Thursday 9 July 2015

crocodile creek, neverspeak mountain

The ever intrepid team of Atlas Obscura presents an illuminating, nostalgic glimpse at the stellar rise and equally rapid decline of a gargantuan amusement park built in the southern marshes of New York state that opened in June of 1960 and closed after just four seasons, called Freedomland U.S.A. Civil engineer and architect of such ambitious family playgrounds named Cornelius Vanderbilt Wood, recently dismissed from his last project of putting another but more enduring pleasure estate in an orange grove—the successor would again be built in a swamp—and his role ultimately denied and disavowed, designed a huge area in the shape of the continental United States and placed several historical and cultural attractions and rides within those borders.

The park celebrated the cheerier side of manifest destiny, mercantilism and American exceptionalism, including the Great Fire of Chicago, the San Francisco Earthquake, the launch pad and mission-control at Cape Canaveral—plus a New Orleans where it was always Mardi Gras and live music acts for adults to enjoy. In order to attract and retain more, the educational character was quickly supplanted by more conventional rides but its decline was swift—despite the number of guests and a lot of fond memories. Some of the more conspiratorial-minded believe that Freedomland U.S.A. was never meant to be a commercial success but rather an experiment in urban development by real-estate magnates and large landowners in New York and was undertaken to demonstrate that the marshland could safely support large-scale construction projects—and in fact, just after the park was razed, a public housing and a shopping centre went up. I think it is more likely the case that people became much disillusioned with the notion of what their country was becoming with the string of political assassinations of those waning years, not to mention the competition from the nearby venue of the 1964 World’s Fair that was meant to cheer everyone up again. The in depth look at Atlas Obscura furthermore bounces the demise of Freedomland off of the other ruins of theme parks and presents an interesting retrospective on the culture and the times.