The opening of an amusement park called the “Enchanted Forest” took place on August 15, 1955, in Ellicott City, Maryland. Imagine 50 acres of land devoted to fantasy and fables! Various concrete structures, attractions, and characters filled the park to entertain visitors.
In the 1950s, the family entertainment industry in America began to grow rapidly. After World War II ended, a thriving economy and a growing middle class appeared.
Initially, it was decided not to include mechanical rides so that children could entirely focus on the imaginary figures in the park.
The park was based on familiar children’s poems and fairy tales. There were various attractions such as slides, animatronic characters, a modest petting zoo, and a display of antique cars. You could even take a boat ride or walk inside the houses. The amusement park attracted families who wanted to have fun and were willing to spend a little more money.
Historian Jim Futrell of the National Historic Amusement Park Association said the Enchanted Forest was one of the first theme parks on the East Coast.
The once-popular venue welcomed around 300,000 visitors over each summer.
The theme park did not stop developing and kept adding in something new for the children. By 1989, the park included attractions such as rafting to Robinson Crusoe Island, a teacup trip around the world of Alice in Wonderland, and jeep safaris through a jungle.
Over the years, the Enchanted Forest became less attractive to visitors, although it was still considered the main tourist attraction in the central Atlantic Ocean. Children began to pay more attention to television, video arcades, and larger amusement parks, such as Kings Dominion which opened in Virginia in 1975, and Hershey Park in Pennsylvania which opened in the late 1970s.
The Harrison family, the owners of the Enchanted Forest, sold the park together with adjoining land to the developer of a shopping center for $4.5 million in 1987.
By the beginning of the 1990s, the park was completely closed. The only rules in play were those established by nature. Cinderella’s castle was left broken in the center of the forest. Each faded building stood as a reminder of good times that were now past.
However, lovers of abandoned places began to wander these fairytale streets instead. A charity auction in 2004 and an associated article published in the Baltimore Sun drew attention to the neglected site.
The Park Protection Society was established in 2005. Their goal was to preserve and restore the property. They decided to transfer everything they could to a nearby farm a few miles away. The farm was owned by Elioak and Martha Clark. Martha, like many local kids, had fond memories of the park in its former glory
Many buildings and structures were very heavy and cumbersome. The old woman’s shoe weighed nearly 30,000 pounds and was over 20 feet high. It took more than ten years to deliver everything to the farm.
Every year on August 15, 2015, the Enchanted Forest celebrates its anniversary at Clark’s farm. Many parts of the park and the buildings have been restored, and they are once again on display for those families who wish to enter a fairytale kingdom.
Many thanks to Antiquity Echoes for great photos! Check out their website.
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