The Rise and Suspiciously Rapid Fall of Freedomland U.S.A.

Freedomland, U.S. A. was a history-based theme park in the East Bronx. Attractions included numerous boat rides, the San Francisco Earthquake ride, and a recreation of the Chicago Fire -with real fire that kids helped extinguish.

Billed as the world’s largest amusement park when it opened on June 19, 1960, Freedomland was quickly nicknamed the “Disneyland of the East.” Spread across 205 acres, the park dwarfed the actual Disneyland. For weeks prior to its debut, newspapers ran fervent articles hyping Freedomland’s ability to serve 50,000 hamburgers and hot dogs per hour, its eight miles of navigable waterways for river rides, its 8,500-car parking lot, and the 5,000 original costumes worn by its historical re-enactors.

The cost was just as newsworthy. “Twenty-two movie spectaculars could be produced for the investment in Freedomland,” The New York Times marveled. The $65 million price tag “is also equivalent to 195 top-budget Broadway musicals or 130 hour-long TV spectaculars.”

Twenty-five thousand people, breathless with anticipation, jammed the opening-day celebration.

But Freedomland declared bankruptcy in 1964. Was it rising ticket prices? A sign of the times? Or was it a conspiracy between those who wanted the valuable New York real estate for other purposes? Read about the rise and fall of Freedomland U.S.A. with an overview of other failed theme parks at Atlas Obscura.

(Image source: Mike Virgintino collection)

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