Wildwood Amusement Park originally opened in the 1880s on the southern shore of White Bear Lake. In those early years, it was little more than a picnic ground with lake access. By the 1893 summer season, amusements, such as a water toboggan slide and shooting gallery, were added. Advertisements boasted “Amusement every moment of the day” for visitors.
By the end of that decade, the park was acquired by the Twin City Rapid Transit (TCRT) Co., which owned and operated the extensive streetcar system around the Twin Cities. The park was immediately improved to include larger rides, including a 500-foot roller coaster and additional attractions such as the Katzenjammer Castle funhouse. The motive was clear: The park was located at the end of the tracks for the streetcar line. Most of the people coming to the park took the streetcar to get there and greatly increased streetcar ridership on weekends in particular. Entrance to the park was free; one only had to pay the streetcar fare to get there.
The park peaked in popularity during World War I and slowly declined during the 1920s and early 1930s. As people purchased their own automobiles and no longer needed to rely as heavily on public transportation, the park saw a distinct decline in attendance as well as ridership on the streetcars. By 1932, the TCRT was shutting down the lines from Wildwood to downtown White Bear and restricting their runs.
Wildwood Park lasted until the late 1930s before being entirely dismantled. By the time World War II was underway, little was left of the once grand attraction on the lake.
Sara Markoe Hanson is the executive director of the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society. She is one of a handful of community representatives sharing history thoughts monthly.
For more information on the history of Wildwood Amusement Park, visit whitebearhistory.org, or call 651.407.5327.