Pittsburg’s Luna Park.

Welcome to Pittsburgh History with Professor Ginny where we like to look at old stuff!

Two notes:

  • I wrote a history post about the old PAT streetcars over at the Pittsburgh Magazine site before I left for Mexico, so be sure to check that piece of history out.
  • Steve Mellon has been putting together some kickass historical stuff over at the P-G, combining old photographs, old newspaper clippings, and video editing to make old stories come alive. Check out this one about a tragic fire on the North Side many years ago and learn about how Pittsburghers have always been heroic good neighbors. If you want to read about the fire, you can do so here and here.

Now for our lesson! Take notes, Lukey!

Luna Park is going to look familiar to you because Kennywood’s “Lost Kennywood” is modeled after it, which is interesting because Luna Park and Kennywood were once competitors and it was the popularity of Kennywood that had a hand in the shuttering of the less popular Luna Park, if Wikipedia is to be believed and why not? Everything on the Internet is true.

Luna Park was located on 16 acres roughly HERE, with the entrance being at N. Craig and Center:

Luna Park opened in 1905 and closed in 1909, a short life for sure.

Each year, The Pittsburg Press offered a series of coupons that allowed for free admission to the park if the bearer collected all seven coupons:

This would be the entrance to Luna Park in 1905 (click for stunning embiggen):

Let’s note the details:

Burghers in 1905! Starting on the left, I wonder if the boy is considering spending his hard earned money to enter the park? Then street sweeper! Then lovely lady and an adorable girl in a big hat, then another street sweeper.  LOVE IT ALL!

Holding Daddy’s hand, an animated conversation, and Shoot the Chutes in the background:

Adgie and her Lions are coming, a bike, and 10 cent admission:

Here’s another photo of Luna Park from the Library of Congress, which you can click to embiggen or you can go here and download the SUPER EMBIGGEN:

Details! Fierce!

The Japanese Theater looks quite popular. You can read all about it and all of the other amazing attractions right here. There were six buildings dedicated to it, a tea garden, 18 geisha girls from Japan, a Japanese bakery, restaurant, shops and more.

Mystic River!

Silly boys in their skewed caps doing silly things:

And yet another photo of Luna Park from the US Archives, which you can download in huge format as well:

Details! A Trip to Rockaway!

Shoot. I kinda want to ride that!

Chateau Alphonse:

OMG, Time Travel! Why aren’t you a thing yet?!

Bored. Probably because everyone is over in Japan with the geisha girls:

WTF? Is that some kind of swing or guillotine or something?

Wait. Maybe they did invent time travel, because that is Sean Penn:

The Mystic River, perhaps?

WHAT IN THE NAME OF FRICK?!

Rifle Range and the Scenictorium:

I don’t know what a “popcorn crispette” is, but I need one:

Goodnight!





56 Comments

  1. Tracy
    April 3, 2012 8:17 am

    Love, love, love the history. It makes me miss my great-grandparents who passed away in the mid-90’s, they were 97 and 98 years old. My biggest regret in life is that I didn’t appreciate (ask questions, listen to, draw out stories) what they experienced throughout their life. I wonder if either ever made it to Luna Park…

    Keep up with the history posts, please!



  2. Michelle B
    April 3, 2012 8:32 am

    I read an article not too long ago about infant incubators on display at amusement parks. Apparently it was quite common at the time, and was meant to be a scientific learning display. Most of the babies received better care in these displays than they would have in the hospital, and in many of the cases some of the money raised went to further aid research into premature birth. Having said that, I’m glad my preemie didn’t end up in one of these!
    I believe from the knee socks and shorts that it’s a little boy with a big hat in the fourth pic, not a girl. I’m no expert on fashion of the time, though- discuss!!



    • unsatisfied
      April 3, 2012 12:24 pm

      I can back that up. and, if anyone here is a viewer of “boardwalk empire”, they showed such an “infant incubator” during the 1st season.

      btw — “right merry fashion” = awesome emo band name.

      great post, ginny.



    • YinzerInExile
      April 4, 2012 7:34 am

      Actually, I was thinking the opposite–white sailor suits with knickers and broad-brimmed hats were standard little boy fashion, turn of the century. I can’t imagine a little girl of the time, at that age, wearing knickers or that hat.



  3. DisplacedFromPitt
    April 3, 2012 8:36 am

    My grandfather told me they used to eat these corn crispettes which were like cracker jacks. I don’t know how similar they were, but I remember him telling me about buying corn crispettes at the candy store for 5 cents.



  4. Bill
    April 3, 2012 8:51 am

    That swing is a “Guess Your Weight” amusement. Note the scale at the top.



  5. macool
    April 3, 2012 8:59 am

    I guess that the Luna Bar ( across from Chief’s on Craig) is a remnant of the old park.



    • Ex-Pat Pittsburgh Girl
      April 3, 2012 11:58 am

      Yes, it is! Haven’t been in it since the early 90s, but it had some interesting clientele.



      • Carol
        April 4, 2012 8:36 pm

        How young you two must be! The Luna was a great bar back from my days at Pitt 1974-1978. The bar was on the corner of Craig/Center…it’s shifted a bit, now across the street from the equally seedy Chief’s. The other bar in that area, also frequented by frat boys and sweet young things like moi was Mitchell’s Pub (still around) and Haddon Hall (across from Pep-boys and is no more.) Beer was $1 a pitcher….



        • bucdaddy
          April 4, 2012 10:39 pm

          Huh, never went in those four but I must have gone past there or near there (and you) a lot in the late ’70s, on my way from PPC (now PPU) to the Decade. Also Garbage Records/Jerry’s Records on I think Forbes, more or less across the street from the museums. Jerry eventually moved out to Squirrel Hill. Last time I was past there, it was a Starbucks.



  6. biggeorge
    April 3, 2012 9:00 am

    well, some things never cgange. The street sweepers standing around holding up a broom! ;-)



  7. gunnlino
    April 3, 2012 9:24 am

    It was a different time , a more innocent time . no electronics , no self absorbed teens , society was a more polite place to venture into . Street sweepers standing around holding brooms , when’s the last time anyone saw a giant loud , dust raising sweeper dahn Smithfield street ?
    Wonderous photos !



    • Dr Kevlar
      April 3, 2012 7:50 pm

      Ummm, lest we forget, at the time children could work in the mines and mills. The mortality rates were much higher. Like my grandfather told me – you could die of a toothache or the flu.

      I too enjoy these old pics and truly they provide fascinating insights. We should not forget though that the people we see in these parks represent a very small slice of society. Oh yeah, if you read the papers of the times, you will read extesnive diatribes about how the youth have lost their way, society has lost all of it’s decorum and the writers despair that humanity will survive at the hands of the lazy, shiftless youth of the day.



  8. SteelCityMagnolia
    April 3, 2012 9:27 am

    I never knew this place had existed. Amazing pictures! Thank you for the history lesson, Ginny, keep ’em coming!!!



  9. Rachel
    April 3, 2012 9:54 am

    Keep the history lessons coming! I love all the old photographs



  10. Magus Patris
    April 3, 2012 9:58 am

    They have a small replica “Luna Park” at the model railroad at the Carnegie Science Center. I’m not sure how accurate the layout is, but the front gate looks exactly like the picture. The next time we go, I’ll have to check to see if there are miniature street sweepers there!



  11. Magus Patris
    April 3, 2012 10:04 am

    Ooh! Just Googled, “Adgie and Her Lions”. Cool pictures of her act.



  12. Gina
    April 3, 2012 10:08 am

    I think that swing is a scale. I can’t believe those guess your weight games have been around so long. Personally, I would pay them to guess low, then act all sad about the fact that I didn’t win.



  13. Amy
    April 3, 2012 10:25 am

    There is an infant incubator on the show Boardwalk Empire and I always wondered what they had to do with anything. Nucky was a preemie, but they never really explained what the heck an incubator was doing on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. Thanks for the explanation, Michelle B!



  14. efw_west
    April 3, 2012 10:29 am

    very interesting. Now Lost Kennywood makes perfect sense. The similarity is incredible. Also the comment above about the Luna bar….also very interesting.



  15. Sara
    April 3, 2012 10:48 am

    Ginny, one of Rick Sebak’s documentaries talks about Luna Park and the infant incubators…but it’s been a while since I’ve seen it. These photos are amazing! The quality is really good!



  16. hello haha narf
    April 3, 2012 10:56 am

    sad that as soon as i saw the title of this post I got thirsty because my mind instantly went to the luna bar. #alcoholicbeforenoon

    anyhow, what i really wanted to say is i hope you are happy now that you outted sean penn and his time traveling. somehow you have fucked up the space time continuum, i’m sure!



  17. hello haha narf
    April 3, 2012 10:57 am

    p.s. i love these old pittsburgh posts. xoxo



  18. Noelle
    April 3, 2012 11:08 am

    Anyone read Eric Larson’s “Devil in the White City”? This reminded me of that.



    • Pensgirl
      April 3, 2012 11:20 am

      Without all the murder! Larson is one of the best writers I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.



    • angie
      April 3, 2012 12:49 pm

      I love that book.



    • Noelle
      April 3, 2012 12:54 pm

      If you haven’t, read his book “In the Garden of Beasts” about the US ambassador to Hitler’s Germany before the war. Riveting and absorbing. Larson is a non-fiction genius.



      • Pensgirl
        April 3, 2012 4:38 pm

        Agree – I found that one even better from a writing standpoint. His description of Diels entering a room might be the most successful use of imagery I have ever encountered.



        • Noelle
          April 3, 2012 7:53 pm

          Seriously, that book was so good at transporting me to 1930s Germany that I almost, for a second, actually forgot how the real story ended. Amazing.



  19. Pensgirl
    April 3, 2012 11:25 am

    I need to go find some pleasing fancies to enjoy in right merry fashion.

    Damn, I wish we still wrote that way.



  20. Jill
    April 3, 2012 11:29 am

    The Steve Mellon work is AMAZING. I just watched the one about the fire. Peter Vallon’s heroism brought tears to my eyes.

    Great post, Ginny. I too love old Pittsburgh as much as new Pittsburgh!



  21. Peetsburger
    April 3, 2012 12:16 pm

    Nice to see you learning about the city you claim to be from



  22. Maggie May
    April 3, 2012 1:36 pm

    That dig at Ginny was so unnecessary. Please go away and take your preposition-ending sentences with you..



    • Noelle
      April 3, 2012 2:41 pm

      just ignore him from now on, obviously he wants someone to respond, like a 4 year old. If Ginny won’t ban him again lets just pretend he’s not there.



  23. burghbaby
    April 3, 2012 1:40 pm

    If you were to gather every single teenage girl in Kennywood on any given summer day and put all of their clothes on one person, they probably still wouldn’t be wearing as much clothing as the people in the photos.



    • Leigh
      April 3, 2012 4:31 pm

      Good one, burghbaby! Nothing like people watching at Kennywood while standing in line at the Thunderbolt. Some very little teeny, tiny clothing on people that should be wearing much bigger clothing. BTW, I can’t pull off tiny clothing, which is why I cover up appropriately!



  24. JH in SqH
    April 3, 2012 2:24 pm

    Love ‘old Pittsburg’ history!! This is a nice complement to the article in yesterday’s P-G about old historical maps of the city overlaid with what’s currently on the site (http://peoplemaps.esri.com/pittviewer/).



  25. WI Mom
    April 3, 2012 2:40 pm

    Does anyone know how long Luna Park was operating?



    • LuAnn
      April 3, 2012 2:47 pm

      At the beginning of the article, Ginny says:
      “Luna Park opened in 1905 and closed in 1909, a short life for sure.”



  26. Butcher's Dog
    April 3, 2012 4:00 pm

    Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but time travel will never exist. Never. My proof is that if it ever did exist, they’d be here now. They probably wouldn’t come here first, but eventually they’d come here. And unless you believe the UFOs are us from the future, that shoots a big hole in that. Sorry.

    But (the English teacher says) the time travel we have is the one we’ve always had…reading. We can project ourselves back (or forward) into any time through books. If they have pictures, so much the better. Reading…the best time travel ever.



    • Noelle
      April 3, 2012 7:52 pm

      Who says they aren’t here now? But had to take some sort of oath not to reveal themselves lest they disturb the natural progression of things? Hummmm??? ;)



    • YinzerInExile
      April 4, 2012 7:38 am

      That paradox assumes a unified worlds sort of approach–that there is one space-time continuum. I think that’s dealt with in a multiple universe/many worlds sort of theory. *clings desperately to time travel hopes*



      • Butcher's Dog
        April 4, 2012 11:11 am

        But don’t those wishing for time travel want to go to this world the way it was back then? If it’s multiple universes and many worlds, we wouldn’t land in this one, would we? And the past of this one’s why we want to time travel in the first place, right?

        Noelle, whatever interference those travelers had with the natural progression of things would be the way things had happened anyway. Their interference would already be a part of our history, of how we got here today. So it wouldn’t matter.

        Now I think my head hurts a little.



        • bucdaddy
          April 4, 2012 11:15 am

          Crap. I thought I had time travel all figured out. Now I have to watch “The Terminator” and “Back to the Future” again.



  27. Jackie
    April 3, 2012 7:49 pm

    I lived at Center and Craig when I went to Pitt. Never knew the history of the area. Fun read!



    • unsatisfied
      April 4, 2012 10:13 am

      one of my old roommates at pitt lived in one of the apt buildings on melwood where the park seemed to be, according to the circle on the map above. it was a total shithole compared to luna park…..though, he had a great keg-erator……



  28. Janelle
    April 3, 2012 8:33 pm

    No, really, why isn’t time travel a thing yet? That place looks amazing.



  29. bucdaddy
    April 3, 2012 11:49 pm

    I’m guessing the “pleasure of shooting the chutes” is a 1905 euphemism that would explain “the erection at the park.”

    Also, I’m pretty sure W.C. Fields is about three seconds from shoving the kids with the cockeyed caps into the pool.



  30. bucdaddy
    April 4, 2012 10:09 am

    Aaaaaand now it’s stuck in my head:

    Rock rock Rockaway Beach

    Rock rock Rockaway Beach

    Rock rock Rockaway Beach

    You can get your rock at Rockaway Beach.



  31. Michelle
    April 5, 2012 1:03 am

    @Sara and Ginny: The Rick Sebak documentary which covers Luna Park is the wonderful “Things That Aren’t There Anymore.” It also covers gems like Isalys and West View Park. Your local library branch may carry it on DVD, and it can be bought at the wqed shop online or sometimes at half price books. It’s well worth a look!



  32. Tyler
    April 5, 2012 9:10 am

    Great post! Some great pictures!

    Not sure if you have seen this (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luna_Park) but Luna Park was a chain! There was one here in Arlington, VA near where I live now. There seems to be much better documentation of the Pittsburgh park. I couldn’t find much about the one in Arlington.