The Pike was an
amusement parkand arcade near the beachsouth of Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach, California. Started in 1902, The Pike ran until 1979, when a long-term contract with the city ran out. It was most noted for its large wooden roller coaster, the Cyclone, that extended out over the water. The area surrounding the pike also went by the names of Silver Spray Pier and after World War II, it was expanded and renamed Nu-Pike.
The amusement park area began in 1902, as a beach and
bath house resortat the end of the electric trolley carline, the Pacific Electric Railway, from Los Angeles. In fact the opening of the bath house coincided with the extension of the "Red Car" to Long Beach on July 4, 1902.
This area gradually grew to include a “Main Street” or lane with concessions, which included the
carousel, salt water taffystore, pony rides, goat carts, fortune teller, weight guesser and a variety of rides and other attractions. cite web | last =Prosise| first =Paul | title = The Pike | url = http://www.millikanalumni.com/Pike/PikeToday_8.html | accessdate =2007-08-18 ]
In the early 1920s, the original
Long Beach Municipal Auditoriumwas constructed on the beach and on twenty acres of landfilllocated south of today's intersection of Ocean and Long Beach Boulevards. After the construction of the auditorium, there were problems created by storms and coastal erosionin the area. In order to protect the auditorium from these problems, a horseshoe (rainbow) shaped breakwater was constructed around it. Because of its shape it was named "Rainbow Pier", even though it was actually a breakwater with a road constructed on top of it.
In the late 1940s, the City of Long Beach began filling in the water area enclosed by the Rainbow Pier breakwater creating additional public trust lands upon which a larger, more modern auditorium was constructed. Filling of the shoreline area continued in the late 1950s and early 1960s with the Tidelands Filling Project.
In the 1950s, the area underwent another facelift , giving it a post-World War II modern look and the park was re-named "Nu-Pike." A Kiddieland was installed. In 1954 there were 218 amusements in the park, but during this time the area faced stiff competition from
Disneylandand Knott's Berry Farm(both less than 20 miles away) and the rough "free-for-all reputation" may have discouraged some families from attending.
Charles I. D. Looffinstalled a carouselin Long Beach, and he and his family actually began to live above the carousel. Charles Looff is considered to be the first of the great American carousel makers, having installed a carousel on Coney Island, and in his career developing Santa Monica Pier and Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The original Long Beach Looff carousel built in 1911 burned to the ground in 1943, but the building, called the “Lite-A-Line,” remained and was used as a gaming hall. The roof structure was saved and is awaiting use. It can be seen from the grassy area off Ocean Blvd. & Pacific.
Bisby’s Spiral Airship
Bisby's Spiral Airship built in 1902 had cars that were suspended underneath a track and could swing freely. The cars travelled up an inclined track, and then descended along a spiral track around a steel frame tower before returning to the station. This is commonly acknowledged as the first suspended
roller coastertype ride. [Kay, James [http://www.coasterglobe.com/features/history-suspended History of the Suspended Coaster] "Coaster Globe" website. Retrieved 2007-08-18.] This tall steel tower figures prominently in early pictures of the area.
Other rides included:cite web | last =Prosise| first =Paul | title = The Pike map | url = http://www.millikanalumni.com/Pike/Map.html | accessdate =2007-08-18 ]
*Double Ferris wheel
*Fun House (with a
Laffing Saland Laffing Sam)
*Laff in the Dark
According to Roller Coaster DataBase [cite web | url=http://www.rcdb.com/pd738.htm | title=Queens Park (Long Beach, California 90802 USA) | work=Roller Coaster DataBase | accessdate=2007-08-18] , the Pike had the following roller coasters:
*Bisby's Spiral Airship (1902-?)
*Comet Jr. (1949-1959)
*Cyclone Racer (5/30/1930-9/15/1968)
*Galaxi Steel (1972-1979)
*Jack Rabbit Racer (5/1/1915-1930)
*Mad Mouse (1959-1968 or earlier)
*Roller Coaster (6/1907-1914)
*Wild Maus (1961-1979)
The Pike's first more traditional roller coaster opened for business in June 1907. It was built by
Fred IngersollReyes, Greg (2003) [http://www.cycloneracer.com/ Exploring the Legend of the Cyclone Racer] , "Coaster Magazine", American Coaster Enthusiast. Retrieved 2007-08-19] and named the Figure 8 after the shape of the tracks. It was built on pilings that reached out over the water.
According to a 1966 editorial in the "High Tide," the newspaper of
Redondo Union High School, a rider met tragedy when he disobeyed a sign instructing riders not to stand up: "He apparently thought this would spoil his fun, so he proceeded to stand up. Unfortunately, his head was knocked off."
Jack Rabbit Racer
In 1914 the Pike Amusement Zone undertook several upgrades and a new roller coaster named the Jack Rabbit Racer was opened in May 1915 becoming the second largest racing coaster in the country. It was again designed by Fred Ingersoll, this time with the help of
John Miller. It was part of the Silver Spray Pier which included several new rides and concessions. You could look down through the tracks and see the water.Kay, James (2001) [http://www.cycloneracer.com/ "Lost Legends: Cyclone Racer"] "CoasterGlobe". Retrieved 2007-08-19] In the mid twenties, several expansions were made to the area and the Jack Rabbit Racer was remodeled raising the ride's dips to a greater height and steepness.
One of the best know of the historic coasters, the Cyclone Racer was built in 1930 to replace the Jack Rabbit Racer. The Cyclone Racer was a dual-track (two trains could run at the same time), racing wooden roller coaster, the brain child of Fred Church and built by
Harry Traver. When demolished in September 1968, the Cyclone Racer was the only two track roller coaster in the United States.
The new coaster was also built on pilings over the ocean, but breakwaters and harbor expansion extended the sandy beach until eventually the entire pier stood over the beach, not water.
Over 30 million riders rode on the Cyclone before it closed in 1968. Enthusiasts are seeking to recreate this roller coaster, have made a three dimensional model and are looking to perhaps have it rebuilt in Southern California.
The Pike was also used for filming a number of
television programs and movies, including the 1964 cult film" The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies" and the 1974 blaxploitationfilm "Three the Hard Way". During the set-up to film an episode of " The Six Million Dollar Man" in The Pike's "Laff in the Dark" funhousein December 1976, the arm of a "hanging man" prop came off, revealing a real human bone inside. Examination of the corpse by the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner's Officediscovered that it was the body of Elmer McCurdy, an outlawwho had been killed and embalmed in 1911 [Cite web| last =Mikkelson | first =Barbara | coauthors =David P. Mikkelson|url=http://www.snopes.com/horrors/gruesome/mccurdy.htm |title=Urban Legends Reference Pages: Elmer McCurdy |date=2006-11-09 |accessdate=2007-07-13] .
Demise of the amusement park
In the 1970s, the city of Long Beach began redevelopment of the area. The city had purchased the
RMS Queen Maryin 1967 and permanently docked the ship in Long Beach near the Pike shoreline area to act as a maritime museum. The ship opened to the public in 1971. [Cite web|url= http://www.queenmary.com/index.php?page=1967|title=The Queen Mary’s History 1967-1980 |accessdate=2007-08-26]
In 1979 the Pike amusement park was officially closed and demolished. By the time the park's lease with the city ended, The Pike had fallen into disrepair and most of the businesses had already left. The City of Long Beach then removed the remaining structures. Various plans for development of the area took form over the next thirty years. In 1999, the
California Coastal Commissionapproved a plan for the construction of The Pike commercial and entertainment complex in the downtown shoreline area. [http://documents.coastal.ca.gov/reports/2007/3/Th13b-3-2007.pdf Staff Report of the Coastal Commission on Application 506366] , South Coast Area Office, dtd. 2007 Feb 22. Retrieved 2007 08-19.]
After the amusement park
With numerous debates over the area, the main development of the area did not occur until the opening of The Pike at Rainbow Harbor in 2003. Although the area has been developed into a retail-entertainment center that pays homage to its past as an amusement park, it has yet to become as successful as hoped. cite news | last =Wange | first =Jennifer | title = What Went Wrong At The Pike? | publisher ="Long Beach Business Journal"| date =2006-04-25 | url =http://www.lbbj.com/manage/uploads/lbbj_pdfs/PikeImprovements_04252006_1.pdf | accessdate =2007-08-18 |format=PDF] There continues to be controversy over the lack of a real beach in the area and solutions are sought for bringing back the excitement of area’s heyday. [cite news | last =Wange | first =Jennifer | title = Council Votes 7-1 For First-Phase Study On Reconfiguring Breakwater | publisher ="LBReport.com"| date =2007-07-25 | url = http://www.lbreport.com/news/jul07/bkvote.htm | accessdate =2007-08-18 ] [cite news | last =Staff | title = The Long Beach of Tomorrow, Today| publisher ="The District Weekly" | date =2007-08-15 | url = http://thedistrictweekly.com/dwweb/?p=526| accessdate =2007-08-18 ]
The Pike at Rainbow Harbor is located between the
Long Beach Convention Centerand the Aquarium of the Pacific. The tourist-oriented development has a large number of restaurants, a Borders bookstore, a Gameworks, and a 14-theater megaplexCinemark movie theater. There is also an outdoor amphitheater, an antique carouseland a Ferris wheel.
* [http://www.thepikeatlongbeach.com/ The Pike at Rainbow Harbor]
* [http://www.millikanalumni.com/Pike/Pike.html The Pike] - fan history page
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