Remembering Paragon Park

Posted by Andrea Shockling on Friday, March 22nd, 2013

Paragon Park in the early 20th century

For almost eighty years, the hottest summer spot on Nantasket Beach in Massachusetts was Paragon Park, a family theme park that closed in 1984. Generations of New Englanders fondly remember the amusement park and surrounding boardwalk, though in most cases their memories are all that remain of this once storied beachfront destination.

With a few small exceptions such as an arcade and miniature golf course, the bulk of Paragon Park’s land has been redeveloped for condominiums in the three decades since it closed. Two main attractions still exist for fans of Paragon Park, including the beautifully restored historic Paragon Park Carousel now located on the boardwalk in Hull, Massachusetts. The other is not where you might expect: Paragon Park’s Giant Coaster, built in 1917, is now in operation at Six Flags America outside Washington, D.C. as The Wild One.

Paragon Park, 1905

Nantasket Beach was just one of many popular summer destination spots for the wealthy citizens of Boston, and by the late nineteenth century more than 2 million people were visiting the area each summer. Boardwalks, grand hotels and amusement parks sprung up along the shores near the city, but Paragon Park was one of the finest. In 1928, the park opened what would become its most famous attraction: a hand-carved carousel built by Philadelphia Toboggan Company, now known as Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters, Inc. The carousel features 66 horses and 2 rare chariots, of which 22 have been restored to their original colors and condition. The significant restoration project is a priority for Friends of Paragon Carousel, the non-profit organization that oversees the attraction today. More than 100,000 visitors now ride the restored carousel annually.

Paragon Park Carousel

The Paragon Park Carousel also boasts a small museum of park memorabilia and a scale model of the famous roller coaster.  “So many people were recalling their own memories and saying, ‘This should be permanent,’ said Marie Schleiff, museum director and member of the board of Friends of Paragon Carousel. “It just kindled our enthusiasm for creating this and keeping the spark alive.”

Carousel model at Paragon Park Museum

Those looking to reconnect with their Paragon Park memories further were in for a special treat last year with the premiere of Paragon Park The Musical. Written by Massachusetts residents Zoe Bradford and Michael Hammond with music and lyrics by Adam Brooks, the story begins with the real-life auction of the carousel in 1985 before backtracking to 1905 for a fictional love story that traces the history of the park. Many of the iconic rides – including Giant Coaster – make an appearance on stage, as does a smaller version of the carousel. The production’s designers and directors were mindful of the fact that much of their audience would have their own memories of the scenery and props on stage. “A lot went into re-creating not only the park atmosphere, but the periods of history,” said music director Michael Joseph. The musical was the recipient of the New England Theatre Conference Moss Hart Memorial Award for Artistic Excellence in 2012.

Paragon Park The Musical

Paragon Park may be gone, but it is clearly not forgotten by the many who grew up riding coasters, strolling boardwalks and playing penny arcade games every summer at the shore. If you’re visiting the Boston area, consider a quick trip across Quincy Bay to Hull. Take a spin on the beautiful Paragon Park Carousel and honor the memory of this great New England amusement park.

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One response to “Remembering Paragon Park”

  1. anthony demaio says:

    spent many summers at the park ,would love to take my 82 y.o. mother to this musical is it still running if so when and how do I get tix,

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