About Lincoln Park
A Little History and Background
The Year was 1894. The Union Street Railway Company decided to construct a small park in Dartmouth MA that would connect Fall River and New Bedford. The Rail Company purchased 46 acres of land in Northern Dartmouth, to increase ridership and give the industrial workers a place to relax with their families on their one day off. This also Proved that you could ride the rails from end to end for a nickle… this was a huge success and Lincoln Park was Born!
Up until the 1920’s, Lincoln Park was a simple park, and that was all. There was a picnic area, a small playground for the children, and several grill stoves for small cook-outs. There was also a theater, a carousel, as well as the Lincoln Park Casino which later became the ballroom. There was also a Giant Coaster which was ahead of its time as roller coasters were a new thing for th US. The trolleys would stop constantly to let people off for the day, mostly large American families.
After that, Lincoln Park began to develop into more and more of an amusement park. But Lincoln Park was one of a handfull of parks in New England that wasn’t a “theme park” like Disney World and Six Flags (yuk). Each park had its own special characteristics and made memories that lasted lifetimes. Some of the greatest were Lincoln Park, Whalom Park, Paragon Park, Pine Island Park, Revere Beach, Nantasket Beach, and so on.
The 1940’s rolled around, and Lincoln Park began what was known as its “Golden Age, the 40s through the mid 70s.” The park was purchased by the Trio of John Collins, Harry Prince, and Max Zand. They invested several hundred thousand dollars into the park, building the Comet, various rides, buildings, and more. In 1946, Edward Leis and Vernon Keenan from the National Amusement Device Company drew the blueprints for one of the greatest roller coasters New England has ever seen. The Lincoln Park Comet, as it came to be known, stood tall and proud, thrilling riders for a little more than 40 years. The Comet reached an impressive 55 MPH top speed and was about 2:10 long, a long ride for a coaster!
Life back then was simple. Lincoln Park consisted of wonderful rides, and an enormous Kiddie Land was built with 16+ rides. Beautiful color buildings, arcades, Pavillions, rides, restaurants and more lined the “cement streets” inside Lincoln Park, making you feel like you were in a little town. It was really family life back then, and through the 50’s and 60’s , Lincoln Park was in its prime! Park artists and creativity genius Dominic Spadola shared his work with every park goer. He is credited with painting the beautiful signs of the Zodiac on the Towers, creating much of the Kiddie Land decor and structures, monsters for the Monster Ride and Pirates Den, colorful theming, signs, and so much more. Much of his work was ruined in the mid 80’s when the park changed hands and painted a uniform battleship gray. Well not as extreme as battleship gray, but all of the funky colorful fun things that gave the park its personality were painted over in a uniform white and blue theme. This painting over was the most likley cause of Dominic Spadola quitting, the fun and funky were gone. Attendance and revenues declined from there, as the park lost it’s hometown feel, and was not able to compete with the big chains (it was at this point a wannabe a chain).
In the 50s, another roller coaster was constructed, known as the Comet Jr. The Comet Jr. was a steel kiddie coaster, designed to be somewhat like its big brother, but still gave a great ride, even for the adults. It sat nestled behind the Picnic Grove and along the Midway. It was dismantled when the park was purchased by Jay Hoffman in the 80s and sold for profit.
There was TONS to do at Lincoln Park. Free acts and shows were performed daily in the Pavillion and famous ballroom, and many famous entertainers performed at the park like Buddy Holly, the Three Stooges, etc. President Kennedy and his children visited frequently. There was an enormous Clambake Pavillion, where hundreds of clams were baked fresh daily, and hundreds of guests enjoyed their clamcakes, clam pies, and that famous New England Clam Chowder. There were several penny arcades, as well as a sit down restaurant. Many games were available to play such as guess your weight where you could win plush toys and novelties. Even cigarettes were a popular prize. Other major prizes were given away in raffles including cars, Tv Sets, and much more.
Lincoln Park was also home to three major facilities. A bowling alley, a skating rink, and a fabulous ballroom. The bowling alley was constructed in the 40s when the park was purchased by Collins and company. It was a favorite among the older generations, boasting 14 lanes of Brunswick Centennial technology. In the 70s-80s, the kids had their say, and the bowling alley was gutted and replaced with a second arcade.
Lincoln Park also had a regulation skating rink, complete with organ and snack bar. The Lincoln Park Rollets practiced and performed regularly. The rink also hosted local and regional competitions and was very popular among the kids. Dime nights existed where, if you brought a dime of the correct year (which was advertised earlier in the week) you could skate all night.
Last but most certainly not least was the Lincoln Park Ballroom, also known as the Million Dollar Ballroom. The ballroom was enormous, able to hold up to 3,000 people at a time. Local musicians, particularly jazz musicians would perform on a weekly basis. Lincoln Park jazz legends Gene Marshall and Ted Bettencourt performed with their groups for years and years. The room also hosted many famous acts and music festivals. John F Kennedy made a visit with the family to celebrate his birthday when he was a senator. Local highschools would host their senior proms at the ballroom which would be dressed to the hilt for the occasion. Police and Fireman’s balls would be held annually and the ballroom would be jazzed up in different themes. Different organizations could host their events at the park for the day and end with an evening dance in the ballroom. It was the place to be. See out interactive park map to explore all the wonderful things the park had to offer.
About The Comet: The Comet was a beautiful wooden coaster (and still is, Standing But Not Operating since 1987). As a matter of fact, there was a roller coaster even before the Comet at Lincoln Park. It was called the “Giant Coaster” and was very exciting for folks in 1914, seeing as coasters were a new thing. Lincoln Park had one of the early coasters in the country. In 1946 this was dismantled and The Comet as we know it was built for $80,000. The coaster was designed by Edward Leis and Vernon Keenan, the latter also designing the famous Flyer Comet at Whalom Park (see our sections ‘About the Comet’, ‘The Comets Family’, and ‘About the Designer’ for more in-depth information). The Comet was constructed by the National Amusement Device Company. The Comet was a pretty big coaster for being in a medium sized park. In the early years volunteers had to act as ballasts and use sandbags to help the cars up and down the hills until the wood was broken in and loosened up so natural gravity could do its work. The Comet was app. 3000 feet and length and gave an incredibly long ride time of 2:10, which is long for a wooden coaster! There were many dips and climbs, giving you that stomach sensation, and made you feel like you were flying! The turns were great and banged you around a bit to give you that classic wooden coaster feel. The Comet saw several different sets of trains, the last set being pictured in their abandoned condition on the Home Page of this site. The Comet still stands today, rotting into the ground. The colorful panels on the front of the coaster are faded and the sockets where the flashing bulbs used to be are singed. Comet fans were devastated to discover that part of the lift hill of the Coaster had collapsed due to the horrible snow storms we had in January of 2005.
And Then, the 1980’s rolled around. Ownership of the park was turned over to a man named Jay Hoffman after the original management team of John Collins, Harry Prince, and Max Zand left or passed away. He sold all of the original and great rides, and brought in rented carnival rides. The Comet started getting tired. The park was turning gray. All of the wonderful, colorful, and original 40’s and 50’s artwork was painted over with a dull single pattern. The park was becoming sleezy. In 1987, after a final decision, Lincoln Park was CLOSED. Hoffman was facing operating expenses and nearly $50,000 in back taxes. Park goers watched as a chain linked fence was wrapped around the park, the rides were sold off, the Comes Jr. was dismantled, and the Comet and the buildings were left without a care. In fact, the very last run of the Comet resulted in a crash of the cars coming into the station. No one was hurt luckily, but it certainly was a curse. The park is still there, 90% of the buildings burned down by arsons, and the Comet still looms in the distance, searching for riders again.
The only things left as of today are The Comet, The Gift Shop (Which used to be the Fun House), The large popcorn stand, a pizza shack, Grand Central Station, the mini golf course (which happens to be one of the first built in the country), burnt remains where the Pavillion used to be, and a few shells of rides and ride platforms, including the housing for the German Carousel in kiddie land.
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1894 – Park Opened by Union Street Railway of New Bedford, MA
1901 – Fire severely damages park, destroys the theater and other buildings, but a change in wind direction prevents total destruction.
1910 – The first carosuel, a now priceless Louff, installed.
1921 – A PTC 54 carousel was purchased from the Philadelphia Toboggan Co. and installed. The old carosuel was removed and its whereabouts are unknown.
1941 – Park sold to John Collins & Associates for $40,000 ($500,000 inflation adjusted). They invested $150,000 installing a 14 lane bowling alley and updating the dance hall. The dance hall and bowling alley ran year round. This was the point at which the facility converted to a full fledged amusement park. Dominic Spadola was consulted to design the park’s color scheme and art, which was unique and vibrant.
1946 – Existing “Giant Coaster” removed and “Comet” roller coaster installed at the cost of $80,000.
1951 – Comet Jr. opened, with a max height of 51 ft.
1952 – John Collins buys and restores Mountain Park in Holyoke (see below).
1964 – Man dies on the coaster after standing up as it ascended the first lift.
1968 – On the coaster, going up the last hill, the final cart becomes disconnected and begins to roll backward. The cart derailed and turned sideways dumping six people to the ground ten feet below. The cause was the occupants were rocking the car and broke the connecting plates.
1983 – An accident occurs on the Himalaya. Details rather sparse.
1986 – June 8 – Jay Hoffman, the former president of the park, buys the facility for $5,000,000 ($8,300,000 inflation adjusted). It is presumed he purchased the other park (Mountain Park) at the same time. He planned to spend another 2.5 million renovating it. He buys it from his mother, Barbara B. Hoffman of Las Vegas, and from Harry E. Prince. He has plans of converting the “home town” feel of the park into something larger and more modern. He repaints the entire facility in red, white and blue.
1980s – Bowling alley removed and converted to a full arcade. The aging bowling equipment was becoming to expensive to maintain, and there was greater demand for a large youth facility.
1986 – Aug 21 – A local man dies after falling out of the coaster and being dragged for 60 ft at 55 mph. He was trying to move from one car to another as the ride was in motion.
1986 – Nov 3 – Plans are proposed to move carousel to Battleship Cove. It is one of several things sold off to try to gather revenue to operate the park.
1987 – May – Article in Providence Journal says new owner spent $75,000 restoring park, and had a 5 year plan to restore park to its former glory. The kiddy roller coaster (Comet Jr.) was dismantled during this upgrade. He assures people that all the rides are now safe and have been inspected.
1987 – Sept 29 – Accident on the roller coaster injures four. The braking system failed. Just as the carts were entering the area, the braking system jammed and the cars jackknifed. This was the final ride of the coaster. The cars remained frozen in time on the tracks until vandals tore them off years later.
1987 – Dec 3 – Park closes for $48,000 in back taxes and $13,000 to the town for police details. Almost all of the 48 rides in the park are dismantled and auctioned off. The Mountain Park in Holyoke, MA, that was owned by the same man, was closed at the same time (see thie links section for Mountain Park).
1988 – Apr 9 – Property forclosed on by Shamut Bank after it failed to sell for $3,500,000. Jay Hoffman said at that time that it he was confident it would never reopen as an amusement park. Shamut Bank proceeds to auction off anything of value on the property. The ferris wheel ends up on the New Bedford waterfront. Train is bought by Crystal Springs School in Assonet.
1989 – Mar 30 – Approval for a 1.8 million dollar restoration project for the Lincoln Park Carousel. The carousel is now at the Battleship Cove location in Fall River.
1990 – Park goes up in flames destroying 10 buildings. Cause was arson.
1991 – May 5 – Park goes up in flames for the second time. Ballroom, Pavilion and some connecting buildings destroyed. At this time the location was owned by Shawmut Bank, now defunct. The fire was cause by two teenagers playing with fire a building called the taproom.
1992 – Feb 2 – Leonard Hebert, an independent real estate broker, buys the property for $1,000,000 with plans to restore and reopen it.
1992 – July 13, 5AM – Park goes up in flames again, destroying the skating rink and former bowling alley. Development plans are scrapped because thereâ€™s really nothing left to rebuild. Its not clear wether or not Hebert sold the property back to Shamut Bank or simply defaulted and let it revert to them.
1993 – Fourth fire consumes food buildings.
1993 – Bronhard Trust buys the park in 1993 from Shamut Bank for $265,000 ($331,000 inflation adjusted), the least ever paid for the park based on inflation. Walter Bronhard permits people to photograph the facility asking only that they ask his permission to do so.
1997 – Fifth fire consumes warehouse and maintenance building
1998 – The Lincoln Park sign was removed to add a water pumping station to the front corner of the property.
2000 – Stop and Shop Inc. proposes to buy the land and build a supermarket there. They do not and instead build it at a better, more central location in Dartmouth in 2002 (former Builderâ€™s Square location on Faunce Corner Road).
2002 – Sept 28 – Park sold to Midway Realty, LLC for $1,850,000.
2002 – The location is proposed for a low-income housing project but the well on the location had become contaimnated since the park’s closing, and city water does not extend that far down Rt 6. This is still in the works, but chances look slim due to the water contaimnation.
2003 – Sixth fire consumes an empty house on the property, the former house of the park keeper.
2005 – Jan 22-26 – The Lift Hill of the comet roller coaster colapses effectively crushed by heavy snow in a winter storm, 18 years after its last ride.7/11/12
2012-July-11- the Comet roller coaster at Lincoln Park is torn down.