A Look Back At Riverside Park

This is an exerpt from the Massachusetts New Media Magazine where Susan E. Slattery recalls her last trip to “Riverside Park”. Since this article was written in 1997, the park was sold again and rebranded “Six Flags New England”. It was one of my favorite places as a teenager.

The last time I visited Riverside was in 1977, just after the installation of its one-loop steel coaster, The Black Widow. It had looked monstrous to me then, being the first loop I’d ever seen. I didn’t ride it; at that point in my life I had a poor understanding of centrifugal force and believed I’d be launched right out of my seat.

I rode the classic wooden Thunderbolt instead, with its neck-jerking camel hump hills and treacherously timeworn (the paint was peeling) construction. The Thunderbolt featured the added thrill of potential carnage ascribable to complete collapse.

It’s 20 years later, however, and the face of Riverside has changed. Not only are the rides bigger and more spectacular, (Riverside now has five adult coasters — including the large wood-frame Cyclone, which claims one of the steepest angles of ascent in existence), but the park is more colorful. New paint jobs abound, and things are greener. Grass and trees are making a comeback.

“Riverside used to be an asphalt jungle,” Sevart noted. Premier Parks bought the 170-acre theme park earlier this year from the Edward J. Carroll family, who had owned the park since shortly after the Great Depression. Premier, the fourth largest regional theme park company in the United States, owns and operates 11 parks throughout the country.

In the few months since the buyout, Premier has given its newest acquisition a dramatic facelift. The company launched a three-year capital plan that has pumped $20 million into the park so far; equally large investments are planned for coming years.

The biggest changes have been made right at the park’s entrance plaza, where Riverside’s famous 1909 M.C. Illion’s carousel, with more than 70 hand-carved horses, is now the gilded centerpiece. The carousel, valued in the millions, has been restored to its original condition, and is now housed in a specially designed structure that resembles a turn-of-the-century gazebo.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *