Way We Were: The legacy of Lagoon | ParkRecord.com

Way We Were: The legacy of Lagoon

Courtney Titus
Park City Museum
Friends and family of George G. Rosevear bathe in the Great Salt Lake circa the early 1900s. The Lake Park Bathing Resort, which preceded Lagoon, was originally located nearby on the shores of the Great Salt Lake.
Park City Historical Society & Museum, Thomas F. Hansen Collection

Farmington’s Lagoon Amusement Park is one of the ten oldest amusement parks in the country. The earliest version of Lagoon was founded in 1886 on the shores of the Great Salt Lake. Then known as Lake Park Bathing Resort, it operated until 1895, when the receding waters of the lake forced the resort to close and move locations. Owner Simon Bamberger decided to relocate to Farmington, where he created a man-made lake and water park called Lagoon, which opened the following year.

In the decades that followed, the resort added many more amusements, such as thrill rides, horse races and a filtered swimming pool. Lagoon’s wooden “Roller Coaster,” designed by John Miller (who also designed Coney Island’s Thunderbolt and dozens of other coasters), was constructed in 1921. It is one of the oldest operating wooden coasters in the world, and one of the few attractions that remains from the park’s early days. Another is the Carousel, manufactured in 1893 and installed in 1906, which features over 40 ornate hand-carved animals.

In 1953, fire destroyed a large section of the park, including half the Roller Coaster. Park manager Robert E. Freed was determined to rebuild as quickly as possible, using the disaster as an opportunity to expand and improve the resort. Lagoon reopened the following summer with several new rides and Patio Gardens, which was to become a popular music venue. In the 1960s alone, Lagoon hosted such musical acts as the Beach Boys, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones.

The Freed family still owns the park today, making it the largest family-owned amusement park in the country. They remain successful and draw crowds every summer by adding new attractions each year, while continuing to respect the park’s history. In 2015, they premiered the Cannibal, the steepest roller coaster in the country, after years of planning and construction.

Park City residents have taken advantage of Lagoon’s proximity from the earliest years, often organizing excursions to enjoy the park’s many amusements in the summer months. In 1916, the eighth annual convention of the Utah State Firemen’s Association featured a day-long celebration at Lagoon, where firemen participated in a tournament with competitions in hose coupling, hose cart races and ladder climbing. The Park City Volunteer Fire Department attended the three-day convention, including the competition at Lagoon. Park City had high hopes of winning the tournament, and gathered a group of sixteen skilled firemen to compete. Alas, they were unsuccessful that year, not winning a single prize. Eureka won top honors for the third year in a row.

Please join the Park City Museum for Lynn Arave’s lecture, “Showcasing the Legacy of Lagoon,” on Thursday, May 16 from 5 to 6 p.m. at the Park City Museum Education and Collections Center located at 2079 Sidewinder Drive. This lecture coincides with the Museum’s current traveling exhibit, Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008.

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