Take a walk through Portland’s historic Riverton Trolley Park

For 20 cents, Portland’s turn-of-the-20th-century day-trippers could climb aboard a Portland Railroad Company trolley car and spend the day at Riverton Trolley Park. According to Maine Memory Network, those folks could dine, dance, play croquet, watch a vaudeville act or even see a hot-air balloon and parachute show by Monsieur Roberto, billed as “Meteor of the Sky.”

The Portland Railroad Company opened the Riverton Trolley Park in 1896 as a way to get people to ride the line on weekends and holidays. It sprawled across 30 acres where Riverside Street and Forest Avenue meet in Portland. It bordered the Presumpscot River, too. They say 10,000 people showed up on opening day.

The park’s casino, which didn’t feature gambling, had a view of the river, a dining and game room and a dance hall. There was also a bandstand, a pen of live deer, a small zoo, a boat house with canoes and a steam launch, a carousel, a trout pond and picnic grounds.

The outdoor “Rustic Theater” had seats for 2,500 people. Acts gracing the stage ranged from high-wire and trapeze performers, to comedy, to buck-and-wing dancers and popular singers.

The whole affair was very popular until WWI, the influenza outbreak of 1918 and the rise of the automobile put an end to the fun.

In 1921, the Portland Railroad Company sold the Riverton Trolley Park, everything included, to a local realty group that turned the park into a drive-in car resort. They added thrill rides including the “Aeroplane Glide” and a roller coaster.

But the park closed for good in 1929 and the casino was torn down in 1933. The City of Portland acquired the land sometime before WWII. Now, it’s a wooded park.

It’s a bit buggy this time of year, but I like to walk my dog along the historic paths. It’s fun to imagine what it must have been like, back in the day.

(Special thanks to the Maine Memory Network for the historic photos)

 

Troy R. Bennett

About Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.