Riverview Park opened on Saturday, June 5, 1915, with admission of 5 cents. The June 6th, 1915, Register and Leader reported live music by T. Fred Henry and his band, as well as The Four Lamys who performed “sensational aerial novelty acts”. It also called Riverview Park “Iowa’s Coney Island” just as the later ad above does.
In 1912, local businessmen became interested in creating an amusement park in Des Moines. The Zoological Gardens were no longer in use and became the chosen property for Riverview Amusement Park. It consisted of 40 acres almost completely surrounded by East and West Zoo Lakes. The Riverview Amusement Company was led by Abe Frankel, C.C. Taft, and Frank Walrath.
News articles document many memories of the park, including the old fun house called Joy Land, the merry-go-round, Tunnel of Love, the Tumble Bug, the steam train, and the roller coaster. Ella Fitzgerald performed at the Riverview Park ballroom in 1938. This became a penny arcade in 1940 when the Riviera Ballroom opened. It eventually hosted numerous rock bands, including Chicago. Images of the park and its features can be found on the websites listed at the end of this post.
Through the years, the park had its ups and downs. In 1933, the park suffered fire damage at around $100,000 and in 1944 a flood put it underwater. Inflation and operating costs went up and competition moved into the area.
In 1979, Adventureland Lands of America purchased Riverview Amusement Park. At that time, some of Riverview Park’s features were moved to create a theme destination at Adventureland. It is now Kiwanis Riverview Nature Island and a part of the Des Moines park system.
What are your memories of Riverview Park?
Des Moines: Facts and Figures Concerning the Remarkable Growth and Progress of the City, Mail and Times, 1891
From the Iowa Vertical File on Riverview Park (Central Library):
City’s Amusement Park Pleases All, Register and Leader, June 6, 1915.
Memories of Growing Up at Riverview Park, Des Moines Register, October 4, 1989.
Old Riverview Park Stirs Memories, Des Moines Register, June 20, 1990.
Riverview Head Estimates Park fire Damage at $100,000, Des Moines Tribune, June 19, 1933.
Riverview Park ad, Des Moines Tribune, June 16, 1927.
River Park Opens Saturday, June 5. Register and Leader, June 5, 1915.
Riverview Park: Playground of Des Moines, Des Moines Magazine, 1917.
If you want to know more about Riverview Park, in addition to the above, see the following resources: