaxing nature scene with a waterfall and exotic plants" were added in 1960. The McKeesport Lumber Company created new boats in 1961 and a Santa's workshop scene was installed in 1963. Outdoor scenes added in the 60's included Tarzan swinging on a cable giving his famous yell, an African bull elephant, and a giant skull waterfall.
John C. Ray returned to give Kennywood a face-lift in 1960 by redesigning the lagoon bridge and the Racer and the Laff in the Dark facades. At the same time, the Enchanted Forest received a new look as well with a new medieval castle style front and a new name - the Enchanted Castle. A new dungeon style interior would replace the former children's walkthrough scenery.
Modern Arts Studios returned to the park in 1961 to remake Zoomerang. The new Safari fa�ade now featured a 16 foot tall Zulu warrior. After entering through the jaws of a huge ape, we would find a jungle full of gorillas, odd birds, cannibals, pygmies, witch doctors, and serpents. At the time KDKA TV, had a show named Safari that aired every Saturday morning. That show sponsored a special "Safari day" at the park where children belonging to the "Safari Club" could receive a free ride in the darkride.
When the short lived Freedomland Park in New York City closed, Kennywood purchased its Tornado darkride to replace the Enchanted Forest. Jack Ray was commissioned in 1963 to design the Pennsylvania Hey Ride's turn of the century style ride front as well as some of the interior. This Arrow Development ride had Model T style vehicles to take riders on a journey through a Midwest town and into the path of a twister. Before the Pennsylvania Hey Ride left the drawing board, it again became the Tornado. Many of the stunts in the ride were supplied by Funni-Frite of Lancaster, Ohio. The Tornado was also short lived at Kennywood and was sold to Great Escape Park after the 1966 season.
A little known fact about Kennywood's Tornado is that its ride vehicles were the wrong cars! Cedar Point had purchased Freedomland's Earthquake darkride at the same time. Somewhere in transit the cars ended up at the wrong parks leaving Kennywood's Tornado with the Earthquake cars and Cedar Point's Earthquake having the Tornado cars. Since differences were cosmetic, the parks decided not to trade them. Another bit of trivia is that the cars shared the same rear axle as Arrow's turnpike cars!
Change Comes To Kennywood
The arrival of the Turnpike ride at Kennywood in 1966 unfortunately sealed the fate of Laff in the Dark although it would soon surface in a different location in the park with a new name and a new look. With the Laff in the Dark and Tornado now gone, Bill Tracy's Amusement Display Associated Company was free to start work on the Ghost Ship darkride for 1967. The old Laff cars and track, now heavily modified by Tracy, would continue to carry riders through the dark.
The Ghost Ship with its large rotating, grinning skull-faced crab and ship fa�ade took riders on a journey through the hull of an abandoned ship wreck on the high seas. Seafarers encountered giant rats, pirates, skeletons, and various other scary creatures. A waterfall, a Tracy trademark, was also featured in the ride.
By 1969 Noah's Ark was 33 years old and due for some major renovations so everything but the boat was removed. Mount Ararat was moved to the side of the boat and a new Whale entrance was constructed while the interior received all new stunts. Bozo the One Man Band was removed, but inspired by a similar remodeling of Blackpool Pleasure Beach's Noah's Ark; the new ballyhoo would be a continuous parade of animals circling the attraction on a track.
Since the Ghost Ship was a popular attraction, Kennywood invited Bill Tracy to return to the park in 1972 to transform the Safari into Le Cachot, French for "the dungeon." Tracy's company created a new 50 foot long, 40 foot high front based on his popular Kooky Kastle design. Kennywood's new darkride would be unique however, featuring two large oversized motorcycles driven by skeletons with lances on its fa�ade. The ride would feature 10 animated scenes, a water fall, and a 22 foot long dragon. Along with the remodeling, the ride also received brand new spinning Pretzel cars. In 1976 Henri Pohl of Pohl Enterprises of Huron, Ohio, updated the ride with an octopus and a few new black light scenes.
The Old Mill was renamed and re-themed once again in 1974 this time by Edward D. Hubert of Unique Designs Company of Baltimore, Maryland. The Old Mill became Hard Headed Harold's Horrendously Humorous Haunted Hideaway. The classic old mill now had a western theme with a ghost town and lots of skeletons creating the longest running theme in the ride's history. The original scenes included -various outdoor scenes, mainly grave yards and skeletons; a saloon scene with a bartender, a gunfighter and drunks at a table, a Can-Can dancer, a piano player, and a drunk falling through the swinging saloon doors; a scene with hoot owls; a collapsing mine with skeletons; a ghostly blacksmith and horse; a skeleton playing a harmonica; a jail with a sleeping skeleton jailer and a skeleton trying to steal the cell door keys; and the ride ending with a hanging scene. The dragon heads were removed from the boats and placed into storage this year as well.
Sadly, the Ghost Ship met the same fate as many other classic darkrides. Fire! On June 19, 1975, an electrical problem sparked a fire while the ride was in operation. Quick thinking ride operators safely cleared the ride of all guests and there we no injuries. Making a final sweep of the ride, the last person through was manager Harry Henninger, who thinking his clothes were fire, ran out and leaped into the lagoon!
The blazed also claimed the animated piano player that was formerly in front of the Scooter building as well as the Monkey Band from the Old Mill, and some bumper cars that were stored inside. A serious problem "reared" its head when the park realized it also had lost its entire season's supply of...toilet paper!
Kennywood would finally receive another darkride in 1981 with the arrival of Gold Rusher.Hollywood set designer, Maurice Ayers, and his company, Ayers Studios would create the sometimes funny, sometimes scary darkride above the Sportland building. Along their 550 foot adventure, riders would encounter the Lone Stranger and Tonto, an oncoming locomotive, a crazed miner, and a giant spider with a lady caught in its web to name a few scenes. Bradley and Kay of Long Beach, CA created the ride system which originally had a ground level loading station. In 1984 the hills were removed and the loading platform was elevated to the second story of the building.
In 1987, Kennywood constructed the Pagoda refreshment stand. The hand carved dragon's heads that once graced the Old Mill ~ boats were brought out of storage to adorn the sides of the new building where they remain today.
Although the water ride would remain virtually unchanged, other that the fa�ade being painted blue, the Old Mill name would return in 1993. Sometime during the 90's Frank Fruscillo added a few new outdoor scenes and replaced a collapsing mine scene with a Wild West shoot-out featuring skeletons battling a human sheriff.
Noah's Ark (one of only two left in the world) was due to receive another major renovation in 1996 with plans to remove boat from its foundation. The renovation was almost tragic. When the time came to hoist it off its base, it was discovered that after 60 years of the exposure to the weather, the entire boat had deteriorated beyond repair. All that would remain was the foundation and the original rocking mechanism. At any other park this would be the end of the story for the Noah's Ark, but not at Kennywood! They painstakingly recreated the Ark from scratch. The boat that would be installed would be brand new from the outside structure to the new interior. (Two "shaker floor" stunts are the only gags that remain from the original Ark.) The recreation was so perfect that most park goers have no idea that this is not the original boat.
While a trip through the Ark would still present guests with Noah and some animals, several new devices were added to bring the attraction up to date. Entry into the Ark would be through a rickety old elevator which "malfunctions" sending guests "plunging" down the mine shaft to the "caverns" below. Walking through an excavation area, guests would walk a precarious path avoe an area where the ancient remains of skeletons could be seen below. Further ahead, a room which rocked side to side was added to give the feeling of being on a ship at sea in a storm. For a bit of nostalgia, below in the hold, guests would again cross the shaking floor boards salvaged from the old Ark. Another nod to the "old days" is the inclusion of some of the old funhouse mirrors from Daffy Klub just before the final room of the Ark. To make their way out our adventurers would have to enter the "bathyscaphe" in order to return to the "surface." Of course, that would not be without incident either as they soon discover that the vessel is succumbing to the pressure of the sea with its walls buckling and spraying water everywhere.
Much to the dismay of its fans, a long time favorite at the park, Le Cachot, was removed in 1998 due to the deteriorated condition of the building. A brand new ride sensation would make its appearance in 1999.Part rollercoaster, part darkride, Exterminator would combine features of past rides and would introduce riders to a brand new experience. Combine a the spinning cars of Safari with the giant rats of Ghost Ship, throw in a Wild Mouse rollercoaster and put it all in the dark and you have a unique ride unlike any other to ever thrill Kennywood guests. Exterminator was a joint effort of R & R Creative Amusement Design, Sally Corp., and coaster manufacturer Reverchon.
The park's oldest and most beloved ride, the Old Mill, once again experienced a face-lift in the 2004 season. The skeletons and ghost were evicted and had been replaced with something from a nightmare! Garfield's Nightmare to be exact! Get your special 3-D glasses ready and join Garfield for a trip through his bad dream with food gone wild in 3-D!
The 2004 variation of the Old Mill was created by Dark Rider/Halloween Productions, Inc. as the industries first Garfield themed dark attraction. The rides formerly open areas were enclosed and its long dark passages were changed to present a festival of color. The entire ride was decorated with a variety of brightly painted fluorescent colored items which glow brilliantly under the extensive blacklight illumination and which seem to pop out or even move when viewed with the supplied ChromaDepth� glasses. Even without the glasses, the effects are great.
The new Old Mill follows Garfield through a nightmare featuring frolicking food items, despicable dogs, ferocious fish, malicious mice, a demented delivery man, and a vengeful vet. The Franken-weenie especially fun!
For the first time, the queue line (now located between the loading platform and the rides structure) features video monitors relating the history of the Old Mill from the early days to the current Garfield configuration.
Thankfully, Kennywood decided to re-theme the Old Mill to entertain yet another generation of park goers, despite the fact that this slow moving ride could have been leveled and replaced with several new rides, each with a larger capacity for riders. Some things are much more important than making a few more dollars.
Kennywood did manage to make up for a portion of that potential lost income by installing a new game, snack bar, gift shop, and two photo booths (for Garfield and the antique car ride) all within the area of the former queue line.
Though many changes have occurred at Kennywood over the last the last century, there is one thing will never change - Kennywood will always be the place to go for a day of fun!