Thrills, Dips, and Trips

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The glitz and glamour of New York’s long-gone Luna Park

For families all across the country, summer means the thrills, dips, trips, and fried food glory of an amusement park or county fair. Nostalgic for last century’s “fun fairs,” we dug into some bygone scenes of Luna Park, a long-dismantled amusement park that once sat atop the cliffs of the Mohawk in Rexford.

The park was opened in 1906 and attracted Schenectadians who arrived via the newly built trolley-line. In its heyday, Luna Park (which was also known over its short lifetime as Rexford Park, The Colonnade and Dolles Park) entertained more than 10,000 daily visitors.

Thrill-seekers braved the park’s famous roller-coaster and The Whip (think early version of the scrambler), as mellower visitors stood in line for the carousel. Performers dazzled with daredevil, illusion, and acrobatic shows, and a lively midway and Japanese Bazaar attracted those who wanted to test their skill. Local bands performed music throughout the park.

Perhaps it was the onset of the Great Depression and the tightening of belts, or perhaps the prevalence of the automobile that brought families further afield, that caused the crowds to dwindle. The park that entertained families for three decades closed its ticket booths after the 1933 season and was dismantled in 1935.

If you find yourself boating or kayaking on the Mohawk, take great care about a half mile west of the Rexford Bridge. Barely below the surface of the water, you can still see the remains of the piers that once held the worlds longest trolley bridge, the connector of one shore to another that ferried passengers to and from this once-beloved amusement park.

 

Ferris wheel
Most of the Ferris wheel seats are occupied by riders while park visitors walk around the
attraction or rest on nearby benches.

 

The Dunadins with their cycles
Two of the costumed “Dunadin Girls” pose with a bicycle. The Dunadins, an acrobatic cycling act, entertained crowds at the Luna Park circa 1907. The Figure 8 roller coaster building looms behind them.

 

Passengers on the roller-coaster
Passengers riding the original roller-coaster (it was later replaced by a newer model in a different location in the park). Also visible: the row of columns that marked the park entrance and, in the bottom right corner, trolley tracks.

 

Silhouette artist
A young woman gazes at the framed silhouette samples resting on an easel while a small crowd looks on. The silhouette artist leans towards her, perhaps describing his wares or cutting her silhouette.

 

Hand-powered merry-go-round
Riders enjoy the hand-powered merry-go-round at Luna Park circa 1906 – 1910, while the ride operator at right guides or pushes the machinery with a rope or pole. An organ at the center of the ride provides music.

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