Palisades Amusement Park was a 30-acre park that overlooked the Hudson River.
Built atop the Palisades Cliffs, it opened in 1898 as a trolley park, which traditionally had picnic areas, dance halls and some amusements. Its location south of the George Washington Bridge that took New Yorkers either out to Long Island or over to New Jersey was convenient.
In 1908, it was sold and renamed Palisades Amusement Park. It was famous for its Ferris wheel, diving horses and salt water pool — the water pumped in from the saline Hudson River, 200 feet below.
It was opened annually the weekend before Easter and closed the weekend after Labor Day. It had about 40 to 50 rides, including five coasters and in the ’50s and ’60s was a rock n’ roll and Motown music venue, with local Disc Jockey “Cousin Brucie” acting as host.
The park’s popularity grew beyond the New York-New Jersey metropolitan areas, in part due to advertising in comic books and the 1962 hit song by Freddy Cannon, “Palisades Park.”
I could see the Ferris wheel and the Cyclone Coaster from my neighborhood across the river. I’d go down to the Hudson River and could see the coaster cars flying up and down. On a clear day I swear I could hear the excited screams and the music bouncing off the cliffs and coming across the wide river.
I’d ask every summer, “Can we go to Palisades?” and the answer would be “maybe.” And the summer would come to an end without making the trip.
My older siblings got to go with their friends or with friend’s families. “Maybe next year” mom would say when I’d whine that we didn’t make it to Palisades again.
The park closed in September of 1971 and I never got to that iconic place that beckoned to me with its flashing neon lights atop the cliffs. The search I did said that the death of one of the brothers who owned the park and the age of the other, as well as the enormous traffic jams caused by the park’s growing popularity, was the reason for its demise. The locals preferred to put up high rise condominiums rather than continue to endure the traffic jams.
I think because it seemed so within reach — since it was within sight — but yet unachievable that has always had me feeling like I missed out on something really cool, sort of like being the only person in Elkhart County who’d never been to the fair!