Happy 175 years to Lake Compounce!
As the oldest, continuously operating amusement park in America, it is a feat to celebrate. Let’s take a moment to draw inspiration from how Lake Compounce has kept up and transformed with the times throughout its storied history.
It All Started With An Explosive Fail
In 1846, Samuel Botsford, an influential Bristol scientist, convinced the property owner, Gad Norton, to let him conduct a series of experiments in electricity. Well publicized, the event drew thousands of spectators to witness the demonstrations amidst the beauty of the woods and water. Although the final experiment—blowing up two jugs of gunpowder under a raft in the middle of a lake—turned out to be an epic fail, it motivated Mr. Norton into action. Seeing the desire people had for entertainment, he created a path around the lake, built picnic tables, and changed the rules to allow public swimming and rowing on the lake.
Thus, with the hottest attractions of the 1840s, the entertainment venue we now know as Lake Compounce was born.
In the following decades, attractions such as a hand-powered revolving swing, a ten-pin bowling alley with pool tables, and a casino were added.
Adding a Theme Park to the Mix
In 1911, a hand-crafted wooden carousel with a Looff mechanism opened to the public, followed by the park’s first electric-powered roller coaster in 1914. It was later replaced by the “Wildcat,” a wooden rollercoaster built in 1927 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company that is still in operation today.
Fast forward to 1996, the Kennywood Entertainment Company became the new managing partner of Lake Compounce (now operated by Palace Entertainment). Spending more than $24 million on 20 new rides, Kennywood had the challenge of trying to balance the historic areas of the park with the modern attractions that people now expected.
For example, a River Raft Ride was built to complement the wooden rollercoaster. With a long course of rapids built on the side of a mountain, the ride gave families an exhilarating white water rafting experience.
Generating Additional Revenue by Creating a Mixed-Use Venue with a Water Park
While the new rides helped to drive ticket sales, Lake Compounce looked to generate additional revenue by building a water park, which would enable VIP area rentals and extra venue space for private after-hours celebrations. The water park, with installations such as a wave pool and a splash pad, would also create a solution for overcrowding, as it would offer passive capacity attractions to entertain large groups.
In 1998, Lake Compounce entered the world of aquatics with the addition of Splash Harbor, now known as Crocodile Cove Water Park. The water park debuted with one water slide, a wave pool, and a selection of kids’ slides. A hit among guests, WhiteWater added a custom-themed sailboat AquaPlay 1050 to expand the park’s offerings for visitors of all ages.
“Our team was delighted to work with WhiteWater to add some new attractions to enhance the Crocodile Cove Water Park,” said General Manager Larry Gorneault, Jr. “Lake Compounce has had millions invested during recent years, and today it is more beautiful than ever. The park’s transformation has tastefully integrated its natural beauty and rich heritage with a blend of classical and contemporary rides, family-friendly events, and unique attractions.”
In 2012, Lake Compounce moved a nearby road to expand the water park. More water slides were added over the next few years, with WhiteWater partnering with the park again in 2021 to elevate its aquatic thrills. The resulting attraction was the Venus Vortex, a six-story Manta water slide.
The new addition takes up to three adventurous riders together through twists and turns, soaring down an enclosed slide in a circular raft, before plummeting into a U-shaped half funnel in the form of a hungry Venus flytrap.
Make History of Your Own
Not one to stay stagnant, Lake Compounce has continued to grow and elevate its offerings throughout its rich 175-year history. From its humble origins as a picnic site to the massive 332 acres (134 ha) mixed-use venue we know today, Lake Compounce has cemented itself in the industry for lovers of both water and amusement parks.
Reach out to us to find out how we can help you get the benefits of a mixed-use venue by adding wet or dry rides to your park.