100 Years Since Riverview Amusement Park Opened in Des Moines

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Riverview 100 Years

Friday, June 5 marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of Riverview Amusement Park in Des Moines.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Friday marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of Riverview amusement park in Des Moines.

For 63 years the Coney Island style amusement park on Des Moines’ north-side was a popular summer destination.

The park was the dream of Abe Frankle. His original concept was to style the park after the existing Coney Island in New York City. In 1914 he created the Riverview Amusement Company, according to the official Riverview website.  Frankle brought in several local business investors that included Joseph Muelhaupt, C.C. Taft, W. Earl Kooker and Frank Walrath.

Frankle served as the president of the corporation and General Manager of the park.

That island was once home to the Des Moines Zooilogical gardens. That park included an elephant, lions, panthers, kangaroos, monkeys, elk, numerous birds and other animals. The lake the island sits on was used to harvest ice during the winter.

The park had a rich history of entertainment for thousands of Iowans. The park offered a thrilling line up of rides, including a wooden roller coaster, tumble bug, tunnel of love, bumper cars, scrambler and carousel.

In 1978, after nearly four years of trying to compete with Adventureland park in Altoona, the park owners decided to sell the park. The park had spent the last few years trying to stand out from Adventureland. They tried to show the economic values Riverview had over Adventureland.

Park owners hoped that a group or entity would purchase and make the necessary investment to upgrade the park’s declining condition, and continue operations.

Adventurland purchased the park in 1979, with what many believed was the intent of operating the facility for company picnics and group functions as well as serve as a discount park. However, Adventureland closed the park, sold some of the rides, moved others to Adventureland and sold the land to the City of Des Moines for one dollar.

Now, 100 years after the park first opened, many are hoping to bring entertainment back to the park.

Former Riverview General Manager, Bill Kooker has written a book, Riverview: The Lost Summers, and created a website sharing the history of the park.

Local residents have worked with the Des Moines Park and Recreation department to renovate the park and include pieces of the park’s past in the new design.