The world’s first thrill ride once towered over San Francisco’s Haight Street

The world’s first thrill ride once towered over San Francisco’s Haight Street

Haight-Ashbury has a much-storied historical past of being a vacation spot for younger individuals to come back and expertise new sensations, however lengthy earlier than the 1960s counterculture revolution, San Franciscans would journey to the neighborhood through horseback and streetcars of their droves to expertise one of many nation’s first thrill rides.

In 1895, the neighborhood regarded nothing prefer it does at the moment. Surrounded by pastures and grazing cows, the Haight was a sleepy village removed from the debauchery of the Barbary Coast and downtown hustle. And this was the place an eccentric showman and a railroad lawyer determined to construct an enormous attraction that grew to become a short, world phenomenon.

“Capturing the Chutes” meant boarding an elevator up a skeletal 60-foot construction, climbing right into a flat-bottomed boat with different passengers and racing it down 300 toes of rollers at 60 mph into the man-made lake under, the place the vessel would fly into the air and skip a number of instances, splashing crowds and exhilarating riders.

Earlier than that point, park sights had been fairly sedate, with a merry-go-round perhaps offering the best bodily rush. The concept of travelling 10 instances sooner than any vehicle may drive for 10 cents proved irresistible internationally.

A person named Paul Boyton, often known as the Fearless Frogman, began the craze. Boyton was a showman and adventurer typically credited with making a worldwide curiosity in swimming as a pastime. He as soon as swam 2,300 miles down the Mississippi River and crossed the English Channel in a rubber go well with, however made his cash in constructing Shoot the Chutes rides and selling them internationally.

Boyton set the attraction up in Chicago; Coney Island, New York; Antwerp, Belgium; and London, the place it was an enormous hit. British newspapers reported that even the “critical and solemn-faced” Residence Secretary (and later prime minister) Lord Asquith blew off a gathering with the Girls’s Temperance Affiliation to journey Boyton’s water chute together with his spouse.

In 1895, Boyton determined to deliver the chutes to California and supplied the franchise to a railroad lawyer named Charles Ackerman, who selected the situation on the south facet of Haight, between Clayton and Cole streets.

The chutes opened on Nov. 2, 1895, to a lot pleasure. On sooner or later, over 13,000 thrill-seekers took the journey.

Shoot the Chutes, Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco, circa 1895.

Shoot the Chutes, Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco, circa 1895.


The day after the opening, The San Francisco Chronicle celebrated the attraction, revealing that even girls plucked up the braveness to take the journey: “For practically a half an hour after the primary boat went down the 300-foot chute the women within the grounds had been afraid to try the journey, however lastly one or two had been daring sufficient, after which it grew to become nearly an epidemic,” the newspaper reported in a rave evaluation, including “a funnier sensation has by no means been felt in San Francisco.”

It was additionally reported that so many males misplaced their hats on the chutes that entrepreneurial boys with fishing rods made loads of coin retrieving them.

The Name wrote a few plucky canine who would journey the chutes a number of instances, each Sunday. The unnamed St. Bernard “takes his place and shoots the chutes 15-20 instances in a single afternoon.” Although one of many sideshows on the park did not go so properly for the canine: “Per week in the past yesterday the animal was taken into the Haunted Swing,” the paper reported. “That was an excessive amount of for him, and he grew to become very sick.”

Spiritual leaders within the metropolis, nonetheless, had been much less excited by the sight of 1000’s of San Franciscans splashing round and having enjoyable on the Lord’s Day.

“Beware, younger individuals,” Dr. Westwood Case informed his Methodist congregation on Howard Road, “lest the lake show a lake of fireplace!” (In the identical sermon, the reverend informed San Franciscans that using a bicycle for amusement on a Sunday would lead them straight to hell.)

Case’s warnings weren’t heeded. The attraction proved so well-liked that 40 towering arc lights had been put in to permit patrons to benefit from the journey from midday till midnight.

Past the principle occasion, different sideshows on the bustling park included a daredevil who would parachute drop holding on with solely his enamel; a person who dove 60 toes into 2 toes of water; and one other entertainer generally known as “Man Fish” who would eat his lunch and smoke cigarettes below water.

A big theater and circus had been quickly added, together with lions and a girl generally known as “Little Egypt” who would wow the gents of San Francisco together with her “hootchy cootchie” dance.

The Chutes theater on Haight Street, circa 1901, that boasts

The Chutes theater on Haight Road, circa 1901, that boasts “the biggest seating capability west of Chicago.”


However after solely seven years of splashing and hootchy cootchie enjoyable, housing improvement within the Haight left little room for additional enlargement, so Ackerman moved the chutes 10 blocks west to Fulton and 10th, the place he added a Ferris wheel and zoo, near the place the new SkyStar spins today.

As curiosity within the chutes began to wane, Ackerman added different, considerably weird, sights to lure guests. These included the “Mystic Mirror Maze,” by which a $5 reward was given to patrons who may discover the “mysterious younger girl,” and a terrifying-sounding creation known as the “Toddler Incubator,” the place patrons may see a scientific demonstration of younger infants being reared by synthetic means.

After Ackerman’s loss of life in 1909, the park fell into disrepair. His son Irving went on to construct an identical attraction within the Fillmore that will be destroyed by fireplace in 1911.

Ten years later, one other chutes journey was constructed on Ocean Seaside, however the boat rides had already grow to be previous information, and the Chutes-at-the-Seaside attraction was renamed Playland in 1926, as thrill seekers had been drawn to extra thrilling new rides just like the the Massive Dipper curler coaster and an airplane swing.

The final chutes had been pulled down in 1950, and a water park would by no means exist in San Francisco once more.

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