— the Playground of Ohio
How It All Started
In 1894, the Ohio General Assembly declared Licking Reservoir a public park by the name of Buckeye Lake. In 1904, the Columbus, Buckeye Lake and Newark Traction Company's Interurban Electric Railway was completed. Joining the trend of providing an attraction at the end of the line to boost weekend business, the rail company offered tourist attractions on a nine-acre plot at the north shore of the Buckeye Lake. By 1911, the Buckeye Lake area boasted two dance pavilions, a swimming beach and bath house, arcade, picnic area and ballpark, boat excursions and power boat races.
1920's The Roaring Twenties
New rides, including a ferris wheel and a twirling, spinning car ride, were added in the 1920s. At the close of the decade, work began on the "Dips" roller coaster. Admission was free, and pocket change was enough to purchase a fistful of tickets for the rides and arcade games.
1930's The Thrilling Thirties
During the lean years of the Great Depression, Buckeye Lake Amusement Park provided wholesome and affordable family entertainment that brightened many peoples' difficult lives. The "Dips" and Skateland roller rink were favorite attractions.
1940's The Glamorous Forties
The park was in its heyday, entertaining as many as 50,000 visitors a day. In addition to welcoming swimmers daily, the fabulous Crystal Pool hosted water shows by Hollywood celebrities. The Swing dance craze of the 1940s kept the dance halls packed with fans of the world-famous traveling Big Bands. The Crystal Ballroom and Pier Ballroom hosted such big names as Glen Miller, Louis Armstrong, and more.
Two Parks in One
Buckeye Lake was officially designated an Ohio State Park in 1949 with the creation of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The park office was originally located at the hub of activity within the amusement park. Today, all that is left of the Buckeye Lake Amusement Park—once known as the Playground of Ohio—is the fountain that once served as the centerpiece of the midway.
On a fine summer day, standing by that fountain near the parking lot filled with boat trailers and anglers dotting the shore, one can almost picture the old crowded midway here, the Crystal Pool over there and the roller coaster off in the distance. Buckeye Lake Amusement Park lives on only in photographs and memories but the state park remains, providing all the best for your amusement.
Visit the Greater Buckeye Lake Historical Society Museum (4729 Walnut Road (S.R. 79) in Buckeye Lake, OH) to see more photos and artifacts.
Photos courtesy of Chance Brockway.