Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum (LHHM), led by Martin Kane, organized a trip to Knoebels Amusement Park in Pennsylvania to bring members back in time to when Lake Hopatcong had its very own amusement park on Bertrand Island.
Bertrand Island Amusement Park started as a beach located in the Borough of Mount Arlington. After it opened in 1910, the park started adding amusement rides after the Morris county Traction Company built a trolley to the park. During the 1920’s, the park expanded even further and added attractions including but not limited to: a wooden roller coaster, an airplane swing, bumper cars, and picnic areas. The park also had a unique grand carousel, which included brass rings that the riders could grab as they went around the carousel.
Brass ring carousels are very difficult to find in today’s world but the carousel at Knobels is one of few. This makes it very similar to the one previously located on Bertrand Island. Members of the LHHM got to experience this ride as an event included in a behind-the-scenes tour before the park’s opening. This carousel ride was unaccompanied by the familiar music of the organ because the organ at Knobels signifies the opening of the park and so workers could not yet allow this music to play.
Bertrand Island grew both in size and popularity throughout the 1920’s and became known as “Little Coney Island.” Louis Kraus, the owner of Bertrand Island, rented out areas for games and concession stands. Hotels sprung up to house tourists. The dance hall with live music expanded and became a centerpiece of the park. The park became so well-known that they even held beauty pageants that would go to compete in Miss New Jersey and Miss America. Railroads, buses, and boats provided easy access to the park until cars became more popular and parking lots were built to accommodate for them.
This park served our community for over 70 years. Even during the Depression and World War II, it was still very popular. To help the poor still go to the park, Bertrand Island had reduced admission prices certain nights to maintain high attendance. These discounts continued even after the Depression, encouraging more tourists to come out for fun, games, and entertainment without emptying their wallets.
Unfortunately, due to Lake Hopatcong’s change into an all-year-round community and competition with larger amusement parks caused the park’s success to dwindle. It finally closed on Labor Day of 1983.
As Bertrand Island was such an influential part of our community in the past, it is very important to remember it in its full glory. For this reason members of the Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum got to relive, or experience for the first time, some of the same type of rides that used to be Bertrand Island Amusement Park.
In a behind-the-scenes tour of Knoebels, America’s largest free-admission resort with over 60 rides and campgrounds, museum members spent a day filled with education and excitement. The tour was led by a member of the Knobels family who had a lot of interesting information to share. Members first took a Haunted Mansion ride as regular visitors to Knobels do yet afterwards got the opportunity to walk around the mansion with the lights on. This allowed for close inspection of props and the track, members even got to see a secret work area behind one of the walls.
A wooden roller coaster was another popular attraction as it was created to give riders the feeling of flight. Members got to view this coaster before the park opened completing its morning runs to warm up the wheels so that the carts could be safe for riders after opening.
After viewing all of these rides which were the same types that used to reside in our own community, members of the LHHC got a whole day to explore on their own and enjoy everything Knobels has to offer.
Take the opportunity to visit Knoebels at 391 Knoebels Blvd, Elysburg, PA 17824. You can find more information on the park at www.knoebels.com.
The Jefferson Chronicle Contributing Writer Amanda Ventre contributed to this column.
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