Puritas Springs Park: Cleveland’s west side amusement park, home of The Cyclone

Early 20th Century Cleveland boasted about half a dozen amusement parks. Well known examples included Euclid Beach Park, Luna Park, White City, and Forest City Park.

All of them were direct descendants of Coney Island in New York—a destination that set the pattern for urban amusement parks for decades to come.

The heyday of these parks lasted 70 years, from 1895 to 1965. They relied on a densely packed urban population who had some disposable income and ready access to local streetcar lines.

Many of these parks’ officials did not anticipate the onslaught of automobile traffic that would later come. The lack of parking facilities was an omission that would cost some of them dearly by the mid-20th Century.

The best-known Cleveland amusement parks were concentrated on the city’s east side.

An exception was Puritas Springs Park—established in 1900 in the West Park Kamm’s Corners neighborhood.

The Cleveland and Berea Street Railway had purchased the property six years earlier and subsequently created the park to increase traffic on its interurban . It opened for business on June 10, 1900—the first day the interurban ran right to the front gates of the park.

To describe it initially as an amusement park was a bit of a stretch. It originally included a campground, picnic grove, and a dance hall. Mechanical rides came later.

Steam carousel operator John Gooding, who first leased land from the railway in 1898 to install one of his carousels, bought Puritas Springs Park from the railway in June 1915. He added an indoor roller rink and various rides. He also constructed a house on the property, where he lived until his death in the 1930s.

Lawrence "Jungle Larry" Tetzlaff and his wife, Nancy "Safari Jane"—perhaps best known for their tenure at Cedar Point and appearances on the kids show “Captain Penny” on WEWS Channel 5 from the 1950s to the1970s—also ran a small circus out of the park in the summers of 1957 and 1958.

The park was located on the north side of Puritas Road, just at the point where it plunges down a steep hillside into what is now the Cleveland Metroparks .

Puritas Springs Park in its heydayPuritas Springs Park in its heydayOriginally known for a medicinal spring on the property where Puritas Mineral Spring Company bottled and sold the mineral water, Puritas Springs is best remembered today for its roller coaster, known as the Cyclone.

Designed by John A. Miller, The Cyclone first began operating on June 10, 1928, and quickly earned a reputation as one of the area’s most unforgettable roller coasters—being the highest and fastest coaster in Cleveland. Taking full advantage of its location right on the edge of the valley, an 87-foot drop gave riders the illusion of falling at high speed to the Rocky River valley floor.

While urban legend credits several deaths to this coaster, only one can be confirmed: an incident in 1953 when a rider said to be under the influence of alcohol fell to his death.

The Cyclone lasted just three more years—the high cost of maintenance leading to the coaster’s final run in 1956. Today, it is included on a list of memorable lost roller coasters compiled by the Smithsonian Institution.

By the mid-1950s, the handwriting was on the wall for these early 20th Century amusement parks. Changing demographics and competition from other forms of recreation cut attendance drastically.

The streetcars and interurbans that once dropped patrons off at the park entrancewere a thing of the past, and improved roads and the widespread use of cars encouraged people to go wherever they wished.

After a 60-year run, Puritas Springs Park closed for good on Labor Day in 1958. The following spring, a fire significantly damaged buildings and the roller coaster.

The coaster itself survived as a ruin with large segments toppled to the ground on the wooded hillside as late as the 1970s. Today, the site hosts the Parkridge Apartments. West Park Historical Society created the wording and sponsored the placement of an Ohio Historical Marker for Puritas Springs Park on the corner of Puritas and W. 194th

Intrepid hikers on the property note remnants of the Cyclone to this day. Otherwise, all that survives to indicate t the park’s existence is a state historical marker at the park’s original entrance—and the collective memory of the few remaining patrons who were sure they were about to ride the Cyclone straight to the bottom of the Rocky River valley.

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About the Author: Tom Matowitz

Recently retired after a 37-year career teaching public speaking, Tom Matowitz has had a lifelong interest in local and regional history. Working as a freelance author for the past 20 years he has written a number of books and articles about Cleveland’s past. He has a particular interest in the area’s rich architectural history.