Photo Essay

Pleasure Beach - The Lost Amusement Park

Old Carousel

One of my passions has been photographing abandoned places and finding out about the history behind them. A few months ago, I decided to take a trip with a few friends to Pleasure Beach, CT. After exploring this place, I didn't understand how a past popular vacation spot became abandoned.

Pleasure Beach is located on a 63-acre peninsula connecting it to Stratford, CT. The park first opened in 1892 and was a privately owned state park. In 1905, George Tilyou (who built Steeplechase Park in Coney Island), purchased the park and renamed it Steeple Chase Island. The site was renamed Pleasure Beach in 1938 and stayed open until 1951. This was the last year the rides were fully active.

The amusement park included a scenic railroad, carousel, other rides, a ballroom and theater. It also had a well-known bicycle course and motorcycle track. The amusement park was one of the best in New England from the 1920's until the 1950's. Devastating fires and the dwindling of the big-band era led to its closure. Since the 1950's, it has been nothing but bad news for this vacation spot. In 1953, bad wiring sparked a fire that destroyed the concessions, the fun house, and penny arcade. The only bridge to get over to Pleasure Beach also had its share of incidents. It suffered a fire in 1957, an oil tanker crashed into it in 1964, it suffered another fire in 1965, it was hit by a tugboat in 1990, and suffered its last fire in 1996. Six of the rides were auctioned off in 1961, and on May 5, 1973, the ballroom burnt down. From the 1980's on, there have been many plans proposed to revive the park, such as a nudist camp and hotel/conference center. Even Donald Trump proposed a theme park. But all the plans had fallen through.

The City of Stratford decided not to renew the leases for the cottages on the beach. In May of 2007, the remaining residents agreed to give up their claims and move their possessions away. Many residents took what was most important and left everything else in the cottages. The park is now only accessible by walking the 1 ½ mile or so trek or by small boat. It is now a protected refugee for endangered animals and plants. All of the cottages and buildings also suffer from the hands of nature and vandals.

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2 responses

  • *  Tracey Boutote *

    * Tracey Boutote * (Deleted) gave props (1 Feb 2009):

    I live in CT, I never knew of this, very interesting story and great photos to go along with it.

  • Hana Mohalo

    Hana Mohalo said (24 May 2011):

    The history of pleasure island is so depressing not because it is a ghost town, but that people use it as their personal toilet to shit as they please. It's a good study of how much disrespect and inhumanity there is out there - this whole island has been vandalized, trashed, polluted and burnt down by dirty squatters and 'partiers'. Destroyed remote locations like this always make me wonder who is behind it- local teens that know not of valuing nature? How can we do this to our environment?

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