Thursday, August 4, 2016

Historical Landing

In 2013 I took this photo of a seagull that had just landed and wondered what the concrete and wood posts were remnants of, then proceeded to completely forget about it. Well, that is until I decided to enter the photo this year in the Weather Channel's photo contest, "It's Amazing Out There". (Click here for more about my contest entries.)

Remembering that I wanted to know more about what this could be I dove into a bit of research. And, Oh ... what a wonderful discovery! 

What I discovered is that the location of this photo, Ocean View Beach in Norfolk,Va, was the location of a major seaside attraction for over 80 years! This stretch of beach and the surrounding area was home to Ocean View Amusement Park.  

Ocean View Amusement park got it's start at the turn of the century when Virginia Electric and Power Company (VEPCO), who owned the streetcar line, began building rides along the beach as a way to attract tourists to the end of it's line. Around 1905 the park was sold to Otto Wells, who decided to add "curiosities" to the park as a means of supplementing the rides. The results were the creation of a thriving business and vacation destination for people from all over the country.

image source

By 1928 the amusement park was heralded as the most modern amusement park in the South by J.A. Fields, a nationally known maker of amusement park rides at the time. The parks combination of rides, attractions and odd sideshow acts played a good part in the parks ability to hold on during the Great Depression when many other amusement parks were closing. 

During the August 1933 Chesapeake–Potomac hurricane the park sustained about $200,000 dollars in damage. Between those damages and other financial challenges Wells sold the park back to VEPCO who then sold it to Dudley Cooper, a real estate investor in 1942. Mr. Cooper fixed it up and renewed the sideshow acts. Cooper considered closing the park and developing the land  but decided against it after the Navy asked him to keep it open as a place of recreation for the sailors coming through on their way to overseas duty. 

While the influx of sailors was good for business by 1946 the game vendors and live entertainment, who were independent contractors, had taken the once family friendly amusement park away from it's wholesome atmosphere. It took a few years and even some legal means to halt the unsavory activities. Even with the somewhat unsavory entertainment the park still thrived.

By the late '40s the park was in it's heyday with over one million visitors annually, and continued it's popularity through the '60s. However, due to rising costs,  by the mid 60's the park was no longer making a sustainable profit. Cooper still kept the park open and it continued to draw large crowds, until larger more modern amusement parks began opening in the mid-70's and drawing many visitors away.

In the summer of '76 the first of two movies was filmed at the park. That first movie was 'Rollercoaster' a suspense-thriller that did not do very well as a movie but did allow the park to receive some repairs and a few minutes of fame. Knowing the park had reached the end of it's glory Cooper decided to close the park in '78. The park saw it's last visitors on Labor Day 1978.  

image source

But that was not the end of it's fame. Having sold the land to the City of Norfolk, the contract stipulated that most of the structures had to be removed. Director Michael Trikilis presented a plan to park officials to dismantle the park's rides by blowing them up for an amusement park disaster movie he wanted to film. The movie aptly titled "The Death of Ocean View Park" was filmed in 1979.

While I did not find out exactly what structure the concrete and wooden posts belonged too, it isn't hard to imagine that whatever it was, it was once part of this amazing amusement park. 

One other possibility is that it was part of a later structure that was damaged in Hurricane Isabel when it swept through Ocean View Beach in September of 2003, although from what I gathered the only structure on the water at this location damaged during that hurricane was the historic Harrison's Pier.

I know that it is not the remains of Harrison's Pier as in this next photo you can see the remnants of the Harrison's Pier, next to the new pier. This photo was taken a short distance down the beach from the photo at the top.

Virginia Images has some wonderful photos of the park throughout the years. In addition to the links throughout this post more information can be found here.

If you have enjoyed this post even half as much as I enjoyed discovering and sharing this information I know you must have a smile on your face. Last I will leave you with a video I found on the history of the park. Enjoy!


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