Roton Point amusement park unearthed
Published 10:45 am, Saturday, May 24, 2014
Lisa Wilson Grant, regent of Darien's Good Wife's River chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, discussed her research of Rowayton's Roton Point at a recent tea at Kingsway Senior Housing hosted by the Norwalk-Village Green chapter.
Wilson Grant created a pop-up museum with the many artifacts and photographs she has curated in her years of researching Roton Point, where she grew up and where she today leads the Roton Point History Committee. Wilson Grant co-authored the book "Roton Point." She wrote a photography-rich historical tour of Norwalk in Arcadia Publishing's "Images of America" series, which will be released on June 23.
Wilson Grant guided the audience through a photographic presentation of the roller coasters, hydro-plane rides, beauty pageants, trolleys and steam ships of a long-ago amusement park. The park drew in big-name entertainment and crowds from throughout the tri-state area from 1880 to 1941.
"People think the park ended in the hurricane of '38," Wilson Grant said, "but they actually rebuilt it."
Super storm Sandy unearthed some of the treasures Wilson Grant was able to rescue from the sands in the area, which now make up Bayley Beach, Wee Burn Club and Roton Point Club. Holding a board mounted with rusted rings, she explained that carousel riders would reach for the rings hung just out of their reach as they rode. Those who pulled off a brass ring won a free ride.
Having contacted families who worked at or attended the park, Wilson Grant learned of the process from the former "ring boy" whose job it was to load one brass ring along with the less-lucky steel rings into an arm. "He would count how many riders, and if there was a pretty girl arrange it so she might be the one to pull the brass one," she said.
The former ring boy explained to her that the steel rings were discarded in a barrel as riders exited the carousel. Wilson Grant assumes that the barrel was blown over and buried in the hurricane of 1938, which is why she was able to find a pile of them clumped together after Sandy.