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A history of Kennywood

By The Tribune-Review
Wednesday, December 12, 2007

1815: Charles Kenny purchases land that becomes Kennywood to mine coal.

1860s: Some of the Kenny family’s land, known as “Kenny’s Grove,” becomes a popular picnic area.

1898: The Monongahela Street Railway Co. leases Kenny’s Grove in order to open a trolley park to encourage people to use the company’s trolley cars. Railway shareholder Andrew Mellon names the park Kennywood in honor of the Kenny family and picnic area.

1902: Kennywood builds its first roller coaster, the Figure Eight Toboggan.

1906: Andrew McSwigan, Frederick Henninger and A.F. Megahan form the Pittsburg Kennywood Park Co. and lease Kennywood from Pittsburgh Street Railway Co., which acquired the Monongahela Street Railway Co. Descendants of McSwigan and Henninger remain involved with the park.

1921: Kennywood’s oldest running roller coaster, the Jack Rabbit, is built. Additional coasters include the Pippin (1924) and the Racer (1927). A swimming pool opens in 1925.

1926: The Carousel is constructed.

1930-35: Kennywood survives the Great Depression by bringing in local and national “swing” bands and sponsoring school picnics.

1936: Kennywood constructs Noah’s Ark, the same year as Pittsburgh’s St. Patrick’s Day flood.

1950s-70s: With competition from Disney Land and other so-called theme parks, Kennywood grows and adapts, adding such rides as the Rotor, the first ride imported from Europe, the Turnpike and the Thunderbolt, redesigned from the Pippin.

1981: Kennywood for the first time surpasses the 1 million visitors mark.

1985: The park adds the Raging Rapids.

1987: Kennywood is designated a National Historic Landmark by the Department of the Interior, one of two amusements parks nationwide included in the National Register of Historic Places.

1991: Kennywood adds the Steel Phantom, with a top speed of 80 miles per hour, then the world’s fastest coaster.

1995: The park’s largest expansion, Lost Kennywood, based on Oakland’s Luna amusement park, is built.

1999: The indoor roller coaster, the Exterminator, is added.

2000-01: The Steel Phantom is demolished to make room for the Phantom’s Revenge.

2005: Kennywood’s owners reveal they’ve acquired about 50 acres, increasing the park’s size to about 140 acres. A $60 million expansion plan, contingent on taxes and completion of the Mon-Fayette Expressway, would include a hotel and indoor water park, to be built across Kennywood Boulevard on the site of a former Kmart.

2007: Kennywood Entertainment announces agreement to sell its amusement park holdings, including Idlewild & SoakZone in Ligonier and Sandcastle Waterpark in West Homestead, to Parques Reunidos of Madrid.

Source: Tribune-Review research

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

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Pittsburgh, PA 15219

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