Ask folks who grew up in the 1960s if they ever heard of Freedomland. This was an amusement park that was based on United States history. It opened on June 19, 1960 and closed about four years later. Freedomland was located in New York’s Bronx. I can’t remember how far from the Bronx Zoo though.
The entire park was shaped like the map of the United States (the lower forty-eight states). Freedomland was divided into different themed areas based on the history of the United States, each with its own attractions, shops, and restaurants. Visitors entered the park through what was supposed to be Washington, D.C.
The different areas were: Little Old New York that was made to look like the era between 1850-1900 where you could ride on the Harbor Tug Boats through a recreation of the Great Lakes and visit the Ice Cream Parlor that was designed to look like the 1890s; Chicago circa 1871 whose big attraction was the recreation of the Chicago Fire every twenty minutes or so and an Indian Village; The Great Plains 1803-1900 that featured the Borden Dairy Barn and an Army Fort; San Francisco 1906 that touted Fisherman’s Wharf, a Northwest Fur Trapper Ride, and a ride that simulated the San Francisco Earthquake; The Old Southwest of 1890 that had a ride through an underground mine as well as an Old West gunfight; and finally New Orleans/Mardi Gras where there was a ride on a pirate boat, a maze that went through a house of mirrors, and something called a Tornado Adventure (a ride that made it look like you were inside a tornado); and finally Satellite City-The Future which boasted an authentic reproduction of a Cape Canaveral control room in which visitors could witness a simulated rocket launch from start to finish.
I remember the couple of times that my parents and I went there. We had to start out very early in the morning, most likely on a Saturday, and we wouldn’t get home until late in the evening. Freedomland seemed like the place to go for fun on a large scale and there were always traffic jams getting into and out of the area. Once there, we were faced with the prospect of walking, walking, and walking some more. (Good practice for those of us who now frequent Walt Disney World in Orlandol.) By noontime we were exhausted. Of course I got to nap on the way home but Dad had the dubious honor of making sure we got home safely while navigating through all of the traffic.
Later I heard that Freedomland was not making enough money so they began to bring in more traditional rides (roller coasters, bumper cars). They also added fireworks displays and some concerts. Sadly these made them seem like just another amusement park. Dad figured we could do the same things at Savin Rock without having to drive all the way to New York.
Freedomland sadly didn’t last very long. Along came the 1964 New York World’s Fair which was located not too far away and offered so much more to see and do. In autumn of 1964 Freedomland closed its gates and was torn down the following year. But for those four years it was a place that gave many of us hours of delight and memories we won’t forget.