Marist Graduates: You Graduated from an Old Amusement Park
Graduation season! It is so sweet to see on social media everyone celebrate with their families. It's a nice break from angry comment sections, obituaries, and news articles. I live right up the road from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, and as amazing as this weekend can be for those participating, traffic in the area is typically ridiculous if you are anyone else trying to do anything else! I have to pass Marist to some degree if I'm doing anything south of where I live. This year; however, I didn't think it was all that bad. Things were way easier to navigate. Maybe it's just me, maybe I scooted in and out during the light patches of traffic. Regardless, congrats, grads!
This is a beautiful time of year to celebrate your accomplishments with loved ones and look forward to the future. For the sake of this article; however, we are looking into the past. Roughly one hundred years to be exact. Marist graduates, did you know that you graduated from an amusement park?
Woodcliff Pleasure Park
Perhaps this is common knowledge if you attend the college, just like how "Jimmy Fallon went here" was the running trivia fact at my alma mater, The College of Saint Rose. If you were to ask a number of Poughkeepsie and Hyde Park residents; however, I'm sure the general population may not have known, or at least, have forgotten.
This weekend, I saw old posts being shared, reminding residents that, "Hey! There was once an amusement park here!"
It's Links to Playland
I'm sure plenty of us New Yorkers have heard of and probably have even visited Rye Playland Amusement Park! Well, in 1926, the land was sold to Fred H Ponty of Rye, New York. Ponty was responsible for the development of an amusement park which became the Playland we know today!
The Attractions of Woodcliff
I would have loved to have seen this amusement park. Park-goers could enjoy band concerts, fireworks, a ballroom looking over the Hudson, a carousel with music played by a $10,000 orchestral organ, a kiddie playground, a swimming pool that could hold up to 3,000 bathers, mini-golf, picnic areas, gardens, and more!
The park even held a few records. One included "Ely's Stupendous Electrical Display and Aeroplane Swing", which was considered the largest in the world, at the time. Also, the crowning attraction was the Blue Streak Roller Coaster designed by Vernon Keenan, who also designed Coney Island's famed Cyclone Coaster. At the time, it was the tallest and fastest rollercoaster in the world, with a height of 127 feet and a speed of 65mph.
So Why Do We Have Marist College, and Not an Awesome Amusement Park?
A number of things are credited for the demise of Woodcliff. First of all, The Great Depression played a major roll in the fact that families and individuals had much less money to even consider pleasure parks such as this.
A riot sure doesn't bode well for both care of the park, and reputation. According to Hudson Valley Sojourner, in 1941, the Inn was booked on the same day to both 3,000 Odd Fellows from NYC and 1,000 guests from a local Poughkeepsie church. Apparently, issues arose between the groups, and a large brawl broke out. The police and sheriffs were called in to restore order, but several considerable damage was done to the park. The park was closed in August of 1941 for repairs, but it never re-opened.
Could you imagine if the park never closed? We wouldn't have Marist College, or at least, it wouldn't be in it's exact spot. Instead of being the college town that we are known as, we may have been considered an amusement park town, a tourist destination! Yes, our area brings in tourism for other things, but the whole landscape of Poughkeepsie and neighboring towns would probably be so different!