Electric Park Era on Kinderhook Lake, Columbia Co., NY
By Mindy Potts
Webpage and Notes by Cliff Lamere 9 Nov 2003
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This historical article about the Electric Park on Kinderhook Lake in the northern part of Columbia County, NY is part of series written by Mindy Potts for publication in the monthly newspaper "OK Times & The Hudson River Sampler", Northern Columbia County Edition. Published in Stuyvesant, Columbia Co., NY, the newspaper also distributes a Southern Columbia County and Northern Dutchess County edition. The text and title of the original article may have been slightly revised for this webpage so that they would be more meaningful to a geographically diverse audience.
Original publication: about 1998-1999
Original title: The Electric Park Era on Kinderhook Lake
(Introduction by Cliff Lamere)
The Electric Park Era on Kinderhook Lake
When people wonder what attractions are in our area, they tend to think about Albany's museums, Saratoga and the racetracks, or Lake George and its
resorts and entertainments. However, just less than 100 years ago, people came from Albany, Hudson and beyond to our backyard. They came to an
amusement park on Kinderhook Lake, called Electric Park.
The Albany and Hudson Railway owned the park. Consequently, it was built just off the trolley line and the power to run some of the attractions and the colored lights that lined the park, came off the third rail. Admission to the park was free for those having a round trip Albany and Hudson
Railroad Company ticket (40 cents) or 10 cents for those who did not. Since the park was built on the lake shore, of course water activities were available. People could rent wooden platforms where they could put up tents and make use of the bathing beach or rent boats and take advantage of the plentiful fishing. Of course, refreshments of ice cream, soft drinks, Cracker Jacks, popcorn, and peanuts were sold. There was a playground and a pavilion where Sunday School picnics were often held.
So far Electric park sounds very much like many state parks we might find today, but at the time, Electric Park was anything but ordinary. People would pack up for the day and travel, from Albany for an hour, on the trolley line. They'd spend the day enjoying all the amusements the park had to offer.
As the patrons made their way down from the Electric Park trolley station, the first attraction they could come upon was the Ferris wheel, one of two. This first Ferris wheel was steam powered and too heavy to move inside the park gates. Since people could ride without paying to get into Electric Park, that ride cost five cents per ride. Inside the park was another Ferris wheel, powered by electricity.
The lagoon housed two popular attractions, the roller coaster, built over the water, and the carousal which was built on an island in the middle of the lagoon and connected to the midway by a bridge. The supports for the coaster were built in the winter. Holes were chopped in the ice and the poles sunk into the mud. Built in the same fashion was a walking bridge which spanned Kinderhook Lake, connecting the Electric Park shore to Hawley Point. Energetic men would escort women over the bridge and when they reached the middle, the men would rock the bridge to make it sway, much to the dismay of the ladies.
A ride known as the "chute to chute" was shaped somewhat like a large wooden slide. In the summer, people could ride in floating carts, down the tracks, and into the water. During the winter the chute to chute was used as a toboggan run.
The Rustic Theatre could hold hundreds of guests who would come to see vaudeville shows with two performances daily. Originally, it was an open-air theater, but eventually, the stage and seats were enclosed. At that time, the theater also showed motion pictures.
Electric Park had so much to offer people with a dance hall and a shooting gallery, and a building that contained a restaurant and a bowling alley. It was quite the attraction, but Kinderhook Lake was also a part of the park's success.
Electric Park was dry, but Kinderhook Lake was not, with a total of six saloons in and around the lake, three of those saloons on islands in the lake. Often, families would come to Electric Park and the men would leave their families to entertain themselves at the park's amusements. And the men would then go fishing . . . fishing for a beer, locals still joke.
How long Electric Park was operational is uncertain. The park opened in 1901, but the closing year is debated. Estimates are between 1915 and 1921. It had closed for WWI and in 1917 tried to reopen but at that point the park's success was declining. People were getting automobiles and could travel anywhere. They didn't have to go wherever the trolley could take them. The lure of Kinderhook Lake was also diminished with Prohibition.
There are buildings still standing that were a part of the famous park. They are now people's homes. The rides were either sold to other parks or taken apart for lumber. At the time, it was not uncommon to build homes with used lumber. Even today, as people get together and talk about these times, new facts are coming to light. Recently the wood from the bowling alley has been found in a local home's basement.
There is little left to see of Electric Park for person unfamiliar with Kinderhook Lake. If you drive on Rt. 203 today, when you get to the lake, you will see a street sign reading "Electric Park." Turn down that road and you can see a community house that is built on the spot of the trolley station. Farther down the road and you will come upon the lagoon and you can still see poles coming up out of the water. Those lonely, black poles are the remnants of the roller coaster. Almost all the houses along the shore were not there; no one lived on the lake at that time.
To see this area today, it is difficult to imagine, but there were many pictures taken of the park. Kinderhook Lake Corporation sells a book, Kinderhook Lake Its Glorious Past, and local historians and collectors have slides, pictures and other memorabilia. North Chatham Library was given a large collection of pictures and post cards. And then there are always people who remember, families who have lived on the lake since Electric Park's time.
Visitors since 9 Nov 2003