Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Gaslight Village: Lake George Fun Yesterday

I thought I’d take a look at the history of the one of the more popular Adirondack theme parks – Lake George’s Gaslight Village.

Gaslight Village opened in 1959 and was run by Charley Wood. Charley already owned a number of investments including Holiday House on the shores of Lake George, and Storytown, U.S.A., an amusement park with a Mother Goose rhymes theme (later expanded with Ghost Town, a western boot-hill theme, and Jungle Land, an animal park) which he opened in 1954. He later went on to build the Tiki Resort (now a Howard Johnson’s), a short lived wax museum, Sun Castle resort, and more.

Owing to the success of Storytown (now known as Six Flags Great Escape), Charlie opened Gaslight Village in 1959 on the site of the former Delaware and Hudson Railroad’s Lake George rail yards (where the turntable stood). You can see a number of early photos of the area here.

A small vase sold on e-Bay a few years ago reads “Gaslight Village Pottersville, NY” indicating that the original location of the theme park may have been in the hamlet of Pottersville in Chestertown at the foot of Schroon Lake. Anyone with information about this little known bit of history, please drop us a note.

Of course Gaslight Village was well known for it’s “yesterday’s fun today” radio and television commercials. It’s “Gay Nineties” theme was actually more popular among adults then children, perhaps by design. While Story Town closed at 5:30 pm, Gaslight Village didn’t get rolling until about that time (they were open noon to 10:30 pm).

The park was designed by Arto Monaco, who designed the popular Santa’s Workshop and Land of Make Believe in Essex County. You can see a lot of pictures of the Gaslight Village while it was open here, and the Urban Exploration Resource has photos of the area after it was abandoned.

A big part of the charm of the park was it’s entertainment which utilized a two-way stage that, with seating for one thousand, allowed for vaudeville acts to perform outside during nice weather and inside the Opera House when the weather was inclement. Nearby the Palace Theater had continuous showings of silent movies including those featuring Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin. Around the bandstand special comedy performances where often held, such as those by a pack of Keystone Cops. The them park also hosted sing-alongs, melodramas, and an Ice Revue.

Among the featured rides assembled for the park were an 1800 Merry Go-Round, an 1825 Bicycle ride by George Tilyou (founder of Coney Island’s Steeplechase Park), the Green Monster, Mexican Scrambler, a Ferris Wheel, the Shaving Mug, a Paratrooper, the Round-Up, Bumper Cars, and the classic dark ride Flight to Mars which came to Gaslight Village by way of Palisades Park and Coney Island.

Many folks remember Charley’s large classic and antique car collection which was installed in the Carriage Shop (later dubbed the Cavalcade of Cars) until it was moved to its own building (with a separate entrance fee) across the street. A Fifth Avenue Double Decker Bus was in operation around the park offering rides as was a horse drawn trolley. The car collection included the 1933 Duesenberg once owned by Greta Garbo (later sold to a Texan for 1.4 million; Wood donated 1 million to the Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, NY). Other pieces in the collection included three large movie model ships from TORA,TORA,TORA, a car shaped and painted like a can of V8 Juice, an Evel Knevel motorcycle, and a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang movie car.

Gaslight Village closed its doors in 1989 and became Lake George Action Park (a go-cart track) which has since also closed. All the rides were auctioned along with many of the cars. Today the land that once served as Gaslight Village is under discussion for conservation. They hope to purchase the land for $4.1 million and re-rout West Brook, which runs alongside, through a pollutant-filtering wetland to be built on the parcel and then into the lake.

Here are two Flickr photo sets: one recent shots, one older.


Suggested Reading

Legends: Pioneers of the Amusement Park Industry

Going Out: The Rise and Fall of Public Amusements

Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York

John Warren

John Warren

John Warren founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and oversees the day-to-day operations of the site in addition to editing The New York History Blog.

He has worked in media for 30 years as a print journalist, a documentary television producer, and now in new media. He's on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute and is the author of two books of regional history.

John's weekly Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report airs across the Adirondack North Country Region on the North Country Public Radio network.

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  29. bob kelly says:

    he also had tv mannix car,jackie gleasons limo,johnny cashs 6.9 merc bends i think also a pope mobile,a gold painted rolls,maybe john lennons?

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