6 Early Amusement Parks: Saltair

Pendulum Rides

      First opened in 1893, Saltair was a desert oasis situated on the south shore of Utah’s Great Salt Lake. The Mormon Church originally commissioned the site in the hope of creating a wholesome “Coney Island of the West” without the perceived sleaziness of the New York original. Their family-friendly park proved an instant hit, as scores of visitors arrived by train from nearby Salt Lake City to enjoy music, dancing and bathing in the lake’s saline-rich waters. Saltair’s most striking attraction was its gargantuan pavilion, a four-story wonder adorned with domes and minarets that sat above the lake on more than 2,000 wood pilings. Along with touring this “Pleasure Palace on Stilts,” visitors could also show off their moves on a sprawling dance floor, ride roller coasters and carousels, and watch fireworks displays and hot air balloon shows. The park boasted nearly half a million visitors a year until 1925, when the iconic centerpiece burned in a fire. A rebuilt Saltair opened soon after, but it failed to capture the magic—or the revenues—of the original. The park closed its doors for good in 1958, and its abandoned pavilion was later destroyed in a second fire in 1970.
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