Defunct Amusement Parks of Columbus

Olentangy Park (1893-1937)

The property occupied by Olentangy Village was once an amusement park. The park was first called The Villa, opened in 1893 by Robert M. Turner. In 1896, the Columbus Street and Railroad Company bought the property and renamed it Olentangy Park. It quickly gained renown as one of the city's most beautiful spots.

In 1899, the Dussenbury brothers purchased the park, which featured a small merry-go-round. The Dussenburys were responsible for the construction of a theater, a dance pavilion and rides such as the loop-the-loop, whirlwind and shoot the chutes.

Swimming Pool

During the 44 years the park was open, it featured four roller coasters (Red Devil, Racer, Figure 8, and Whirlwind), the Ye Olde Mill, a swimming pool, two Ferris wheels, a pony track, a train ride, two carousels, and many more attractions.

Park Gates

Olentangy Park

  Aerial Views 

Olentangy Park's Shoot the Chutes Ride premiered May 9, 1909. This view is looking north. The shoot paralleled High Street


Figure Eight


Loop the Loop

Circle Swing

Banzai Bridge was removed from the St. Louis World's Fair and added to Olentangy Park's Japanese Village exhibit May 7, 1905.

Click on map to see a comparison of now and then.

Olentagy Park is located in Columbus, just north of downtown. Traveling along High Street, keep an eye out on your left for the entrance to Olentangy Village Apartments. This is the very same property the park was located on. The only reminders, however, are the old trolley line right of way (including the bridge area) and some old fences. A huge stone arch used to tower over the trolley entrance. It is a very peaceful place, and a nice stop along one of the bike trails in that area. The property now known as Olentangy Village Apartments was once an amusement park full of excitement, beauty and magic. Today, many of it’s longtime residents, as well as newcomers, would agree that the Village possesses a tranquility and charm seldom found in apartment settings. Robert M. Turner founded the park in 1880, beginning with a tavern, picnic grounds and swimming. The Columbus Railway, Power and Light Co. took control in 1895 and operated the tavern for a few years. In 1899, the Dusenbury brothers from New Lexington bought 100 acres of the park, and began to add attractions. Over the next few years one could find a restaurant and colonnade, figure 8 coaster, row boats, bowling alleys, zoo, Japanese village, and the largest theatre in America at the time. Two more coasters were added in 1909, the Whirlwind and Red Devil, followed shortly by a Loop-the-Loop, which was one of a few primitive looping coasters. These did not last long due to the lack of technology and extreme forces on riders. Arrow Dynamics was the first company to successfully re-introduce the loop in 1975, though it initially took on a corkscrew shape.

Other favorites that called the Olentangy grounds home were the Shoot-the-Chutes, Old Mill, Tunnel of Love, dance hall and giant swimming pool, the largest in the central states. 1923 brought financial difficulty for the Dusenbry brothers, and the park was sold to the Olentangy Amusement Co. managed by Max Stern. In 1926 it cost $2.75 for admission and a train ride from Pomeroy OH to the park. In 1929 Leo & Elmer Haenlein signed a lease for the park until 1938. They added an outdoor ballroom, Joy Mill (funhouse) and more animals to the zoo. L.L. Leveque Co. bought the park in 1937 and soon Gooding Amusement Co. (which owned the Columbus Zoo at the time) bought the carousel, Ferris wheel, dodgem, airplane ride and rifle range. The apartments which are seen today were built on the park grounds in 1939 and designed be Washington D.C. architect Raymond Snow. An unusually large bowling center was opened in 1940, and featured innovative concepts like automatic pin setters and new Duralane lamination surface. Tragically it was destroyed in a large 1980 fire. The area has gone through many ups and downs, but has received awards and recognition for it's atmosphere and painstaking preservation of the timeless memories from 100 years ago.

Indianola Park June 8,1905 -

Click map to enlarge

At the turn of the century, the best entertainment in the University Community was Indianola Park, now a shopping center around 19th and 4th. Over seventy years ago, Indianola Park was a dance pavillion and swimming pool, where young daring women were paid $2 to take a dip - in a knee length suit, of course.

Minerva Amusement Park
7-13-1895 to 7-27-1902 (The corner of Cleveland Ave and 161)

For seven glorious summers, laughter and gaiety rang forth from the first amusement park in Franklin County. With intoxicants banned, the Park was enjoyed by the “respectable” folk of the Gay ’90s—the stone water tower/jail was quick to house any ruffian who threatened disharmony. Delighting young and old were the Zoological Garden, Ornithological Museum, the Scenic Railway roller coaster, Shoot the Chutes (the water slide of its day), swimming, boating, baseball, bowling, concerts, dancing, picnics, strolls in the cool woodlands, pony rides, fireworks, the orchestration replicating a 36-piece orchestra, grande vaudeville, and theater. Minerva Park’s popularity faded with the opening of Olentangy Park, only 3 miles from downtown Columbus.

The original dance pavilion burned in September 1896. It was thought by some to be the result of an incendiary, but the manager attributed the fire to a cigar stump being thrown in the rubbish under the pavilion. This new “Casino” was constructed in only 37 days, just in time for the opening of the third season on June 27, 1897. It measured 242’ by 116’, with encircling verandas of 16’ and 25’. With “all games of chance or gambling of any kind prohibited,” the Casino was not a gambling house. Offering a 3,500-seat theatre, orchestra circle, restaurants, and gallery, it showcased the finest vaudeville acts of the time. The season ran from May to September.

Norwood Amusement Park

This small amusement park that apparently once graced the West bank of the Alum Creek along East Main St. The park was gone by mid 50's. it may be the last, amusement parks to be lost from the Columbus area. There is very little information available about this park.

Currently, there is no sign of an amusement park at the corner of Main Street and Alum Creek. There is a sewage pumping station still exists today. Have a look at a MapQuest map of the area. We are pretty sure that when Alum Creek Drive was cut through there, the end of Holzman St. was chopped off so that Alum Creek Drive would end at the same spot where Holzman used to end. Holzman still exists, but it serves mostly as a service roadIt also appears to me that Harlow St. shown on the map is at the present-day location of Alum Creek Drive.