Late last night I was stumbling around the Internet at 2am, and, because this is just the way things happened, entered “Kinderhook” as a search term on eBay. I was looking for something I didn’t end up finding, but also: I found something I didn’t know I was looking for. Namely, I discovered, via countless vintage postcards, that one hundred years ago, a full-fledged amusement park operated on Kinderhook Lake.
I don’t know much about Kinderhook Lake. I know it is very built up, and that the few times I’ve swum in it I wished the water was cleaner. That’s basically it. I think it’s safe to say, then, that my knowledge of the lake has approximately quadrupled in the past 24 hours.
My favorite new facts:
- Around the turn of the century, there were lots of small amusement parks operated along trolley lines by train companies, planned in order to increase their weekend business. Kinderhook Lake’s Electric Park was one of these parks. It was open from 1901 to 1917 or so, and during that time was–apparently–the largest amusement park on the East Coast between Manhattan and Montreal.
- Ten thousand people attended the park each weekend. To put that into a modern, local perspective, that is more people than the number that lived in the entire town of Kinderhook at the 2010 census.
- Attractions included two ferris wheels, a roller coaster built over the lake, a carousel on an island, and water slides that were converted into toboggan runs in the winter months.
- Chatham was a dry town; Kinderhook was not. I wonder if this helps explains the two towns’ modern-day personality differences.