Filed Under Entertainment

White City Park

Entertainment, Amusement, and Leisure on the Lake Erie Shore

White City was noted for its amusements, attractions, and recreational activities as businessmen and politicians commanded its fate for more than a century in a growing and prospering city.

During the 1970s the area that now occupies the western edge of Cleveland’s Easterly Wastewater Treatment Plant was still known as White City Park. The tract of land bordered by Bratenahl Village to the west and the city sewer authority property to the east existed as a public park in various incarnations since 1900. Lake Shore Boulevard bounded its entrance to the south at East 140th Street in Collinwood Village (later annexed by Cleveland). The park's lakeshore was attractive to swimmers, fishermen, and boaters for the rest of the 20th century. White City Park has shared several names and faces over the past century.

The 1.5-mile lakefront area to the east of Bratenahl Village was originally known as Manhattan Beach and is still informally named that today. The “White City” space noted above was first cited in the Cleveland Plain Dealer in June 1900 as Manhattan Beach Park in announcements of fraternal organization and secret society gatherings. The park also hosted baseball, bowling, a dance hall, entertainment, and a bathing beach. Its entertainment value to the Collinwood Village neighborhood was evident with the newspaper announcements and stories of daily activities and events at the park from 1900 to 1904. One socio-political dispute played out in the park and among its nearby neighbors. The Beal Law provided local options concerning alcohol sales and consumption. The dispute between the ‘wets’ and the ‘drys’ in the Collinwood community carried on for years. Undercover detectives were dispatched to the area in and around Manhattan Beach Park to ensnare alcohol salesmen for the Collinwood Mayor’s court. Repeated polling switched the wet-dry rules three times between 1902 and 1908 prior to Collinwood’s annexation into Cleveland in 1910, but stories abounded about the behavior in the neighborhood. Edward C. Boyce purchased Manhattan Beach Park early in 1905 with the intent to further develop it into an amusement park.

In the golden era of Cleveland’s amusement parks, White City Amusement Park was one of many built to compete with the most successful of them all, Euclid Beach Park, about a mile east on the lake, and was even served by the same streetcars. The two parks became common destinations for a day’s outing for the few seasons that White City Park and Euclid Beach Park were neighbors. White City Park shared a common design with the famous New York-based Coney Island. Ed Boyce, an owner of Coney Island’s Dreamland Park, adopted its concepts to build White City Park. The general idea was to bring in attractions, entertainers, and celebrities to draw people to the park. The Park was built in eleven weeks and featured a boardwalk, Shoot the Chutes, the Bostock Animal Show, Bump-the-Bumps, a scenic railway, and a midway which featured Drs. Couney and Stewart’s infant incubator hospital. About 20 premature babies, referred by Cleveland area physicians, were under care and on display as the best and most promising hope for infant survival. The first ‘resident’ arrived in June 1905 in time for the Park’s opening. The hospital gained local notoriety with full capacity and subsequent reunion celebrations in years to come.

Cleveland, however, suffered from a lack of star power and the Dreamland concept was less than successful. Unlike Euclid Beach, White City Park charged an admission fee, which hurt its business. After a fire burned down over half of the park in 1906 and a windstorm caused severe damage in 1907, the owners had been through enough. White City Park was closed in 1908 after only four years in operation. In 1909, new owners reopened it as Cleveland Beach Park to host local gatherings, much like Manhattan Beach Park did earlier in the decade. Between 1909 and 1911, investors and managers combined to rename attractions at White City. The Cleveland Trust Co. foreclosed on the property, a sheriff’s sale ensued, and M. F. Bramley bought White City land and Luna Park with the intention to manage several amusement parks in the region. He remodeled the property once more as Bay Park [Amusement Co.] in 1911, just barely long enough to be noted on some local maps. The company ceased operations within two months, spelling the end of amusement park activity.

The next several years saw White City revert to ‘city park’ mode with accommodations for picnic and game grounds and beach access. Much of the news concerning the area was devoted to the development of the adjacent sewage treatment plant serving Cleveland’s east side. Later in the decade, the grounds were devoted to stables and drill and practice by National Guard troops training for threatening World War I border duty.

Through the ensuing decades, the city of Cleveland maintained the park for swimming, fishing, and boating under the auspices of the White City Yacht Club and the Northeast Yacht Club despite occasionally dangerous water quality conditions created by the neighboring sewage treatment facility’s deficiencies. The constants which remain today through the evolving story of Collinwood’s northwestern shore, then and 100 years hence, are White City Park and the Manhattan Beach neighborhood.

Images

Aerial View, ca. 1910 An overview of the park is seen in this postcard. Take notice of the shoot the chutes ride in the center of the park. Also featured at White City was Sir Hiram Maxim's Flying Airships, a scenic railroad, and the Old Mill Boat Ride. Source: J. Mark Souther Postcard Collection
Dreamland at Coney Island Dreamland was the most elaborate and dazzling of Coney Island's many amusement parks. It provided inspiration for Cleveland's White City Park, as did the "White City" section of Chicago's 1893 exposition. Source: New York Times Photo Archive Date: ca. 1905
Shoot the Chutes Just like its rival Luna Park, White City had a shoot the chutes ride that emptied into a lagoon right in the center of the park. Source: Image courtesy of the Library of Congress
Neighbors for a Century White City Park and Cleveland's (now Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District) wastewater treatment plant have shared the shore of Lake Erie for for their entire lives. The map illustrates the area north of Lakeshore Boulevard near East 140th Street.
Water Ride Just inside the main gate was the huge centerpice of White City Park. The Shoot-the-Chutes water ride dropped boats filled with riders into a central lagoon. Source: Image Courtesy of Library of Congress
Picnic Day, ca. 1910 Source: Image courtesy of the J. Mark Souther Postcard Collection
Entrance, 1905 White City Park was designed to compete with Euclid Beach Park and offer another option to adventure seeking patrons. Although nowhere near as ornate as the entrances to other local parks, you can see a similar style of White City Park's entrance to those of Euclid Beach and Luna Park. Source: Image courtesy of the Library of Congress
Top of the Hill The view from the top of the shoot the chutes ride in White City, circa 1910. Source: Image courtesy of the J. Mark Souther Postcard Collection
Infant Incubators at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition Infant incubators such as the ones shown at this 1909 Seattle exposition, were popular attractions at expositions and amusement parks, including at White City Park in Cleveland. Source: University of Washington Special Collections Creator: Frank H. Nowell Date: 1909
Japanese Baby at White City on the Lake Attractions were commonplace at amusement parks early in the century, including those that exhibited people in ways that exploited them as exotic “others.” Here, a Japanese baby is “featured” in a fenced lawn area along the park's midway. Source: Image courtesy of The Cleveland Press Collection, Michael Schwartz Library at Cleveland State University. Postcard Collection. Date: ca.1908
Boats Moored at White City Beach White City Park continued to provide recreational resources to Clevelanders after its amusement park era. a yacht club occupied its dock area from many years Source: Image courtesy of The Cleveland Press Collection, Michael Schwartz Library at Cleveland State University. Date: June, 1939
Closed by the United States Navy The White City Beach was closed to the public fro two years (1942 - 1944) while a nearby factory was woking on a secret government contract. It reopened in July, 1944. Source: Image courtesy of The Cleveland Press Collection, Michael Schwartz Library at Cleveland State University. Date: June, 1944
Swimming at White City Cleveland operated and maintained public swimming beaches. White City was a popular east side location as was Edgewater Beach to the west. Source: Image courtesy of The Cleveland Press Collection, Michael Schwartz Library at Cleveland State University. Date: August, 1947
Neglected and Abandoned By the 1970s, White City Beach turned into a refuse site. The neighboring sewer treatment plant spoiled the bathing water with dangerous overflow incidents. The city neglected the beach and water maintenance. Source: Image courtesy of The Cleveland Press Collection, Michael Schwartz Library at Cleveland State University. Date: April, 1974
Cleaned Up? Despite the water conditions, swimmers still wanted to enjoy Lake Erie during the summer. In the 1990s the beach was restored, but water safety remained questionable. Source: Image courtesy of The Cleveland Press Collection, Michael Schwartz Library at Cleveland State University. Date: June, 1995

Location

Metadata

“White City Park,” Cleveland Historical, accessed September 25, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/262.