Chippewa Lake Amusement Park | 142 Years Of History
I don’t know what draws so many people to build amusement parks by lakes in Ohio.
Maybe it’s for the view. Maybe it’s for recreational opportunities. Or maybe because the only other alternative is a cornfield.
Welcome to Chippewa Lake, a small lake just south of Medina that has provided entertainment for its inhabitants of hundreds of years.
The decaying remnants of an amusement park have slowly been reclaimed by nature near the lakeside. If you were to drive by, you’d likely miss it completely.
Chippewa Lake has been a natural gathering place for people for hundreds of years, and has attracted everyone from the native Chippewa tribesmen, to early 1900s entrepreneurs. In 1875 a man by the name of Edward Andrews thought the lake would make for a great park ground. He was right.
Soon a few picnic tables were installed, and Andrew’s Pleasure Grounds was born. Outside of its strange name, and having been mistaken for a completely different type of establishment, the park did well for a while. With not much to do, many of the pleasure grounds visitors would get drunk and swim. If you wanted to tie one on by the water, this was the place to do it back in the 1870s.
Andrew saw that he needed to do more to attract people to his grounds of pleasure. He arranged for a steamboat to give rides across the lake, and even built one of the park’s first roller coasters. The coaster was crude and consisted of one large single drop. It was so basic, that the cart had to be manually pushed up the hill each time. Talk about exhausting.
The Birth Of Chippewa Lake Park
In 1898 a man by the name of Mac Beach made Edward an offer he couldn’t refuse, and purchased the land with the intent on making a much bigger and better park. As Mac saw the drunken shenanigans that were happening he immediately placed a ban on liquor sales, and began structuring the park as a family-friendly place to come for entertainment.
Food stands were built, and live music played every single night. Soon Mac’s son, Parker Beach began to manage the day to day operations of Chippewa Lake amusement park.
The park slowly grew over time, and by The Roaring 20s, things we’re really swingin’. It was about this time that the first ‘real’ roller coaster was installed. Formally known as the Big Dipper, this wooden coaster stood roughly 50ft high and survived for over 80 years until it was demolished in 2010.
Surviving The Great Depression
Parker Beach just barely held on to the park during the Great Depression, and went completely bankrupt in 1934. It’s reported that in 1937, Parker had just $18 left in his pocket after he bought the park for $3,500 at a sheriff’s sale.
Chippewa Lake Park would continue to live on for another 40 years.
As the park’s popularity grew, so did it’s attractions. Before it’s closure the parks boasted three roller coasters, a carousel, a ballroom, and a Ferris wheel which is completely overgrown and can still be seen to this day. Traffic to the park would continue to remain steady until the early 1970s.
Big Lake, Bigger Problems
By 1969, the park was acquired by Continental Business Enterprises, and they had even BIGGER plans for the park ground. They envisioned the park could be expanded upon, and turned into a sprawling summer resort. The public was not interested in this idea, and the plans were soon thrown out completely.
With these plans now awash, the park struggled to compete against the quickly growing Cedar Point and Geauga Lake amusement parks. Chippewa Lake lacked both the funding and the ideal location to keep a steady flow of guests coming to the park. In addition to the mounting competition, the surrounding steel and rubber industries which provided the area with an economic boom had all closed or moved elsewhere.
In 1978, just 100 years after Andrew’s Pleasure Grounds first opened, Chippewa Lake Park would come to a close. The park went out with a whisper, as no one knew that it was closing its doors for good.
30 Years Of Neglect
When the park closed its doors, everything inside remained largely untouched. Many of the rides were still in working order, but that changed as time began to take its toll on the property. Harsh Ohio winters began to chip away and rust the park’s attraction, and entire trees had grown up through the gaps in some of the roller coaster tracks.
More notably, the Ferris wheel which is still there to this day has completely been swallowed by bramble and surrounding greenery. A true monument to happier times.
The ballroom, which was built in 1920 had fallen victim to arson on June 13th, 2002. It’s twisted metal remains can be seen not too far from the entrance of the park. By 2008, many of the other buildings, including the hotel, funhouse, arcade, and maintenance building had all been destroyed by fire.
Redevelopment Plans “Chippewa Landing”
In the fall of 2008, Chippewa Partners LLC announced a plan for a new attraction on the land of the former park named Chippewa Landing. Much like the previous plans the goal was to build restaurants, spas, shopping centers, and a hotel to accommodate and entertain guests.
The completion date came and went, and by 2010 only half of the demolition was completed to clear the land. The plans were scrapped due to a lawsuit, and efforts to auction off the property failed. The property was listed for 3.7 million dollars and still sits rotting away to this day.
Buried In The Park…?
Shortly after the park’s permanent closure, former owner Parker Beach requested that he be buried in the amusement park. Rumor has it that his family agreed and that Mr. Beach is buried somewhere near where the Big Dipper coaster once stood.
After doing some digging, it appears this rumor probably isn’t true. According to Find A Grave, Mr. Parker died in 1992 and is buried in Mound Hill Cemetery in Medina County. (Sorry to suck the fun out of that urban legend.)
Before You Go
Many of the rides have been removed, sold, or destroyed, but there are still some relics from the past that can be rediscovered. Like most places, this park is located on private property and is not open to visitors.
The amusement park is located at…Chippewa Lake. Just south of Medina, OH.
The park closed for good in 1978.
The park is located on Big Injun Trail, off of Lake Road.
There’s no reason to believe the lake, or park is haunted.
Many of the rides have been removed. You can still find remnants of the ballroom and coaster tracks.
Parker Beach wanted to be buried at the park when he died. No one knows for sure if his body is in the park or not. In the documentary “Welcome Back Riders” the ending credits mention his grave. “Be respectful if you try to find Parker Beach’s Grave. Let him enjoy his park in peace. …It’s by the roller coaster.“