About two months ago I attended a presentation by Matthew Caulfield on the history of Seabreeze Park . Caulfield started working at the park when he was a young twenty-something whippersnapper. At some point he got himself a “real job” at the Library of Congress. Now in his 80’s and retired, he’s back doing what he loves, as the park’s archivist. The following notes and images are just a snippet of his entire presentation which he has assembled over time with the help of his friend Alan Mueller…
In the late 1800’s much of the land headlands between Lake Ontario and Irondequoit Bay was owned by the Rochester & Suburban Railway Co. (later Rochester Transit Corp.). The only way to get to the area at the time was by boat or rail, and Rochester & Suburban Railway Co. encouraged concessionaires to set up on their land. This created a destination, and of course more business for the transit company. The area was already a popular resort destination by 1903, filled with small amusements and “hotels” (a.k.a. pubs), when the first ride appeared – a Figure 8 Coaster operated by Paul Moore.
In the 1890’s, the Long family moved their carousel-building business from England to America. Most of them settled in Philadelphia, but a few including Arthur Long, settled in Rochester. Arthur operated a carousel at Ontario Beach from 1892 to 1907. In 1904 Arthur wrote to his brother George about opportunities at Seabreeze.
George wasn’t having much luck operating his carousel in Norfolk, VA, so he packed it up, moved to Rochester, and opened up again at Seabreeze. His son, George Long Jr. (shown left) was just 12 at the time. Junior would later purchase the entire park in 1946 for $85,000 after renting it for a time from the trolley company. He renamed it Dreamland Park and closely managed every aspect of its operation until he retired in 1973. When his children took over the business they renamed it Seabreeze.
Other Fun Stuff…
Built in 1914, Karnival Kourt was a long promenade of games and rides. It burned down in 1932. One of the rides at Karnival Kourt was Honeymoon Trail. Matthew Caulfield says he has no idea what was in this ride, but he jokes, it always looked dark and trashy so he never went in it.
This was a section of the park called Boardwalk Park. Owned by Andrew Bornkessel, Boardwalk Park had to be picked up and moved from the north side of Culver Road (then Woodland Road) to the south side because of a land dispute with the Rochester Suburban Railway Co.
Boardwalk Park went out of business in the 1950’s and Bornkessel sold it to a man by the name of Lipsih and his partners who built a drive-in theater there. Unfortunately the theater did not win approval from the Town of Irondequoit and was never opened. Apparently people were afraid drivers would be distracted by the giant screen which was facing toward Culver Road. (Can you see the movie screen in the photo above?) The land was eventually purchased by Seabreeze for its water park and additional parking.
I know you’ll recognize the Jack Rabbit roller coaster (above, right). But you’re probably not as familiar with the Old Mill (left). The Old Mill was a water ride – sort of an early version of what we’d refer to today as a log-flume.
The Jack Rabbit was repaired and got a new loading dock. And the Old Mill was completely rebuilt (on the other side of the Jack Rabbit). But by the 1940’s the water ride was leaking so badly that the park turned it into a dry ride and renamed it “The Subway.”
Incidentally, the man who operated the Jack Rabbit, Jack Kirby, literally lived in a house with his wife underneath the roller coaster.
Over the years the park has been plagued by fire. One of the most heart-breaking was the fire that claimed the Seabreeze carousel on March 31, 1994. IMPORTANT: Do NOT try to tar your roof with a propane torch on a windy day.
The carousel that was lost was PTC #36, built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company in 1915 for George Long. George had originally placed the ride in Seneca Park , but in 1926 he decided to move it to Seabreeze – Seabreeze was making far more money than Seneca Park.
Here’s a photo of two attractions that still exist to this day. One of course is the Jack Rabbit. And immediately above it in the photo is the Natatorium. Built at a cost of $300,000 in 1925, this was the world’s largest heated saltwater pool. It was the size of a football field!
So where is the Natatorium today? Well, due to the Great Depression, it wasn’t able to attract the number of patrons needed to pay for it’s operation. So in 1931 it was drained and shut down. A roof was added and it became a bingo hall. Today the building is used as a warehouse for the park.
There’s much much more to Matthew Caulfield’s presentation. And if you ever have the opportunity to catch him speak at a library near you, I’d highly recommend it. He’s full of great stories about Rochester’s favorite amusement park. Thanks Matthew!
Additional Seabreeze Historic Notes
via Matthew Caufield
CONFUSIONS CAUSED BY DIFFERENT STRUCTURES WITH SIMILAR FUNCTIONS
When the Longs came to Seabreeze in 1904 there were already two other M.G.R.s in the area besides the one they installed, in a building that G.W. Long, Sr., built at the south end of the park. One of the two, owned by a man named Brown, from Albion, was in the Grove from 1903 on Brown would follow fair dates and the settle the machine in the Grove for the summer. The other M.G.R. was the one on the lakefront and owned by Pauly Moore. Both were early Spillman track machines. The 1920 blueprint shows three M.G.R.’s: the Long machine, the Moore track machine, and one across Culver Road, south of the Moore machine in what was to become Boardwalk Park.
According to an article in the 8-7-1893 Union & Advertiser, Jacob Kohler and Henry Tussing, both of Tonawanda, N.Y., owned a M.G.R. and in the early spring of 1893 they moved the machine to Sea Breeze and set it up in Behler’s Grove.
They hired George Lawrence to help them run it, all three men living in a shanty near the Grove. The three men were musicians and they would play for the entertainment of the patrons of Link’s Pavilion.
In 1915 park owners wanted to build the Dreamland dance hall where the Long M.G.R. stood. So G.W.L.., Jr., built a new building on the site north of the trolley/bus loop. It was that building that burned in 1994.
The first dance hall was “Dreamland,” built in 1915 close to the where the Jack Rabbit loading platform would be put in 1920. It burned August 25, 1923 (from 11:25 p.m. to 7 a.m. the next day), the fire being fed by an underdraft caused by the fact that the dance hall was built over a ravine. That fire destroyed the Jack Rabbit loading platform, lift hill, and the original Old Mill to the east of the Jack Rabbit.
In 1924 a new dance hall, “Danceland,” was constructed, using the plans from the first, just south and west of the mend hill of the Jack Rabbit, north of the Dodgem. As its popularity waned, it was converted to a bingo hall. It burned the night of May 1-2, 1940, the alarm being turned in at 8:20 p.m. on May 1st. Two hose lines played water on the Jack Rabbit to keep it from burning.
There were at least three bingo venues over the years. One was in the converted Danceland, after it was no longer used for dances. The Natatorium (constructed 1925, opened July 1, 1925, drained and closed May 24, 1931) was covered over and used as a bingo hall until World War 2. Later a bingo hall was set up in the building between the M.G.R. and the Penny Arcade that had been used as a roller skating rink.
Mention of Stahley’s roller coaster, 1892.
Figure Eight. Built 1903. It was removed in 1920 to make way for the Jack Rabbit. Paul Ruben incorrectly reports that G.W. Long tore it down in 1921 to make way for the Virginia Reel.
Dips. Built 1916 (verified by 1917 clipping, stating it was “completed late last summer”) by T.M. Harton. Name changed to Greyhound at end of 1926. Located east of M.G.R. Ghost Train complex. Station now used for Bumper Car ride. Suffered fire damage 1930. Badly damaged by the fire of 10-6-1933, according to newspaper accounts. Apparently not rebuilt.
Jack Rabbit. Built 1920 by Miller & Baker. New loading platform and lift hill, plus new Old Mill, built after the August 1923 Dreamland dance hall fire, which also destroyed Hilarity Hall (a hall of mirrors type fun house?).
Virginia Reel. Built 1921, in spot later occupied by Lightning Bug, Gyrosphere, Music Express, in succession. Partially destroyed by fire on October 5, 1930. Rebuilt as the Jack and Jill Scenic Coaster, a kiddie ride, which burned in 1931.
Wildcat. Built 1926, according to data on Internet, by Philadelphia Toboggan Co. (other date given in TEXTS file: 1921; in PICTURES file; 1924). Located immediately north of the Jack Rabbit, with part of it lying next to and east of the Jack Rabbit. Burned (“condemned” according to some accounts) in 1935.
Junior Coaster. Built on wooden tracks by G.W. Long in 1954. Rebuilt on tubular rails as Bobsleds in the winter of 1961 (not in 1968 as stated elsewhere). D&C article of June 10, 1962, shows Bobsleds.
Bunny Rabbit, 1985-1996. Allen Herschell ride acquired from Belle Island Village, where it was their “Little D.” Replaced in 1997 by Bear Trax.
Quantum Loop, 1994-2003. Replaced by Whirlwind, 2004.
There were at least three stages. One was part of the Natatorium, on its southern side, facing the pool. The other two, the Old Stage and the New Stage, were on the green where the Log Flume now sits. The New Stage blew off its foundation in a 1950’s hurricane. A replacement was started, but was never finished, because it was torn down in connection with building the “Over the Falls” and its approach.
Dodgem. Built by G.W. Long in 1922 (Merrick gives 1919 and 1921) to the west of the Jack Rabbit lift hill and south of the Pagoda. Later used as games pavilion by Ken Murai.
Bumper Cars. Uses loading platform of old Greyhound coaster. Called New Skooter when owned by Jack Kirby.
Old Mill water dark ride…
Original Old Mill built on the land between the loops of the Jack Rabbit (see 1920 park blueprint) with loading platform and water wheel immediately northeast of the Jack Rabbit platform. Rebuilt after the August 1923 Dreamland dance hall fire under and adjacent to the lack Rabbit lift hill. Later converted to the waterless Subway, then to Kaleidoscope. Torn down when Kirby house removed.
Similar things in different locations over time…
Tumble Bug at south end of park, 1920. Later version, Lightning Bug, to east of M.G.R..
Miniature Railroad to east of Jack Rabbit. Train, using old Odenbach Shipyard cars, between toilets and Stage to bluff now taken by Seabreeze Expressway (rte. 590).
Pauly Moore’s track M.G.R. originally on lake shore beyond RR tracks. Later M.G.R. immediately to west of Ferris Wheel in Boardwalk Park.
Circle Swing, installed 1908, ca. 1930 still at south end of park between Danceland and Dodgem. In 1940’s at north end of park as Sky Ride.
Tom Thumb Golf Course ca. 1930 between Natatorium and Danceland. ln 1950’s was at far north end of Dreamland Park bordering Boardwalk Park, and in 1940’s reaching to Culver Road bend.
Caterpillar first at south end of park. In 1940’s at north end, with HeyDey and Sky Ride.
Penny Arcade was one of buildings fronting the Greyhound on west side; destroyed by 1933 fire along with adjoining Dodgem, Cave of the Winds,
Shooting Gallery (Liquid Gas Range), Shuffle Board, and Archery (see 1932 blueprint). Sanborn map of 1924 shows a Penny Arcade at the west edge of the park along the trolley tracks north of the MG-R.
George’s Flasher Game (George Coyle). In 1940’s-1950’s Leonard Nenning’s Flasher adjoining Main Refreshment Stand (Pat’s Stand) to its south.
Loop-O-Plane at north end, east of Penny Arcade, ca. 1950. Mike Orsini’s Dutch Shoes at Kirby end of park later in 1950’s.
1923 — Dreamland dance hall (built 1915) destroyed by fire August 1923. Damage to Old Mill and Jack Rabbit.
1930 — Virginia Reel (built 1921) partially destroyed by fire on October 5, 1930. Rebuilt as Jack & Jill Scenic Coaster
1931 — Jack & Jill Scenic Coaster destroyed by fire.
1932 — Karnival Kourt (opened 1917) destroyed by fire August 31, 1932.
1933 — Greyhound roller coaster (built 1916) slightly damaged by 1930 fire. Severely damaged by fire October 6, 1933. Not rebuilt. Station now used for Bumper Cars.
1935 — Wildcat roller coaster (built 1926) damaged by fire and condemned.
1940 — Danceland dance hall (built 1924) burned the night of May 1-2, 1940. It had been turned into a Bingo hall in the 1930’s.
1949 — Boardwalk Park M.G.R., Penny Arcade, Fortune Teller booth, Bingo stand, two Shooting Galleries, Refreshment stand destroyed in $50,000 fire September 28, 1949
1985 — Waffle Stand damaged by fire. Repaired and taken over from concessionaire by park.
1994 — PTC #36, Pizza Stand, Penny Arcade, Goofy House, Ghost Train destroyed by fire March 31, 1994
Tags: Alan Mueller, Arthur Long, Boardwalk Park, carousel, Danceland, Dreamland, George Long, Honeymoon Trail, Irondequoit, Jack Kirby, Jack Rabbit, Karnival Kourt, Matthew Caulfield, natatorium, Old Mill, Paul Moore, Philadelphia Toboggan Company, Rochester & Suburban Railway Co., Rochester Transit Corporation, Seabreeze Amusement Park, Town of Irondequoit
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