White City Park
In September 2009 the Frazier International History Museum wrapped up a four-month-long tribute to Louisville’s bygone Fontaine Ferry Park. In this Et Cetera, we remember a second long-gone hot spot for fun-loving Louisvillians.Promoted as “The Coney Island of the South”, White City Park was located at the foot of Greenwood Avenue, north of Chickasaw Park; it debuted in 1907. And like Fontaine Ferry, which opened two years earlier, it sat on the bank of the Ohio River.
The park was aglow with white-washed structures and 250-thousand electric lights, which were still novel at the turn of the century. White City included Canals of Venice boats, a scenic railway, bathing beach, and much more.
One standout was the “Shoot the Chutes” water coaster, which plunged riders into a large lagoon. This ride was the first of its kind in the Louisville area.
But the ride for White City didn’t last long.
Where Fontaine Ferry thrilled Louisvillians for 64 years, White City Park operated for a span of only five years.
Following a massive fire in 1910 and subsequent rebuilding, White City - renamed Riverview Park — was unable to compete with the larger Fontaine Ferry. The attraction closed after the 1912 season, and the land was sold for residential development a decade later.
- According to "The American Amusement Park" (MBI, 2001), White City was the second most popular name in amusement park history (with Luna Park being number one). The first White City sprang up in Chicago, following the 1893 Columbian Exposition.
- Louisville’s White City was owned by Edward C. Boyce, vice president of Dreamland in Coney Island, New York. According to "Perfect Cities: Chicago’s Utopias of 1893" by James Burkhart Gilbert (University of Chicago Press, 1991), Boyce had the largest chain of White City parks. These included New Haven, Cleveland, Portland, and Worcester, Mass.
- There was also once a White City amusement park in Indianapolis, Indiana’s Broad Ripple Park. That White City was also hit by fire and closed after only two years of operation.
- Denver's White City (which first opened in 1908) is the only White City still in operation. Today it is known as Lakeside Amusement Park.
- White City also played a role in Louisville’s musical history. According to the Kentuckiana Blues Society, the Blues could be heard at White City in the genre’s infancy.
This Et Cetera was produced with the assistance of the University of Louisville University Archives and Photographic Archives.
These archival entities are a remarkable resource for the university and our community. Called the “Memory of the University,” their holdings include more than 11-thousand linear feet of records and personal papers, as well as more than two-thousand oral history interviews.
- Program 402
- Author Susan Reigler, award-winning designer Clifton Nicholson, Alley Cat Advocates and remembering Louisville's White City amusement park. (#402)