Print | Back to e-WV The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Rock Springs Park


Rock Springs Park was an amusement park located in Chester at the tip of the Northern Panhandle. While its lush valley of shade trees and cool springs attracted picnickers as early as the 1880s, Rock Springs was opened as a commercial park in May 1897. Like other such parks, its development was connected to the street car system. A new bridge over the Ohio River had opened a few months before, carrying a trolley line directly to the park’s entrance. During the next decade, developers J. E. McDonald and C. A. Smith made the park a showcase of the tri-state area. In its peak years, Rock Springs employed 350 workers and had daily attendances as high as 20,000. Popular rides were the Old Mill, Shoot-the-Chutes, and the Scenic Railway. Pleasure seekers could also swim, boat, stroll the gardens, see a stage production, visit the zoo, or dance in the casino.

By the 1950s, the park had suffered a number of financial blows, including the rescinding of railroad excursion rates and the Depression. Reduced in size and grandeur, it continued to operate until 1970 when it was purchased by the Department of Highways. All structures were sold at public auction in 1974 to make way for the new road and Ohio River bridge. The Rock Springs carousel, a 1920s Dentzel model with 48 carved horses, found a home with the Freels Foundation in San Francisco. The spring ‘‘that flowed from a solid wall of rock’’ is now a trickle in the basin between the roads.

Written by Susan M. Weaver