Historic Detroit

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Riverview Park

The story of this amusement park would have more twists and turns than its roller coasters, with money troubles leading to it changing hands – and names – many times over its two decades of thrilling visitors.

In 1905, entrepreneur Morris Wolff bought the old Beller’s Garden saloon just east of the Belle Isle Bridge and built an amusement park around it. Wolff’s Park had a Ferris wheel, a 3,000-foot-long roller coaster, the “largest roller skating rink in the West,” a dancing pavilion and more. But in 1907, it entered receivership, and was renamed Riverview Park that fall.

After Electric Park next door folded for good, the surviving pieces of that attraction were folded into Riverview, including the Derby Racer. Riverview Park now encompassed both sides of the Belle Isle Bridge.

On April 30, 1914, it was rebranded as Palace Gardens, home of the Albert Kahn-designed Palais de Danse pavilion, but the new name never really stuck and was going by Riverview Park again a few years later.

In 1915, what was said to be the largest roller coaster in the world opened at the park, the mile-long Trip Through the Clouds.

Just to the west of Riverview was the Kling Brewery, which folded when Prohibition was enacted. The Kling family tore down the brewhouse and built Luna Park. After a couple of years, it was supplanted by Granada Park, which opened June 28, 1924.

By that time, however, the neighboring Riverview Park had become a “den of carnival gamblers” and “unfavorable advertising of Detroit to the stranger.” The City, looking to spruce up the area around Belle Isle, condemned the parks as eyesores and shuttered them both in 1927. The following year, the City clear-cut the structures and turned the large expanse into Gabriel Richard Park.