Lost Attractions

The following is an article from Uncle John's Curiously Compelling Bathroom Reader.

As a kid growing up in New Jersey, Uncle John often went to Palisades Amusement Park. Then one day they announced they were tearing it down to build an apartment complex. Many areas have an attraction like that -it's an important part of the cultural landscape for decades ...and then it's gone.

ATTRACTION: The Hippodrome

LOCATION: New York City

STORY: When it opened in 1905, it was called "the largest theater in the world." With a seating capacity of 5,300, only the biggest acts -in both size and popularity- performed there: Harry Houdini, diving horses, the circus, 500-person choirs. But the daily upkeep for such a mammoth theater, coupled with the cost of staging huge shows, forced a change. In 1923 it became a vaudeville theater and then, in 1928, it was sold to RKO and turned into a movie theater. It then became an opera house. Then a sport arena. The Hippodrome was finally torn down in 1939.

WHAT'S THERE NOW: An office building and a parking garage.

ATTRACTION: Aquatarium

LOCATION: St. Petersburg, Florida

STORY: Housed in a 160-foot-tall transparent geodesic dome, the 17-acre Aquatarium opened in 1964. Tourists came from far and wide to visit this aquarium, which overlooked the Gulf of Mexico and was home to porpoises, sea lions, and pilot whales. But it rapidly started losing customers -and money- when the bigger and better Walt Disney World opened in nearby Orlando in 1971. In 1976 sharks were brought in and the site was renamed Shark World to capitalize in the popularity of Jaws, but it didn't help.

WHAT'S THERE NOW: Condominiums.

ATTRACTION: Pink and White Terraces

LOCATION: Lake Rotomahana, New Zealand

STORY: Called the eighth wonder of the world, the Terraces were once New Zealand's most popular and famous tourist attraction. They were two naturally-occurring "staircases" of silica shelves that looked like pink and white marble. Each terrace (they were two miles apart) was formed over thousands of years. Geysers spouted silica-laden hot water which flowed downhill and then crystallized into terraces as it cooled. But on June 10, 1886, a nearby volcano -Mount Tarawera- erupted, spewing lava, hot mud, and boulders. The eruption destroyed the village of Te Wairoa, killing 153 people, and hot magma completely destroyed the terraces.

WHAT'S THERE NOW: Shapeless rock.

ATTRACTION: Jantzen Beach

LOCATION: Portland, Oregon

STORY: When it opened in 1928, this 123-acre amusement park on an island in the middle of the Columbia River was the largest in the United States. It housed a merry-go-round from the 1904 World's Fair, four swimming pools, a fun house, a train, and the Big Dipper -a huge wooden roller coaster. More than 30 million people visited the "Coney Island of the West" over its lifetime. But after World War II attendance started to decline and continued steadily downward until the park finally closed in 1970.

WHAT'S THERE NOW: A shopping mall.

ATTRACTION: Palisades Amusement Park

LOCATION: Cliffside Park and Fort Lee, New Jersey

STORY: Built on steep cliffs on the west side of the Hudson River, it began in 1898 as a grassy park for picnics and recreation. In 1908 it was renamed Palisades Amusement Park and rides and attractions were added. It boasted a 400-by-600-foot saltwater pool ("world's largest"); the Cyclone, one of the biggest roller coasters in the country; and then in the 1950s, rock 'n' roll shows. Attendance grew during that period because of heavy advertising on TV and in comic books. (There was a hole in the fence behind the music stage kept open to let kids sneak in to avoid paying the 25-cent admission fee.) By 1967, the park had gotten too popular. The city of Cliffside Park was tired of park-related traffic, litter, and parking problems, so it rezoned the site for housing (it had great views of Manhattan). The park was shut down for good in 1971. Plans to retain the saltwater pool were scrapped when vandals destroyed it.

WHAT'S THERE NOW: High-rise apartment buildings.

ATTRACTION: Crystal Palace

LOCATION: London, England

STORY: The massive 750,000 square foot structure originally housed the Great Exhibition of 1851, then was moved from Hyde Park to South London in 1854. Designed to evoke ancient Greek structures, the Crystal Palace featured dozens of columns, girders, and arches made of iron, and 900,000 square feet of glass. The building and surrounding grounds housed artwork and treasures from all over the world, including 250-foot-high fountains (requiring two water towers), gardens, and life-size replicas of dinosaurs, The coronation of King George V was held there, as was the annual English soccer championship. But after 1900, attendance started to dwindle. The Palace was closed on Sundays, the only day most Londoners had off from work. Then, in 1936, the Palace caught fire. The blaze was visible for miles. The building wasn't properly insured, so there wasn't enough to pay for rebuilding. All that was left were the water towers, later demolished during World War II out of fear Germany could use them to more easily locate London.

WHAT'S THERE NOW: A sports-arena complex.

ATTRACTION: Old Man of the Mountain

LOCATION: Cannon Mountain, New Hampshire

STORY: In 1805 surveyors Francis Whitcomb and Luke Brooks discovered this rock formation in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Viewed from the correct angle, it had the appearance of a man's face. It jutted out 1,200 feet above Profile Lake and was estimated to be 40 feet tall and 25 feet wide. Nineteenth-century politician Daniel Webster and novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote about the Old Man and helped make it a state icon. The Old Man graces New Hampshire's state quarter and a postage stamp. Signs of deterioration were first noticed in 1906, and ever since, various methods -including cables and spikes- have been used to keep the face in place. But they didn't work. In 2003, the Old Man finally collapsed and crumbled.

WHAT'S THERE NOW: A rocky cliff. Viewfinders looking at the former landmark superimpose an image of the Old Man when it was intact to show visitors what it looked like.


The article above is reprinted with permission from Uncle John's Curiously Compelling Bathroom Reader, a fantastic book by the Bathroom Readers' Institute.

The 19th book in this fan-favorite series contain such gems like The Greatest Plane that Never Was, Forgotten Robot Milestones, Ancient Beauty Secrets, and more.

Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts.

If you like Neatorama, you'll love the Bathroom Reader Institute's books - go ahead and check 'em out!

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I used to go to Aquatarium as a kid. The thing I remember most was the hot wax-pressed sculptures you could buy with a few coins. I can still smell the freshly made blue wax dolphin I got one time.
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I don't think the Crystal Palace site is now a sports complex, that's a little further down in the park. The physical site looking at google maps is labeled as a caravan park.
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