Park lit up the night and imaginations

Michael Bushnell
Northeast News

 

Electric Park View is the title of this postcard published in 1913 for Electric Park in Kansas City, Mo. Electric Park was named for the 100,000 electric light bulbs outlining the park’s buildings and rides, which turned night into day after dark. So bright were the lights, the park was dubbed by writers of the day as “the great white city of Brush Creek valley.”

City maps of 1908 show Electric Park at what was then the extreme south city limits at 46th Street and Paseo Boulevard, extending east to Woodland Avenue. The original park was located in the East Bottoms, at the foot of Chestnut Avenue, near the present-day Guinotte ramp.
Electric Park opened May 19, 1907, to a crowd of 53,000. No beer was served in the park, as the city fathers refused to grant a liquor permit for the park. Soon there proved to be such good returns from popcorn, hot dogs, peanuts, ice cream, roller coasters, shooting galleries, swimming pool and dance pavilion that nobody worried about beer. There was a slight retaliatory action by the owners, Michael and Fred Heim of the Heim Brewing Company, however, when they levied a one-cent charge on each glass of water.

There was a charge for swimming, but none for the famous night spectacle of “living statuary” at the fountain in the lake. Young women on a pedestal emerged from the fountain every hour of the evening, as if by magic, and held the crowd spellbound with their graceful poses, while flooded with colored lights that blended and changed shades.

Much of the park burned May 28, 1925, and was not rebuilt. The park continued to operate in its diminished capacity for years after the fire, but the spell was broken. Following a final fire in the early 1940s, the park finally closed for good. The rusted steel skeleton of the Coaster stood as an eerie testament of what once was.

The Village Green apartments and a shopping center were built on the site in 1948. Today there is no hint either of Kansas City’s Electric Parks ever existed.

The card was mailed to Mrs. S. W. Palmer, Route 1, Milo, Mo., just south of Nevada, on May 13, 1913. The message is typewritten. It reads, “Dear Mother, I must write you a card for I know you think I have forgotten you but that is not the case. I have so much work to do. I worked tonight and Edith came down and wrote letters. She got home alright. I guess you are all pretty busy now. When are you coming up? I am feeling fine, only a little tired. I would sure like to see you all. Give Lucille a kiss for me. I will try and write a letter soon. Tell Nell I will write another letter to her too. With much love, Harry.”

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