Baltimore’s Grand Old Amusement Parks

Wild Ride

Baltimore’s grand old were the original pleasure palaces, offering exciting sights and sounds — from the Racer Dip to the Human Laundry Ride to Klatawa the Diving Horse. They also offered a way to, in H.L. Mencken’s words, ‘escape the horrors of reality.’

By Mary K. Zajac

Today’s amusement parks fall into two categories: corporate Disney empires that feature attractions linked to movie blockbusters or trademarked characters— think “Pirates of the Caribbean” or Cinderella’s Castle— or the tantalizingly seedy carnivals that wander through town initiating the start of summer. Not so long ago, however, there was another species of amusement park.

Before Disney World and Space Mountain, Six Flags and steel roller coasters, you could ride the Racer Dip, the Mountain Speedway or the Sea Swing at one of Baltimore’s legendary amusement parks, sprawling entertainment complexes that were as affordable as they were grand.

Baltimore’s amusement park era began in the late 19th century with the opening of places like the racy Hollywood Park, which was located on Back River and Eastern Avenue. It was described in a Sun article as “notorious,” “ribald” and “a wild place” where the “only prohibition there was against smoking opium in the Old Mill.” And the era ended in the early 1970s with the drawn-out closure of Gwynn Oak Park. In between, Baltimoreans— white Baltimoreans, that is— came by streetcar, school bus and on foot, with sweethearts or Sunday school classmates, to swim, ice skate, sashay across ballroom floors, play games of chance and ride dozens of inventive rides. In the early 1920s, Baltimore boasted more than half a dozen amusement parks.

Continue reading “Wild Ride” at Baltimore Style.


Maryland’s Amusement Parks
From Ferris wheels to roller coasters to tunnels of love, everyone has a favorite amusement park memory. For nearly 130 years, many of those memories have been made at Maryland’s amusement parks.
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3 Responses to Baltimore’s Grand Old Amusement Parks

  1. Pat says:

    Can anyone tell me exactly where Hollywood Park was. I know it was near the Back River Bridge, but on which side of it? And on what street?
    An older friend is trying so lard to remember, and I want him to have some help.
    I am at wspurg@aol.com. I just want a more specific address, on which street at which Ave that crossed, etc. I would very much appreciate any help. Thank You!

  2. Pat Long says:

    I am looking for the exact location of Hollywood Park in Essex. Can anyone help?

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