Forest City Park

In this age of faster, higher coasters and parks like Cedar Point and King’s Island within a few hours drive, it is easy to forget some of the early amusement parks that once populated Northeast Ohio. The first such attraction for the city of Cleveland was Forest City Park in what is now the Slavic Village neighborhood.

Opened in 1883, it was originally named Beyerle Park after its first operator George William Beyerle. He envisioned a summer resort where people could get away from city life and enjoy themselves. Early versions of the park had picnic areas, a manmade lake, a boathouse, baseball grounds, a pavilion, and a small zoo.

Though the park was initially successful, within a decade of the park opening Beyerle was facing a number of financial problems. His business partner, J. Sykora, was signing checks without authorization. This coupled with a large number of lawsuits of patrons who were injured when a bridge collapsed on the lake forced Beyerle to sell the park.

Although the park was taken over by A. B. Schwab et al on May 5, 1889, and its name was changed to Forest City Park, no great change would occur until 1902. It was at this time that Dudley Humphrey assumed management of the 65-acre park and transformed the mode of operation. Humphrey believed Forest City Park, as well as Euclid Beach Park, which he also managed at this time, were places of immoral influence that he needed to purify. Guests would be turned away at the gates if dressed inappropriately and removed from the park if they acted in a way not to Humphrey’s standards. Under his control, the park removed its beer garden, stopped serving alcohol, and cut down on vaudeville and sideshow acts. In place of these corrupt forms of entertainment, Humphrey added rides and family friendly attractions- a shooting gallery, merry-go-round, a theater, and a “switchback” roller coaster. Under his management the two parks were on a system called the “Humphrey Park Plan”; this allowed guests to buy multiple tickets at a cheaper price and could use the tickets at either park.

Despite the numerous attractions that Humphrey brought to the park, attendance suffered. The large immigrant population in the neighborhood surrounding the park disliked the lack of alcohol on the grounds, whereas the people living further out found it easier to spend the day at Euclid Beach Park or Luna Park. At this time, Cedar Point was also growing in popularity; by the end of the decade, it added additional roads for easier access and opened the classic Cyclone roller coaster, the fastest and tallest in the world at this time, along the beach.

With the increased popularity of the automobile, Forest City Park faced a new challenge; built in the era of railroads and streetcars, the park had no parking spaces and showed no intentions of adding them. Without this access, patrons were left with the options of parking farther away off grounds and walking back to the park entrance or paying to take the street car. Without a suitable option for driving customers, attendance at the park continued to fall.

The final straw came in the early 1920s, when a fire damaged part of the park. The park closed for good soon after. In the 1930s, the city sold the westernmost part of the park to the steel mills to dump slag. By the 1960s, the rest of the park was filled in and houses placed on the empty fields, covering what little remained of the Slavic Village’s amusement park history.

Images

Dance Pavilion

Dance Pavilion

This photo shows the multi level dance pavilion at Forest City Park. The pavilion played host to a number of dances, speeches, rallies, and conferences. | Source: Photo Courtesy of Glen Sobola View File Details Page

Forest City Park Map,1912

Forest City Park Map,1912

This map shows the park as it was in 1912 complete with "switchback" roller coaster(called Toboggan at the time), theater, and bowling alley. | Source: Photo Courtesy of Glen Sobola View File Details Page

Beyerle Park, 1897

Beyerle Park, 1897

The land Forest City Park sat on originally belonged to George Beyerle's father and was left to George after his father's passing. Beyerle looked to expand his land and purchased adjacent subplots from J. Sykora. At some point in their dealings over land Beyerle made Sykora a partner in his company, Beyerl's Park Zoological Company, a move that would ultimately prove disastrous. | Source: http://peoplemaps.esri.com/cleveland/ View File Details Page

Boaters on Beyerle Lake

Boaters on Beyerle Lake

Beyerle Lake was a man-made lake created by damming Burke Brook that allowed patrons to swim and boat in a leisurely manner. The bridge seen in the background collapsed in 1890 when over 100 spectators rushed onto the structure to witness a man jump off a tightrope. The bridge was not rebuilt and the resulting lawsuits from the incident caused further problems for Beyerle. | Source: Slavic Village Historical Society View File Details Page

Forest City Park, 1912

Forest City Park, 1912

Overtime the park's area was expanded, especially under the ownership of Humphrey who needed more land to accommodate the new attractions. | Source: http://peoplemaps.esri.com/cleveland/ View File Details Page

Concession Stand at Forest City

Concession Stand at Forest City

From 1902-1906 Forest City Park was under the management of the Humphrey family. Dudley Humphrey made his fortune in the late 1800s after inventing a new popcorn popper and operating a concession stand. By the turn of the century, Cleveland was consuming more popcorn than any four cities in the country and the Humphrey's were able to purchase Forest City Park and Euclid Beach Park. | Source: Cleveland State University. Special Collections. Cleveland Memory Project. View File Details Page

Eberhardt's Restaurant

Eberhardt's Restaurant

In the early years of the park, the restaurants and concessions offered a variety of alcoholic beverages and advertisements from beer companies. Once Humphrey took over the park those features were removed in order to make the park more family friendly. View File Details Page

Emancipation Proclamation Celebration at Park

Emancipation Proclamation Celebration at Park

Forest City Park was the site of many historic events during the turn of the century. In 1895, the National Convention of the Republican League met at the resort, holding meetings in the pavilion and dance hall during the day and enjoying concerts in the evening. The park hosted a large celebration for the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, featuring speeches from area reverends and community leaders. In the 1910s, the park was also the site of many rallies calling for the women's right to vote and featured speeches from Jane Addams. | Source: Plain Dealer Historical View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Danielle Rose, “Forest City Park,” Cleveland Historical, accessed July 20, 2017, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/718.

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