Ontario Beach Park – #29

In 1914 they changed the name of the Park from Ontario Beach Park to Greater Ontario Beach Park. It was one of those changes that would only last one year. They opened the Park on Sunday May 10th as a preview day. Rides were open and there was a band concert.

A fire started May 14th at about 10:30 p.m. The fire started in the Virginia Reel which had just been repainted a week before. It was completely destroyed as was the bathhouse which was close by. Also burned were fortune tellers’ booths and a ticket office. Winds were blowing toward the lake so the Japanese pavilion and Venetian Canals that were nearby were spared. Just the same there was about $20,000 worth of damage.  Just a few days later Park management said that a new $8,000 bathhouse would be built. Either a swing or an Indian Village would replace the Virginia Reel. It was not noticed until days later that the toboggan slide into the lake was damaged enough that it too had to be replaced.

When the Park opened for the season there were some new additions. They added a Motordrome, something called “Frolic” and “Watch Your Step,” a walking show. Then the Venetian Canals’ name was changed to the Old Mill. The name of the Foolish House (previously known as The House That Jack Built) was changed to Trail of the Lonesome Pine. The dancing pavilion has a new dance floor. One newspaper article noted that the band at the dancing pavilion had 6 pieces and they also use an electric chimes.

Inez Harrison

John Philip Sousa (center)

From June 9th to the 11th the NY State Sportsmen’s Association held their annual trap shooting contest. There were approx. 150 shooters from all over NY State. Most of the shooters were men but the picture, at right, shows Inez (Mrs. Harry) Harrison taking a shot. I suspect that in the background is the Motordrome which would have had motorcycles going around inside. There was a special guest that came for just one day. Famous bandleader John Philip Sousa made some shots at the clay pigeons. He was known mostly for his march songs but he also liked to attend shooting competition when he could. He could only stay the one day because he had to lead his band the next day.

There were still circus acts performing on the outdoor stage both in the afternoon and evening. In June was Tango week with Glenn and Weaver giving demonstrations. One interesting act in mid July was Marie Thelia who jumped 40 feet into a tank of water that has been set on fire. That tank was only 4 foot deep. Bert Swan also came in July. He wrestled alligators in a tank with glass sides. In 1913 while doing his act somewhere else, an alligator bit off his left thumb.

One special act in June was aviator William S. Luckey who came to the beach with a Curtiss Hydro-plane. Unlike early flyers at the Park, he was able to take off, fly over the lake, and land without incident. He was so popular that he came back in late August. For that appearance he flew from Prescott, Ontario, making many stops along the way. As the newspaper ad says he dropped mock bombs from his airplane. He also carried passengers from the Naval Reserve.

On June 14th there was a serious accident on the Scenic Railway. It was caused by a lady in one of the cars dropping her coat on the track. That made the car overturn. Then another car hit the first car. A total of 17 people were taken to the Park office where Doctor W. Kirke Otis from Rochester was the first to come to their aid. He just happened to be visiting the Park that day. Doctor J. H. Sullivan of Charlotte arrived soon after.

The most seriously injured was Miss Jessie Hayes who at first was thought to have a broken back. Her back was wrenched and she had a possible fractured wrist and a few teeth knocked out. Miss Hayes, Miss Ruth Fowler, Michael Lanigan, and Edward L. Clark were sent to Rochester General Hospital. Miss Fowler was cut and bruised and suffering severely from shock. Mr. Lanigan had a fractured leg bone. Mr. Clark injured his right thigh and suffered from shock. Mr. Clark and Mr. Lanigan returned home the next day.

William H. Cooper and Miss Mabel Beadle were sent to Hahneman Hospital. Mr. Cooper had injured both knees and a sprained right ankle. Miss Beadle had strained tendons in both legs. They were both sent home the next day. All the rest of the injured went directly to their homes.

Misses Lillian Marten, Lea Gould & Jacquline Wenst at the beach in August.

A new bathing pavilion was completed by the end of June. The Democrat & Chronicle of June 28th said that the Park has a “sand sucker” and has fixed the beach for 800 feet. A letter to the editor in late August complained that it cost 25 cents to use the bathhouse, plus Park admission, plus the trolley fare to go to the beach. They suggested that the bathhouse should be outside the Park grounds.

The Park held two carnival nights (July 26th and Aug. 18th). They proved so successful that they added a carnival for the last week of the season (Sept. 1- 7). There were free masks to all who entered the Park. The management and the band were in costumes. Then there was also a parade that included floats drawn by “comic horses and dragons.”

There was the annual Orphan’s Day on Aug. 4th. The orphans were first given a parade in downtown Rochester. The newspaper said that movies of the orphans would be taken of the parade, on Maplewood Ave. and at the Park. The movies were to be shown in Rochester and elsewhere as newsreels. Too bad that those movies no longer exist.

Something big happened in Europe on July 28th that would have ramification in the Park and the rest of the US. The First World War started on that day. The US tried to stay out of the war but eventually entered the war on April 6, 1917. That would end up affecting attendance to the Park.

After the Park closed for the season just to the west was another huge fire. On Sept. 14th the Charlotte baseball team held a dance at the Bartholomay pavilion. It is thought that a cigar butt thrown on the floor may have started the fire. Destroyed was the pavilion, the Cottage Hotel, and the Manitou Beach trolley ticket office. The loss was estimated at $50,0000. There never was another hotel in that part of the beach.