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Summer 2011
 
 
Olcott Beach Carousel Park
 

Most visitors to Olcott Beach, a small, quaint beach community along the shores of Lake Ontario, are unaware of the village’s “Golden Era” back in the early 1900s, when Olcott Beach was the place to be, with folks from the United States and Canada flocking to the village by trolley or steamship. They had a choice of eight hotels, the largest and most popular being the massive Olcott Beach Hotel.

This 100-room hotel, built in 1902, featured a veranda overlooking the beach, a beauty salon, barbershop, and photography studio. However, the real draw was the hotel’s huge 14,000-square-foot ballroom, which attracted all the top musical acts of the day—including Louis Armstrong, Guy Lombardo, and the Dorsey Brothers.

Pastimes included swimming, dancing, riding the miniature steam railroad around Krull Park, and two amusement parks. Across from the Olcott Beach Hotel was Rialto Park, which had children’s rides, a bowling alley, and a wooden figure-eight roller coaster. Luna Amusement Park was on the southeast side of Olcott Harbor, along with the Castle Inn, and Dreamland Dancehall.

However, Olcott’s Golden Era began to fade in 1927. Rialto Park was in need of repair, and the roller coaster had to be demolished. That same year a devastating fire burned every building on Cooper Street, including the Castle Inn. Citing hard economic times during the Great Depression, people didn’t stay overnight at Olcott Beach. The Olcott Beach Hotel, with a crumbling foundation, was torn down in 1937, because repairs were cost-prohibitive. Olcott saw a brief revival in the 1940s with the Olcott Amusement Park and the New Rialto Park.

Today the laughter of children can once again be heard over carousel music in Olcott Beach Carousel Park. In 1999, a group of citizens restored the carousel building from the 1940s Olcott Amusement Park. The group acquired a 1928 Hershell-Spillman carousel, which opened to the public in 2003. They also restored five other rides, including a children’s car ride original to New Rialto Park. Even the price of the rides is a charming tribute to years past: Each turn costs 25 cents.

A visit here is not complete without a walk down to the beach. There, the tiered grass area and stone walls mark the foundations of the Olcott Beach Hotel—a reminder of Olcott’s glory days.

 

If you go

Olcott Beach Carousel Park

5979 Main St., Olcott, NY 14126

716-778-7066

www.olcottbeachcarouselpark.org

Open Memorial Day – October