The Big Picture

Waldameer Park in Erie, Pennsylvania
In the late 1890s, as streetcar lines started to crisscross many cities in the United States, the operators of those lines came up with the same idea. In order to increase ridership on nights and weekends, when people weren’t going to work, they would build a picnic area at the end of the line.

And, as the streetcars went from being horse-drawn to electrified, the trolley parks started to add rides, leading to the invention of the amusement park. In Cleveland, it was Euclid Beach. In Detroit, it was Electric Park. And in Erie, it was Waldameer Park.

Waldameer Park started as a picnic ground called Hoffman’s Grove, overlooking Lake Erie. The Erie Electric Motor Co. opened an amusement park there in 1896, served by the company’s West Eighth Street line, and later the West Twelfth Street line. The park’s name came from German, for “woods by the sea.”

The park included a dance hall and a carousel, but continued to grow, adding three roller coasters and other rides. By 1935, the trolleys had been supplanted by cars. But Waldameer Park soldiered on. Its Comet, built in 1951, is certified as a Coaster Classic by American Coaster Enthusiasts.

In 1986, the park opened a water park, Water World, with funds raised from selling off many of its classic rides, which the park replaced. After nearly 120 years, the park remains a fun destination for families around Lake Erie.