Community History – Ludlow – Lagoon Amusement Park

Lagoon Amusement Park

The Ludlow Lagoon Amusement Park was a major recreational center for the Greater Cincinnati area between 1895 and 1920.

In 1894, workers began constructing a lake on Ludlow’s western edge. The lake was produced by damming the Pleasant Run Creek, which emptied into the Ohio River. The original incorporators were: Jerome J. Weaver, John J. Shipperd, Tom Jenkins, George M. Abbott and Charles Simmirall. These individuals were also involved in the South Covington and Cincinnati Street Railway Company. When the streetcar lines were laid through Ludlow, they were extended to the Lagoon entrance. The entrance was located on what is today Laurel Street between Park Avenue and Lake Street.

The original attraction at the Lagoon was the lake. The lake was so large that five islands dotted its surface. The clear fresh water provided for excellent fishing and boating. The promoters also constructed a wide sandy beach that was used extensively for swimming.

Other early attractions included the large clubhouse. This large Victorian structure sported wide verandas that wrapped around the building. The clubhouse was constructed on high ground, which offered sweeping views of the lake and other attractions. The Lagoon dance pavilion also drew thousands to the park. This pavilion provided space for hundreds of dancers and large orchestras that were popular during the Jazz Age. The orchestra leader for many years was Professor Len Bagby.

Over the next few decades, many rides were added to the park. Among these were a $10,000.00 merry-go-round, a large 100’ Ferris wheel that was housed on an island, a roller coaster (scenic railway) over the lake, a gold mine replica, an elevated automobile ride, a circle swing, and a Chute the Chutes.

The first general manager of the park was John Noon, who held the position from 1895 to 1902. J.J. Weaver was his successor.

Various entertainments also drew large crowds. The park boasted a 2,500 amphitheatre where live productions were held. A large moving picture theater was also very popular as was the vaudeville stage. The park also featured a Japanese Fair that included an authentic teahouse and small exhibit space. Other activities included a large midway with various games, refreshment stands, picnic grounds and several miles of walking trails.

Four events between 1913 and 1920, led to the closing of the park. A flood in 1913 damaged many of the Lagoon’s attractions. A large financial investment was found necessary to restore the facilities. In that same year, tragedy struck the park. Lagoon managers constructed a large motorcycle racetrack. The quarter-mile track had seating for 8,000 spectators. The racetrack was an immediate success. However, in July 1913, a serious wreck brought notoriety to the lagoon. A driver lost control of his motorcycle and veered off into the stands. The cycle hit a gas lamp causing fire to spread throughout the grandstand. Panic set in as the 5,000 spectators tried to flee the fire. The result was horrific. Nine people were killed and over a hundred were treated for burns.

In July 1915, a large tornado ripped through Ludlow. Over $20,000.00 in damage was done to the buildings in the park. The final event that spelled doom for the park was the First World War. For many years, the Lagoon served Bavarian Beer (Covington made) at various bars in the park. Grain, however, was needed for the war effort, so the United States Government halted the manufacturing of liquor and beer. The loss of alcohol sales spelled doom for the park. The Lagoon Amusement Park closed after the 1918 season.

Part of the Lagoon property was developed as a residential neighborhood. Parts of Lake Street, Laurel, Stokesay, Deverill, and Ludford were built on the site of the former park. J.J. Weaver used the clubhouse for his private residence. Eventually it was transformed into an apartment building.

The City of Ludlow utilized a portion of the property as a site for an incinerator. Another portion of the site was utilized as a city refuse dump.

In 1967, the Ludlow Realty Company sold the remaining Lagoon property to Ludlow Development Enterprises Inc. (Carlisle Construction, King Wrecking Co., et al). The purchase price was $28,000.00. At this time, the low-lying areas began to be filled.

News Enterprise, June 29, 1967, p. 1; Ludlow Centennial Souvenir Program, 1864-1964.

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