The Lakeside Amusement Park in Denver, Colorado is a place where the residents of the Mile High City have come for fun for more than a century. It is a magnificent piece of American history, being one of the oldest amusement parks still operating in the country, as well as the oldest in the state still functioning on its original location.
Opened in 1908, under the name of White City, the amusement park is the place that brings up sweet memories for many of the residents of Denver. Dubbed ‘The Coney Island of the West’ after the world famous attraction from New York, the White City aimed to match the grandeur of other amusement parks across the U.S. Lakeside Amusement Park is the last park in existence from the numerous White Cities which were opened during the amusement park craze of the last decade of the 19th century. Inspired by a section of the World’s Columbian Exposition from 1893, most of these parks featured a Shoot-the-Chutes ride, a Ferris wheel, a rollercoaster, as well as numerous other games and pavilions. Denver’s White City also featured these attractions, and some of them are still working today as a testimony of the enduring charm of these turn-of-the century creations.
Flooded by more than a 100,000 lights that illuminated the place as daylight, the White City was a fully-fledged resort, catering for the needs of Denver most pretentious pleasure-seekers. Highlights among the many attraction of the resort were the huge indoor swimming pool, the ballrooms, theater performances and exclusivist restaurants. Serving as a landmark, not just for the park but for the city of Denver, the Tower of Jewels stood as the tallest building in the state for a number of years. The Tower was lighted by thousands of fixtures and it originally sported a huge spotlight that shined upon the Ferris wheel. The resort’s casino used to function in the tower, where the rich of Denver came to gamble their money away. Today the Tower still stands as a central piece of the park alongside with 14 other original buildings, and houses the park administration offices.
The park went through a period of transformation during the 1930s when investors bought the property and set on a massive work of renovation and rejuvenating. During this time, the park changed name to the Lakeside Amusement Park, which is well suited due to its placing on the side of Lake Rhoda. The lake has been used as an integrated part of the amusement park through the addition of a pier where visitors could rent boats for a ride on the lake. The parks Art Deco themed architecture also dates from this period, when many additions and improvements were made to the original infrastructure. Besides the original buildings, the Lakeside Park is home to a number of architectural treasures, salvaged from the surrounding areas. A good example is the marble and mirror bar found in one of the park’s restaurant that was taken from the old Denver Union Station. Other historic buildings and structures have been adapted to a new use in the park, such as the old Shoot-the-Chutes ride, which is used now as a pool for a new water ride.
Traveling through the tumultuous 20th century into the present, the Lakeside Amusement Park came to represent a symbol of the city of Denver, where buildings from the early days of the century and the crazy 1930s come together with modern structures to create a unique, living piece of American history.