Lakeside Amusement Park

— by Murph

Growing up in the 1960s, I always thought the Haneys must be rich because Mary Ann Haney had a playhouse in her backyard that matched her house and one year the Haneys took Mary Ann, myself and one other friend to both Elitch’s and Lakeside for her birthday. Elitch’s has moved off of 38th and Tennyson, but Lakeside is still up at 46th and Sheridan and looks pretty much the way it looked back then. There were lots of rides, but the one thing I absolutely loved was the Fun House.

Outside the Fun House, there was a cackling woman and when you entered the Fun House, whiskey barrels bumped up against you, knocking you left and right, and just as you got past them, there was a roller floor to throw you off balance. It took some concentration to get through the entrance; you could fall down! Inside the funhouse were huge slides that you’d climb up to the top of and slide down, but the coolest ride was the spinning wooden disk. It must have had a thousand coats of wax or varnish on it.

It was a huge wooden disk on the floor and it changed speeds, so sooner or later it threw you off. There was nothing to hold onto when you rode on the disk, and when it threw you off you would slide across the floor around it. Even when I was eight, I thought this seemed kind of dangerous, which made it even cooler. I tried to master the disk all that day and every year I got to go to the Fun House, but never prevailed. Eventually they closed the Fun House because of liability concerns.

The Disk in the Lakeside Fun House

The Disk in the Lakeside Fun House, circa 1940. Photo by Harry Rhoads, courtesy DPL Western History and Genealogy Department.

Inside the Fun House at Lakeside

Inside the Fun House at Lakeside. Photo courtesy DPL Western History and Genealogy Department.

In 1948, modernist architect Richard Crowther moved to Denver. Crowther gained international fame for his cutting-edge passive solar energy designs. His own home on Madison Street included a solar heated swimming pool, and the warmth from the pool also heated his home. Crowther also built several energy efficient homes in Denver.

As soon as Crowther came to Denver, Lakeside contacted him to jazz up the park in the Art Deco style and he built new ticket booths and renovated the Lakeside Ballroom. Another great Crowther addition to the Denver landscape was the Cooper Theater on Colorado Boulevard. The Denver Cooper was one of three designed by Crowther. The other two were in Omaha and Minneapolis. Crowther’s theaters were designed to highlight the new Cinerama technology with their spacious, sleek-lined design, cushioned seats and curving risers.

The Cooper Theater on Colorado Boulevard

The Cooper Theater on Colorado Boulevard (from a 1964 postcard)

Tags: , , , , , ,

28 Responses to “Lakeside Amusement Park”

  1. Mary Lou Egan Says:

    Wonderful stuff, Murph! The fun house may be gone but Lakeside has a lot more personality than the now-corporate Elitches.
    Great story.

  2. Bev Says:

    I finally went to Lakeside a couple of years ago – gorgeous park just to walk thru. I hope it stays for a very longtime.
    Maybe we can make murph a spinning disk so she can master it! If thats still a goal for her.

  3. Scott Says:

    That Cooper theater sign just gave me a huge childhood flashback. Did I see Star Wars there? When did that get replaced?

  4. hadley Says:

    This is from wikipedia:

    The first such theater, the Cooper Theater[2], in Denver, featured a 146-degree louvered screen (measuring a massive 105 feet by 35 feet), 814 seats, courtesy lounges on the sides of the theatre for relaxation during intermission (including smoking facilities), and a ceiling which routed air and heating through small vent slots in order to inhibit noise from the building’s ventilation equipment. [3]It was demolished in 1994 to make way for a Barnes and Noble Bookstore.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooper_Foundation

    Hard to believe it was there into the 90′s. All three of the Cooper theaters were torn down: the one in Omaha for a parking lot, the one in Minneapolis for an Olive Garden and Denver’s for a B&N.

  5. adam Says:

    Holy crap, the Cooper! I saw Star Wars and Annie there…

  6. Julie Says:

    I am wondering if anyhone has a picture of the lady that was on top of the fun house?

  7. Mark Says:

    I heard that Lakeside was sold for Condos/Apts. But I also heard the rumor has been going on for years. Being locate in one of the smallest towns in Colorado, I do not even believe the towns infrastructure could even handle Apts. The mall is the tax generator for the town and I believe the pop is 11 ? I know Mountain View, another small town next to Lakeside is have huge money issues because 40% of it tax generating stores are now close. Please post any information on Lakeside if anyone knows any information.

  8. Tanya Says:

    The mall is completely gone, and has been for awhile now. The amusement park is still as amazing as ever, though in need of a little love and restoration. Word on the street is that the area where the mall has been sold to developers for apts/condos, or even a Wal-mart, but it’s currently home to a dental office, the City of Lakeside offices, and a lot of dirt.

  9. bruce Says:

    found out laughing lady above the old funhouse is known as laffing sal. see the wikipedia article and check youtube clips. made by the philadelphia topboggan co.

  10. Judy Says:

    If anyone knows where I can find numerous pictures of fun house attractions like the disc, barrels big barrel slides etc please let me know

  11. Ron Says:

    I too re-discovered Lakeside (originally “White City”) a couple of years ago. What a joy to see it still there and I hope it won’t ever be “moved” (demolished) like the original Elich Gardens was. I wish there was a way to insure that. A lot of invaluable Denver history was destroyed when they demolished the original Eliche’s. Laughing / Laffing Sal is still at Lakeside but in storage according to management, perhaps along with many other treasures from the past. What appears to be the old walk-through rolling barrels seems to be sitting out in the elements (unfortunately) north of the roller coaster as seen from the old train that still goes around the lake. They have contemplated bringing Laffing Sal back out if they can figure out a safe way to display her. In that Laffing Sal was not one of a kind, pictures of other iterations of her can be found via Internet search, as well as interior pictures from similar Fun Houses from the period. The only picture of the outside of the Lakeside Fun House that I could find was of an artist’s rendering that apparently was on an old post card. There is a poster of the old rocket ships ride (3 large rockets on chains that swung in a circle near the train depot) that can be purchased online entitled “Rocket Ships – Lakeside Park – Denver, Colo.” Also, if you know to ask in the old cafe near the roller coaster and merry-go-round, they have (or at least had) some old postcards they are willing to sell. I think there should be a Lakeside fan club. If anyone knows of one or would like to start one, please let us know.

  12. elizabeth Says:

    I love these pictures, made think of my childhood. I hope that Lakeside knows what kind really cool Art Deco stuff that it has. I hope they would enhance the orginal beauty of the park. I remeber going into the old Ballroom it had been closed but my family and I snuck in and it felt like a guilty trip back to the past. There were old poster of Dance Bands past. The floor was covered in dust and I do believe there was a mirrored disc ball in the center of dance floor. What a really cool place this is. My Great Grandfather was a maitrede at one of the restuarants there in the 1920′s.

  13. A.J. Says:

    It’s nice to see that so many other people still have a fondness for Lakeside Amusement Park. My parents would take us there once a year throughout the 1960′s and early 70′s. I loved everything about the Park, from the Cyclone Coaster to the Speed Boats on the Lake, it was wonderful. Much better than Elitch’s! I even worked there for one summer in 1972 (long,long time ago), I was 18. But, I really loved Laughing Sal.,in front of the Fun House,her laugh was so cool. Man, I miss the old Lakeside! Even talked to Rhoda a few times back then! She was always nice.

  14. Laura Says:

    I loved the discription of the fun house. It brought back so many memories. I remember being afraid of the slides, or the first time my dad had to teach me to walk through the spinning barrels. I wish now that we had digital cameras back then. My mother went to school with Rhoda. As for Elitch’s, it was replaced by appartments or condos. They did preserve the old theatre.

  15. Allen Says:

    I remember the shooting gallery in the Lakeside Amusement Park…live 22 cal. ammo used back then…couldn’t do that now. So much fun there…it was a wonderland for a kid…the Funhouse was also my favorite. It would be nice if the owners could restore some of the old things such as the ballroom, etc. My grandfather and dad raced midgets at the speedway during the forties and fifties.

  16. Mary Says:

    I joined a Lakeside fan group on Facebook and there is a picture of the Funhouse. I know that picture has been hard to find. Just wanted to let you know. Ah, the memories! I just sat there and stared at it!!

  17. Jim Says:

    I worked at Lakeside during the summers of 1955,56, and 57 in the Fun House. It was a bit different than the above pictures. The disc or platter was the same. The Barrels had been moved to the second level to the right of the couples legs visible in the first picture of the platter. The circular ride had been caged in with wire and the seats removed. Yes the laughing clown was outside – I believe mounted above the then ticket booth. I mainly worked the barrels removing people who had lost balance. I met some great people who ran it and worked there. Good memories

  18. Jim Bennett Says:

    Does anyone remember the name of the Lakeside Ballroom. I have fond memories of the big bands playing to dancers until the wee hours of the night.

  19. Rhais Says:

    I believe it was Moonlight Gardens.

  20. mara Says:

    What ever happened to the laughing fat lady that was in front of the funhouse, over th entrance. Any pictures or videos? I’m 58 & loved the funhouse as a child.

  21. Linda Says:

    Oh, I too would love to have some pics of the old Fun House. The laughing lady outside was called “laughing Sal” and apparently they were a staple in amusement parks across the country. The Fun House was my favorite place at Lakeside. I could have cared less for any other ride. The disk, the moving barrels. the fabric bolts you rolled down, the slides, all soooo fun!! Aaahhhhh, the memories. Oh, and when I was 11 years old I saw Wayne Newton sing in the ballroom. hahahhahahahahhaha

    This is from Wikipedia:
    Through 1985, there was a Funhouse located on the site now occupied by the Dragon. The Funhouse featured an animated Fat Lady mannequin (Laffing Sal, also known as Laughing Sal) that signaled the opening of the Funhouse and the main park in the evening by loud laughter. Inside, there were slides, moving floors, spinning discs, rolling barrels, and catwalks.

    While not considered a ride per se, there was a Casino Theater just south of the Tower of Jewels. Concerts, plays and dance marathons were held there while it was in operation. The building is still in place and is used for storage. Also still in place is the old Riviera ballroom.

  22. Pam Says:

    Google Fun house laughing lady, laughing Sal, and you will see similar ones, but I cannot find any pictures of it when it was there at Lakeside. The funhouse closed in 1985

  23. Tim Piowaty Says:

    What a great blast of history. I was just there yesterday with my daughter and was telling her about the funhouse. Amazingly there’s nothing left of it now, just a run of the mill Dragon Ride. The comment made about even when you were 8 you thought it was dangerous is exactly accurate. That disk could fly you off and into a wall if you weren’t careful but man was it fun. I think I even came out with a bloody nose, and perhaps a concussion from walking in through the spinning tunnel and trying to “stick to it” only to crash on my head when fully inverted. Great memories! Jim Bennett- I believe you’re referring to the old Riveria NightClub that sits just west of the Wild Chipmunk. We are extremely tight on budget. Two cars’ can’t pay parking at Elitches for a full-price ride pass at Lakeside today. Best fun for your $$!

  24. Jona Armenta Says:

    I wish you had a picture of the Big Crackling Women on top of the fun house. That was my best memory back in 1970-1980′s.

  25. biffgraydon Says:

    I believe the name of the dance pavilion at lakeside was THE PATIO. I spent many times just outside listening to the great big-bands that played there.

    also spent a lot of time at the TROC over at Elitches.

    i grew up in the 30′s 40′s 50′s in Denver….great memories.

    biff

  26. Winston Says:

    Great to find these photos. When we visited Denver and went to Lakeside, I just headed for the Funhouse. Once you were in, you could stay there until you were exhausted. The disk was my favorite, but I always did everything multiple times, including the giant slide with the bar at the top, because the start was virtually a free fall, and, of course, the spinning barrels. Such an attraction could not possibly be built now — to much liability — so I was surprised to find that the Funhouse was in operation until the mid-1980s!

  27. Daniel toliver Says:

    I know where laughing Sally is, the one from lakeside she is currently being restored in the garage of a famous Denver haunted attraction I have pics

  28. Matt M Says:

    I’d love to see Laffing Sal restored and put on display. I hope it’s true!

Leave a Reply

Posts

At buckfifty.org, our goal is to present expressions of Denver, its neighborhoods, people, and culture. We encourage submissions from the community in any media - visit our how to submit page if you want more details.

Along the way, we hope to offer up some opportunities for getting together to share some new stories and maybe some whisky too. We hope that you will join us in celebrating Denver’s past and present, and in building our future. We welcome your input and your thoughts.

Join Buckfifty on Facebook