New Castle, Pennsylvania, was a booming town at the turn of the 19th century, when the local amusement park, Cascade Park, attracted people from around Pennsylvania and Ohio. Officially opened on May 29, 1897, the park had a dancing pavilion (once the largest in the state), an outdoor theater, a rollerskating rink, Caterpillar and Dodg’em rides, a grandstand, and an indoor a rollercoaster called “the Figure Eight.” Folks would ice skate in the winter and swim in the pool in the summer.
Unfortunately, in the summer of 1927, a tragic accident occurred that would mark the beginning of the end for the park. Two guests died that were riding in the first car of the rollercoaster, which dipped through a gorge in the park. Some accounts said the victims were thrown from the car, while others said they were standing up in the car. After the deaths, the park put buckle straps onto the ride to prevent further issues, and the rollercoaster was eventually demolished due to termites.
In 1954 a new rollercoaster was built, taking roughly the same journey as the previous ride. Still, in the decades that followed the park experienced many periods of poor maintenance, resulting in many rides being closed for safety or lack of insurance. Vandalism was rampant during the 1980s, even while the park was still open, including someone stealing 15 carousel horses.
The second rollercoaster met its demise when a falling tree caused damage deemed too expensive to repair in 1982. The ’90s saw the park begin to look more like it does today: a nature park with picnic shelters, a playground, a restored carousel house, and fitness trail. While efforts have been made to repair the swimming pool as recently as 2014, you can still find the pool, closed, and in disrepair.
Today, many different relics of what used to exist at Cascade Park can be found, including supports for the rollercoaster along the creek in the gorge (leading to a very pretty waterfall), the remnants of the dam that created the lake, several buildings, seemingly not in use, and random concrete slabs. Still, the park remains in use today for concerts, events, weddings, or a simple leisurely stroll among the remnants of the abandoned rides.
Know Before You Go
The park remains open to the public for exploring. The gorge has some very large rocks that can be hard to navigate, but it is well worth the trek. There is often a fair amount of trash caught behind the waterfall, so be careful. The park is just off Route 422 and 65 South.