12. Starlight Park (1918-1937)
Starlight Park, now a public park along the Bronx River, was an amusement park open from 1918 to 1937. The park was built on the former site of the estate of William Waldorf Astor and was rebranded from the earlier Exhibition Park, built to commemorate the recent creation of Bronx County. Starlight Park featured shooting galleries, a dark ride, a baseball field, and rides like a roller coaster, Ferris wheel, and scenic railway. In 1922, additions like a sound system by the pool, electric riding cars, and performances were added to Starlight Park. The park’s reputation was negatively impacted after a rider was killed while standing up on a roller coaster, and a fire in 1922 destroyed Exposition Hall as well as the Ferris wheel. However, at its peak in 1926, the park had 26 rides and 150 concessions, with new features like the 15,000-seat Bronx Coliseum constructed at the park in 1929.
The park actually saw increased attendance in the early years of the Great Depression, installing several new rides and launching promotions like free-admission days and contests. Yet, like many amusement parks of the mid-20th century, a large fire destroyed a large section of the park; the Coliseum survived and was the park’s major source of income while redeveloping the park. The Coliseum actually hosted rallies of the USA Communist Party. By the mid-1930s, Starlight Park was seen less as an amusement park and more as a recreational park, with new sporting fields, a swimming pool, and picnic areas. Starlight Park was fully bankrupt by 1940, and a city park was later built in the 1950s.