The Fascinating History Of East Grand Rapids’ Ramona Park
Here is a great bit of history of the Greater Grand Rapids area.
Way back when, way before you were born, a place called Ramona Park was created on the shores of Reeds Lake. It has a fascinating history that actually dates back to the 1850s.
Summers were hot and people discovered they could come out to Reeds lake to cool off and have fun.
It was quite the trip back then to come all the way from downtown to this new little city, East Grand Rapids. Most of the Grand Rapids population was centered around downtown so getting out for some cooler fun was just the ticket.
The transit company wanted more people to ride in their trolley's so they began building an amusement park at the end of the line, Reeds Lake, East Grand Rapids. And, after a naming contest, the name Ramona Park was chosen for the new adventure.
People from all over Michigan, Chicago and Mid-West points came by horse-drawn trams, then street steam railroad, interurban, electric streetcars or trolleys and finally, by the mid-1930s, city buses to enjoy the lake. There were picnic grounds, pavilions for entertainment, and boat liveries that supplied flat-bottomed skiff boats.
Even as early as the 1850s passenger steam boats carried up to several hundred passengers around the lake.
And then, of course, there was a wooden roller coaster, a single track in a figure eight, which opened in 1903.
The Giant Coaster was built in 1913, and Ingersoll's Derby Racer in 1914. But was soon renamed the Jack Rabbit Derby Racer, because the Jack Rabbit was a huge double wooden-track roller coaster with an 85 foot drop! It was one of only two double track roller coasters in the country.
Ramona Park was a big attraction for entertainers, too. Some celebrities from back then some people will know were Edgar Bergen with Charlie McCarthy, the Marx Brothers, Jimmy Durante, Joan Davis, Jack Benny, Fred Allen and Will Rogers along with Buster Keaton, Fanny Brice, and many others in the 30s and 40s.
Take a look back with this nostalgic look at Grand Rapids and Ramona Park back in 1946!
But, alas, all good thing come to an end. In 1954 the people of East Grand Rapids voted to close the park and raze it in favor of residential apartments and retail stores and shopping centers, which is as we know it today.
But, there is one last remaining piece of history of Ramona Park. It's Rose's! Back then it was just popcorn, caramel corn and hotdogs in a little wooden building.
Today, it's just a little bit nicer, and Rose's sits exactly where it did all those many years ago.
Luckily one thing didn't change. The caramel corn! It's still there!
MORE: Take a Look at These Abandoned Amusement Park Rides