Cedar Point

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Cedar Point, known to many as a coveted day trip to ride some of the biggest roller coasters America has to offer; But what many do not know is its fascinating past and the interesting events that took place that make it as we know it today. Located in the Sandusky Bay, Cedar Point has become one of the prize possessions of Ohio. With a history dating back to the 1870, the classic amusement park on the shore of Lake Erie has seen its share of rides, roller coaster, people and history. From a deserted peninsula to a vacation resort to the Roller Coaster Capital of the World, Cedar Point has transformed into the best amusement park in the world.

Before the peninsula in which Cedar Point is located was ever well known, the strip of land off of the Sandusky Bay was mostly used by fishermen or as hunting grounds for the Wyandot Indians. The area was covered with underbrush and a series of sand dunes, some of which are the largest on record reaching twenty-seven feet (Knepper 6). It was not until the 1830s, when the land speculation reached a feverish pitch that Cedar Point drew any attention. The land was bought by Alexander Porter who would rent land to fishermen for their fishing operations. The city of Sandusky had been a major port, primarily due to the natural shelter that Cedar Point peninsula afforded the City. As boat traffic increased, the government recognized the need for lighthouses. The Marblehead lighthouse was built at Cedar Point’s tip, a logical location for a light station. Soon after, the Civil War brought some unexpected activity to Cedar Point. A United States military prison was established on Johnson’s Island in Sandusky Bay. Because the island was susceptible to attack from the lake, protection was essential. The ideal location of Cedar Point at the entrance of Sandusky made this the perfect spot for the emplacement of artillery. An actual attempt to free the prisoners occurred in September of 1864, but besides this Cedar Point saw no action during the Civil War (Kless 7). When the war ended Cedar Point returned to its peacetime activity. In the spring and fall the fishermen occupied their shanties; in the summer and winter the peninsula was almost abandoned. The lighthouse keeper came each spring and left after each November. For most of the year, only the wind and the waves broke the silence at Cedar Point. However, that would gradually change with the coming of Cedar Point’s resort era in 1870.

By the 1870’s Cedar Point was simply caught up in a national trend and influenced by the economic factors that created more leisure time. Summer resorts were becoming more popular for the middle class with cheap budgets and more free time to spare. It was no accident that Cedar Point took advantage of this promising opportunity. In the summer of 1867, the editor of the Sandusky Register directed the attention of others to the wonderful potential of Cedar Point. He suggested that someone needs to build bathing-houses on the beautiful shores of Cedar Point. In 1870, Louis Zistel, a German immigrant and Sandusky cabinetmaker, launched Cedar Point’s career. In July he opened a modest beer garden with a small dance floor. Nearby, he constructed a bathhouse and children’s entertainments that included sandboxes, swings, and sliding boards. He ran the tiny steamboat Young Reindeer on a regular schedule and soon began to attract more and more people. The next few summers, Cedar Point did not see much action but that was sparked again in 1878 when James West opened a group of bathhouses near the beach. He reduced the price of the bathhouse and bathing suit rentals. The popularity of the undeveloped peninsula gradually increased, and by 1880, the local newspaper reported that “Sailing and bathing parties to Cedar Point are the rage!” (Francis 16).

Eventually, Cedar Point caught the attention of Benjamin F. Dwelle and Captain William Slackford. In the spring of 1882, they entered a lease...
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