Willow Grove Park

Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, USA

Closed 1976

The Disappointed Tourist: Willow Grove Park, Ellen Harvey, 2021. Oil and acrylic on Gessoboard, 18 x 24″ (46 x 61 cm). Photograph: Etienne Frossard.

I grew up in Willow Grove, a sleepy little town about 30 miles (48 km) from Philadelphia. If we craved ‘culture’, it was a short train journey into the City of Brotherly Love which offered museums, art galleries, restaurants, shopping (Wanamakers was my favourite), historical monuments and tours. In between these culture ‘fixes’, we had Willow Grove Park, just a short walk from my house, where my father had a summer job. A year-round amusement park (established in 1896, long before Disneyland was even a glimmer in Walt’s eye) which tantalisingly offered teenagers like myself exciting roller coaster rides, cotton candy, a place to hang out and, if you were lucky, the chance to meet up with BOYS! I did go back years later and was pleased to find the walls of the new mall displaying banners and old photographs harking back to the glory days of the wonderful park. Cheryl St. G.

Willow Grove Park was an amusement park built by the People’s Traction Company in order to encourage weekend trolley use. It opened 1896 until 1975. From 1972, the park was known as the Six Gun Territory. After closing in 1976, the site was vacant for several years before the Willow Grove Park Mall was built on the site, opening in 1982. Various artifacts from the old park are displayed in the mall. The painting is based on an old linen postcard.