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Idlewild & Soak Zone
History

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The history of Idlewild & Soak Zone is one of vast fortune and of difficulties.  Nestled in the quiet hills of  the Allegheny Mountains, along Chestnut Ridge, Idlewild's biggest advantage is its natural setting. 

A scroll through time, decade by decade....

1870-1887
  • The Mellon Family of Pittsburgh lent a group of investors money to build a narrow gauge railroad to carry coal and timber from mines at Ligonier to Latrobe.
  • The investors ran out of money and sold the railroad to Judge Thomas Mellon who completed the railroad and called it 'Ligonier Valley Railroad'.
  • A decline in the coal business forced Mellon to convert the railroad into a passenger carrying excursion line.
  • Mellon leases 400 acres from William M. Darlington and developed Idlewild as a campground featuring an artifical lake for boating and fishing, tables, shelter houses, and a huge covered pavilion.
  • 1877-Railroads pulled in 15,000 visitors a day.
  • 1878-Railroad Depot built and credited for being the world's smallest full-service depot.  The building still stands today.

1888-1897
  • 1891-Pickpockets become a major problem with increasing popularity of the park.
  • 1896-Lake Bouquet dug

1899-1927
  • Very little action took place during this period.  Due to limited resources, it is not known what took place during this time.  A steam-driven carousel was added between this time but we are unaware of any other additions.
 

1928-1937
  • 1931-Idlewild Park was sold during the winter to Idlewild Management Comany.  The new manager was Mr. C. C. Macdonald.  His wife, Grace R., became secretery and their son, Jack, became assistent manager.
  • 1931-2-story structure was built to replace the old depot.  It housed the general offices, a waiting room and an apartment for the family. 
  • 1931-Electricity first brought to the park.  The park added 5,000 electric lightbulbs, allowing the park to operate in the evening.
  • 1931-$24,000 Carousel (PTC#83) added, replacing the T.M. Harton steam-driven model.  The Carousel first operated in Atlantic City.
  • 1931-brand new Skooters building and bumper car ride added.
  • 1931-Rifle range, playground and zoo featuring black Canadian bears, monkeys and raccoons added.
  • 1931-Fireworks offered for the first time.
  • 1931-10,000 shrubs planted
  • 1932-$75,000 80-by-200 foot swimming pool and sand beach added.
  • A dark ride known as the Rumpus was added sometime during this time period.

1938-1947
  • 1938-Herbert P. Schmeck (chief engineering of PTC) designed the Rollo Coaster towards the back of the park.  It was 900 feet long with a 27 foot drop.  A sawmill was built on-site to harvest the timber used.
  • 1939-A 4,000 foot long miniature railroad called the Idlewild Express was added around the lake.
  • 1939-The old portable whip ride was replaced with a park model Whip.
  • World War II hit the park hard.  Staff problems occured, there was a shortage of tires, gasoline was rationed.  The park closed in 1943.
  • 1946-Idlewild Park reopens in May.
  • 1947-Rumpus darkride and Laughing Sal (both located near Rollo Coaster) were destroyed in a terrible fire.
  • 1947-The first new ride in 8 years opens, the Caterpillar.

1948-1957

  • 1950-The Macdonald Family purchased Idlewild Park.
  • 1950-3 kiddie rides open.
  • 1954-17-acre Story Book Forest Opens
  • 1954-Handcars added to kiddieland
  • 1955-Street cars added to kiddieland
  • 1955-Ferris Wheel added to kiddieland
  • 1956-mini verson Turtle ride opens in kiddieland

1958-1967
  • Frontier Safariland (zoo) opens.
  • 1961-Paratrooper added.

1968-1977
  • 1976-To celebrate America's Bicentennial the park built Historic Village at the back of Story Book Forest. 
  • Srambler debuts.

1978-1987
  • 1978-Idlewild Park celebrates its 100th Birthday.
  • 1978-Astroliner installed.
  • 1982-Spider added.
  • 1983-Idlewild, Story Book Forest, Timberlake Golf Course and Timberlake Steak House were purchased by Kennywood Entertainment Corporation.  A new manager, Keith Hood, came from Camden Park, WV.
  • 1983-Idlewild and Story Book Forest combined using the new Jumpin Jungle to connect them.
  • 1983-Sewer lines were relocated and buried.
  • 1984-Hoot n' Holler was added using the Historic Village.
  • 1984-Confusion Hill attraction added.
  • 1985-H20hhhZone was created with 4 water slides and the pool.
  • 1986-Spider added.

1988-1997
  • 1988-Rafter's Run opens in H20hhhZone.
  • 1989-Kennywood's Tilt-A-Whirl replaces Idlewild's older model.
  • 1989-Mister Rogers' Neighborhood of Make-Believe opens as Idlewild's first million-dollar attraction.
  • 1990-Two carousel horses are stolen but later found safe.
  • 1990-Raccoon Lagoon opens by Mister Rogers' Neighborhood of Make-Believe.
  • 1992-Little Squirts waterpark for children opens.
  • 1993-The Wild Mouse steel roller coaster opens.
  • 1995-Kennywood's Balloon Race opens.
  • 1997-Last season for Idlewild Express.

1998-2002
  • 1998-Ricky's Racers kiddie ride opens.  The ride operated at Old Indiana Fun Park.
  • 1998-The Trinado spinning ride opens where the Paratrooper and Scrambler once stood.  The Scrambler replaced the Tilt-A-Whirl which was relocated by the Round Up.  The Paratrooper was placed in front of the Skooters.
  • 1999-Picnic grounds went into a major overhaul with new pavilions and parking lots.
  • 1999-Dizzy Lizzy's Four Quarter Saloon haunted swing ride opens.
  • 2000-Dr. Hydro's Soak Zone is added.  The Zone consists of the Hydro Racers, Pipeline Plunge, Gaint 300-gallon tipping bucket, gaint water cones and water guns.
  • 2001-H20hhhZone and Dr. Hydro's Soak Zone combine into Soak Zone.
  • 2002-125th Season of Operation.   The park features two live shows: The Askishin Acrobats and the Lumberjack Show of Champons.  The old Depot is converted in a historic museum and historic markers are placed throughout the park.

The content on this page was designed by the owner of this site, however the information was taken from three main sources:
More Kennywood Memories (1998) by Charles J. Jacques, Jr. Published by Amusement Park Journal
Amusement Parks of PA (2002) by Jim Futrell.  Published by Stackpole Books.
Natural Beauty at Idlewild Park as seen in Amusement Park Journal Vol. 8 No. 5 (April 1986).  Written by Charles J. Jacques, Jr.