Filed Under Entertainment

Euclid Beach Park

Amusements, Rides, and Restrictions

In 1901, Dudley S. Humphrey became the owner of Euclid Beach amusement park, vowing to make the park a respectable, family friendly place for recreation. He had previously run a popcorn stand at the park, though the prevalence of alcohol, freak shows, and gambling under the old ownership did not mesh with his Protestant values. Humphrey's new Euclid Beach, where everything was guaranteed to be "of a highly moral and elevating character," instantly became a success. The park no longer had an admission fee, so one could enjoy a day at the park for little or no money. Streetcar companies introduced single fare service to the park, making getting there cheap and convenient too. Euclid Beach Park proudly touted these new, improved features with the motto: 'One Fare – Free Gate – No Beer.'

Occupying 90 acres of lakeshore property near the Collinwood-Euclid township border, the park grew rapidly under the Humphrey family management to add unique food options, attractions, amusements, and recreational resources for Cleveland’s growing population during the first half of the 20th century. A park railway connected beach and fishing facilities with a dancehall, theatre, and roller skating rink. A Ferris wheel, merry-go-rounds, and a funhouse were among the 157 "spaces and structures" on the park’s map. Rocket cars, roller coasters of all sizes, flying scooters, and "dodgem" cars attracted visitors of all ages as well as the park's arcade. Hundreds of local company and organization picnics filled the Euclid Beach schedule every season. Concerts and political rallies also marked the calendar. All tolled, millions of visitors enjoyed Euclid Beach during the 69 Humphrey management years with some event crowds rivaling the local pro sports gatherings of 85,000 plus.

The Humphrey's vision of Euclid Beach Park, sadly, also involved the strict regulation of African American visitors, who were admitted to the park but prevented from using all of its facilities. These practices culminated in a series of protests and violent incidents during the summer of 1946, prompting the mayor to order the park closed a month early. From that point on, the park's dancehall – whose racial policies had been the target of many of the protests – remained closed to the public. Nevertheless, Euclid Beach remained popular in the years after World War II but ultimately closed in 1969.

Although it has been closed since 1969, Euclid Beach lives on throughout Northeast Ohio in a number of ways. Cleveland Metroparks assumed management of Cleveland’s lakefront parks in 2013. A visit to Wildwood Park, which occupies the site of Euclid Beach amusements and the lakeside beach, now accommodates visitors, boaters, and swimmers in a park setting. In addition, even those too young to have visited the park themselves can still take a ride on the rocket car, crunch into an authentic Humphrey popcorn ball, hear the quavering cackle of Laughing Sal, and enjoy the park's 1910 carousel, lovingly restored after being rescued from a shuttered amusement park in Maine, in its new location at the Western Reserve Historical Society in University Circle.

Video

Euclid Beach: "I'd Give Anything..." James Seaman shares his memories of Euclid Beach Park. Source: CSU Center for Public History + Digital Humanities

Audio

The Sounds of Euclid Beach James Seman remembers the sounds of Euclid Beach Park while growing up in a nearby neighborhood Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
A New Start for Euclid Beach Jim Seman explains how the Humphrey Family came to own Euclid Beach Park. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Images

Jr. Balloon Race, 1931 Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Division of Special Collections. Cleveland Press Collection. Source: Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Division of Special Collections. Cleveland Press Collection.
Ward 16 Picnic Day, 1961 Councilman Jack Russell enjoys a ride at Euclid Beach Park on Ward 16 Picnic Day, 1961 Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections Source: Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Division of Special Collections. Cleveland Press Collection.
Figure 8 Rollercoaster Source: Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections
Piggy Back Race, 1951 Source: Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections
Dudley S. Humphrey Dudley S. Humphrey II poses in Lake Erie off of Euclid Beach with his granddaughter. Humphrey (1852-1933) brought his family out of financial ruin in the 1890s by running a successful chain of popcorn stands throughout Cleveland. He took over operations of Euclid Beach in 1901, instituting a strict set of rules and abolishing entry fees. The park became wildly successful and remained family-owned throughout its history. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Division of Special Collections. Cleveland Press Collection. Source: Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections
Rollercoaster, 1961 Source: Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections
'Liquor or Beach' Alcohol was strictly prohibited at Euclid Beach after the Puritanical Humphrey family took over the park in 1901. Even those who had been drinking elsewhere were not allowed in, as shown in this headline from the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1909. The Euclid Beach Park Police (two of whom can be seen on the right) patrolled the area around the arch to enforce this rule and keep intoxicated people from entering. The police would be at the center of controversy in 1946 after enforcing the park's rules maintaining racial segregation in parts of the park. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Division of Special Collections. Cleveland Press Collection.
Sack Race, 1934 Source: Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections
Live From the Coaster Euclid Beach amusement park was well known across the United States. NBC Radio once even broadcasted live from one of its roller coasters. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Division of Special Collections. Cleveland Press Collection.
Euclid Beach is Closed, ca. 1970s The Euclid Beach arch sits in a state of disrepair as apartment towers are built on the site of the amusement park (which closed in 1969) in the early 1970s. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Division of Special Collections. Cleveland Press Collection. Source: Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections
Euclid Beach Bathhouse, Ca. 1905 The beach and bathhouse at Euclid Beach Park, circa 1905. Source: Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Date: ca. 1905

Location

Few traces of the amusement park survive. One is the original entrance arch. Long closed to the public, beach access is again possible.

Metadata

Michael Rotman and Jim Lanese, “Euclid Beach Park,” Cleveland Historical, accessed October 4, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/82.