For about 150 years, Rocky Point amusement park was home to one of Rhode Island's most popular entertainment attractions. This now-abandoned shoreline facility was the second oldest operating park in the United States when its gates closed in 1995.
History of Rocky Point Park
Rocky Point Park was constructed during an era when families spent weekends and summers strolling and boating along what today is known as Warwick Neck, in Warwick, Rhode Island. Excursion boat operator Captain. William Winslow frequently boarded passengers in this area. In 1947, he purchased a piece of this land and constructed a few rides, including a Ferris wheel, hotel and dining attractions. Already dubbed Rocky Point Park, this area became quite popular with locals and guests who would come down to Warwick from Providence, Rhode Island.
Rebuilding After Devastation
In 1883, a fire damaged most of Rocky Point, including many of its attractions and a neighboring hotel. The park was then operated by Col. Randall A. Harrington, who took over ownership after Winslow died. He never let the devastating fire ruin his dream. He rebuilt the entire amusement park.
In 1918, Rocky Point was named "New England's most beautiful amusement park," a distinction that brought even more guests to the shoreline attraction. Harrington met the crowd's demand for more rides by constructing:
- Wildcat roller coaster
- Flying Turns bobsled coaster
- A saltwater swimming pool
- Miniature railroad
A few years after these attractions were completed, tragedy once again struck the park. In 1938, the "Great New England Hurricane" bore down on this region, once again destroying a portion of Rocky Point amusement park. This time, it took nine years to rebuild.
Rocky Point Golden Age
When Rocky Point Park reopened in 1948, it was hailed at the most popular attraction in Rhode Island -- a distinction that would last until its demise in the 1990s. New rides and attractions added during this era include:
- Cyclone roller coaster
- Corkscrew roller coaster
- Bumper cars
- Log Flume
- Roto Jets
- Castle of Terror
- Free Fall
Besides the rides, park guests were treated to a skating rink, petting zoo, games on the midway, entertainment at The Palladium and meals at the Shore Dinner Hall. The park was so popular, it even drew the attention of U.S. President George H.W. Bush, who spoke at a Republican fundraiser there in 1989. Musicians Frank Sinatra, Chubby Checker and the Ramones also performed in front of large crowds at the park. Owners of the 123-acre park during this time included the Vincent Ferla family.
Rocky Point Amusement Park Today
In 1994, in an effort to reorganize, Rocky Point Park filed for bankruptcy. It owned more than $9 million to creditors. The park, however, could not bounce back from this deficit. In 1995, it closed its gates, and an auction sold many of the tangible memories people had of the New England theme park. In 2000 and 2006, fire again damaged a portion of the defunct theme park.
In 2007, a major portion of the remaining theme park was demolished including the midway and several buildings. In 2008, the city of Warwick secured a federal grant to purchase about 82 acres of Rocky Point Park property. In 2010, voters passed a ballot measure to establish the land as a public park.
Reliving Rocky Point Park Memories
Even though the Rocky Point Park itself is a thing of the past, memories of its hey days are still very much alive. In 2006, the film You Must Be This Tall: The Story of Rocky Point Park was released and received several local film awards. A Facebook page has been created about the park, and there are several websites available with a variety of historic information and photographs relating to Rocky Point Park.