It opened on July 2, 1904 as the German Sharpshooter Park, at the intersection of Belmont and Western Avenues. Targets were set up on an island in the North Branch of the Chicago River, and deer roamed its woods.
But wives and children complained they had nothing to do while the men hunted; so two years later, the owners commissioned a carousel – a spectacular, five-row wooden carousel with 70 horses handcrafted by Swiss and Italian woodcarvers from the Philadelphia Toboggan Coaster Company.
That was the genesis of Riverview Park, which once claimed to be “the world’s largest amusement park” and is now merely one of Chicago’s most cherished memories.
That carousel paved the way for a legendary roster of rides whose names alone can evoke waves of nostalgia. Among them: a free-fall parachute ride called Pair-o-Chutes; Aladdin’s Castle funhouse; The Bobs roller coaster; and Shoot the Chutes.
It’s poetic that the only Riverview Park ride that survives to this day is its very first one: that carousel. It was restored by Six Flags over Georgia, just west of Atlanta, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.
Today, the site on which Riverview Park was once located holds the 19th District Police Station, DeVry University’s Chicago Campus, and a shopping center named Riverview Plaza Center.