Wonderland Permanent Attractions

One interesting feature of Wonderland is that they changed things in the park every year. Even apparently permanent exhibits might be replaced by something else as the Wonderland Board kept trying to keep the attractions new. We’ll look at these constantly changing features on pages tagged to the year they operated. On this page, we’ll have a look at the attractions that stayed pretty much throughout the life of the Park.

The Shoot the Chutes ride at Wonderland

Shoot the Chutes

Every Park in America had to have a Shoot the Chutes ride. The ride had been made popular by Coney Island’s Sea Lion Park and by the World’s Fairs. Wonderland’s was the biggest in the world. They had purchased it from the 1904 Saint Louis Expo and brought it to Revere, Massachusetts in six railroad cars. The tower stood 83 feet high and the slide was 340 feet long. There were two tracks, so it could launch two boats in rapid succession. The boats themselves were flat-bottomed skiffs that skipped across the surface of the Lagoon like stones, getting airborne without soaking their passengers.

Here’s a conceptual drawing made before the Park opened, so it depicts somethings that weren’t there in real life (such as the demon atop the Hell Gate ride in the back. The similar ride at Coney Island DID have such an outsized devil, which is probably why they drew it here)

Here’s the view from the top of the Shoot the Chutes:

This is looking eastward, toward Revere Beach. On the right you can see the Incubators and the Administration Building/entrance. Directly ahead is the Lagoon into which the boats slide, and beyond is the Arcus Ring, which had circus acts. On either side are the Canals. The first building on the left is the Restaurant and Ballroom.

Here’s a boat skimming across the Lagoon:

The round building in the back with the conical top houses the Carousel of Wonderland, of which I have not been able to find any images. This image is from 1907, as you can tell by the sign with the “5 cents” on it. Underneath, you can just barely make out the words “Velvet Coaster”

Panorama shot from 1908 season:

Descent into the Hell Gate

This was a complex and involved ride, and it would have been difficult to put anything else in its place. Designed and patented by Attilio Pusterla, it was housed in a building that appeared octagonal in the front.

Insider, as the patent drawing shows, there was a spiral water track

The passengers went into a boat near the bottom of the drawing and spiraled in through the center. Pumps ran furiously to keep water running in the downhill track. When the boat reached the center, it abruptly dropped down into a lower level (indicated by the dashed lines). They then went more slowly around a circular track decorated like the Underworld, with actors dressed as demons and mythological creatures. In the straight portion in the right of the drawing, the passengers were disembarked and brought before the Throne of Satan, then left the building. In the meantime, the now unpopulated boat was raised up rollers (shown at the bottom of the drawing) for the next group.

Here’s the side view:

Here’s the description from the 1906 Wonderland Souvenir Book:

“Leave all hope behind, ye who enter here” – Dante

That familiar line with which the Latin poet begins his immortal Inferno is in no sense applicable to Wonderland’s patrons who enter the portals of Hell Gate and descend the maelstrom which carries them in gondolas around giant whirlpools, down steep rapids, to the underworld. Whatever the sensations experienced by Dante in his trip to the inferno, and however remarkable that journey, it lacked certainly many, if not all, of the weird and wonderful features which enliven the Descent to Hell Gate.

Hell Gate at Wonderland is one of the most popular, novel, and sensational of the twentieth century amusements. The chief thing about it is the clever manner in  which different factors of a fun-making character have been combined into one continuous chain of pleasure.

The journey is made by water, a striking adaptation of the classical river Styx. Only in this case, the Styx is a spiral river instead of a straightaway. During the trip various demons of the lower world are seen, plenty close enough to create mirth, but not so close as to destroy the allegorical illusion. Slowly at first, the boat, with its precious burden of subterranean-bound pilgrims. Moves on around the outer rim of the whirlpool, gradually gaining impetus as it approaches the centre, until finally it is drawn, with a mad rush, down the chute, out of sight into the underworld, where, at first, it passes through a region dark as Erebus. The darkness, however, is but momentary and is followed by shafts of light, which, while it dissipates the terror in the hearts of the timid, does not by any means dispel the weird sensations which invariably accompany this voyage through Hell Gate to the underworld.

Now come the scenic effects. From vast caverns, out of the dim recesses of which strange vegetation, the like of which was never seen on earth, appears, and such forms and faces as people of vivid imagination, monsters and midgets, harlequins and hobgoblins, peep forth or strut about amid the weird surroundings. Past all these curious and conglomerate phenomena, the boat rides on, while the passengers gaze wonderingly about, marveling if, after all, some mistake has been made, and an actual decent has begun to a literal inferno.

Once more these dimly lighted caverns give place to a region of absolute darkness. The stillness is profound. The only sound heard is the subdued whispering of the travelers and the rippling noise of the water as it flows steadily on. A feeling of awe begins to possess the mind, but before even the most timid have become really fearful of the situation, light breaks once more upon the scene and the boat itself approaches the bank of the river Styx. There an emissary of Satan awaits you and the last lop of the journey is made on foot. But meanwhile comes the final sensation, when several cloven-hoofed and horned denizens of Hades appear unexpectedly, as if eager to halt the visitors to the underworld on their tour of the Kingdom of Beelzebub. Even while the tourists themselves are marveling at this, they come suddenly upon a throne, as strange and unearthly in its construction as everything else in that strange inferno. There sits his Satanic Majesty, and circling about him are the members of his royal court. You may or may not make obeisance to Satan. No harm can come to you in either event. Pass on, and , before you are aware of it, indeed, the moment you leave the kingly presence, you emerge into the light of day – or the electric glare of night – at Wonderland, amid the ever-moving, ever-laughing throng of sightseers on the Board Walk. The Descent to Hell Gate is then a memory.

A visitor described it this way:

Veiling or half-veiling [its] interior shudders and shocks, [it] spurs the impulse for exploration, an impulse compounded for inquisitiveness, bravado, and a search for incident. As you watch the little shallops thread the whirlpool within the Hell Gate grotto, and see them sucked down at its vortex, you yearn to know what destiny awaits them. Also what torments rend their occupants. With certain highly Dantesque forebodings, you embark. Slowly, grimly, your circling boat drifts nearer that atrocious abyss. Sardonic jokes, from adventurers in craft ahead of you or behind, so dismay you that if it were possible you would purchase deliverance at cost of half your lands. At last, it is but a single coil of the spiral that separates you from the drop to Avernus! Zounds, what suspense! Then a rush, a sinking of the heart, a sound of grinding wood, and a plunge down a twisted cataract into chaos and resounding night. With your whole soul you combat fear, even transform it to joy. “Hail, horrors! Hail, infernal world!” And now you laugh. Light comes, and with it red devils amid flames, volcanoes spitting fire, gorgeous grottoes all dripping with stalactites, and – very soothing to the eschatological emotions – icebergs and polar bears! Gradually you retrace the spiral, traversing canals built just under those of the preliminary whirlpool, and finally come out upon a little quay, rich in varied grotesqueries.

Wonderland Restaurant and Ballroom

The Restaurant and Ballroom were in the same building, with the Restaurant downstairs and the Ballroom upstairs. The restaurant could seat 1,000 diners and specialized in “Shore Dinners”, which at that time was what they called “Clambakes”. Below is a rare photo of part of the restaurant interior

Above is a poor quality image of the restaurant interior

The Ballroom was upstairs where it could catch the breezes in those mostly non-air-conditioned days. The first year Poole’s Orchestra provided the music, and there was a Dancing Master to help the uninitiated in how to dance. Below is a postcard showing the Ballroom

The LaMarcus A. Thompson Scenic Railway

The Thompson Scenic Railway was a must-have for any turn-of-the-century amusement park. There was a “Scenic Railway” on Revere Beach when Wonderland opened, but it was a copy by a competitor of Thompson’s. Floyd C. Thompson (no relation), the builder of Wonderland, went to Thompson’s factory to commission Revere Beach’s first Thompson Scenic Railway. By the time Wonderland closed, there were three more of them along Revere Beach Boulevard.

Sorry about the tilt, but this colored postcard shows the Scenic Railway’s home building from the south.

This image shows the building from the East side. You can see the minarets of the Beautiful Orient on the left of the photo

Another colored postcard showing the South side, with part of the Beautiful Orient on the left. You can see the Palmistry building (with its huge hand) just to the right of the Thompson Railway building.

This closeup from the Birds Eye View of Wonderland painting shows the way they envisioned the Scenic Railway home building (at the bottom right) and the undulating track in the upper part of the image. The round building in the upper left (it was more of an oval when it was built) housed the “scenes” depicting Vesuvius, Venice, and other sites.

Sketches of passengers on the Scenic Railway

The Main Entrance and Administration Building

Wonderland had two entrances. One was at the end of Walnut Street, and was intended to be the Main Entrance. It also housed the administrative offices, the rest rooms, and a children’s creche where they would care for children while the parents visited the park.

The Main Entrance in 1906. Notice the building labeled “Infant Incubators” to the left. To the right you can see the top of the Circle Swing. Looking through the entranceway straight ahead you can see the Beautiful Orient building on the other side of the Lagoon.

This postcard is a painting depicting the Wonderland Main Entrance by night, when it was fully lit up. Wonderland boasted a huge number of electric lights, and they used them to full advantage, lighting up every part of the entrance building and, behind it, you can see the lit up minarets of the Beautiful Orient building. They lit up most of the Wonderland buildings, but unfortunately the only photographs are black and white, and don’t convey the feeling of the real thing.

This postcard shows the view of the Administration Building/Main Entrance as seen from inside Wonderland. The bridge in front of the building goes over one of the side “Canals” that boats ran in. The canal was separated by a walkway with railings on both sides form the Lagoon that served as the splashdown site for the Shoot the chutes ride. You can see part of the Lagoon in the lower left of the postcard.

This image shows the entrance in perhaps 1909. You can see that things have changed — the words “Infant Incubator are gone from the building to the left (in 1909 it was housed Funhouse Mirrors) and the top of the Airships ride is missing — it appears to have been taken down for the 1909 season. The eagle and shield that were above the entrance are gone, and there’s now a billboard for Moxie soft drink.

Beach Entrance

There was a second entrance to Wonderland near where the present-day Wonderland Subway stop is. In fact, there was a pedestrian bridge across the “narrow gauge” railroad from Revere Beach to Wonderland, just as today there is a pedestrian bridge across the Blue Line subway from Revere Beach to the subway stop. The Wonderland bridge was about 300 yards south of where the modern bridge stands. There’s a walkway with steps marking the spot across Revere Beach Boulevard from the Beach.

Here’s a photo showing the crowds rushing to get in through the Beach entrance:

Here’s a news story drawing of the pedestrian bridge from the side:

Here’s aside view of the bridge from a postcard:

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