Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Amusement Park Ghosts

From Dave Brigham:

From 1897 to 1963 Norumbega Park in Newton, MA, was one of the premier trolley parks in New England. As was the fashion of the day, the park was built by the Commonwealth Avenue Street Railway in an effort to increase ridership. The park featured canoeing, a picnic area, an outdoor theater, a penny arcade, a restaurant, a zoo and a carousel, and several rides among other attractions. In 1930, the Totem Pole Ballroom opened; it was considered the best and most elegant ballroom in the area, according to, a site offering a history of the park as well as sales of a documentary DVD of the park.

The park took its name from Norumbega Tower, a large stone structure across the Charles River in Weston that was built by a Harvard professor to honor the Viking explorers he believed had visited the area in 1000 A.D. (this tower is the subject of my next post).

I'd known about the park's legacy for many years, but only recently got around to visiting the former site. Much of the land formerly occupied by the park now houses a Marriott Hotel. The remainder is conservation land.

At the entrance to the park, there is an overgrown, sunken garden surrounded by stone walls. I have no idea if this is a remnant of the amusement park. What I do know, is that local kids use it as to bomb around on their BMX bikes, as evidenced by this ramp, one of three I spied.

Bike ramp #1

Just a little way down the path there are sections of stone wall that look like they were built before the amusement park.

Old wall

And not much further down the path I found this light stuck in a tree. Now this I can picture as part of the park.

Tree light

Behind the hotel there's a nice space that opens up to the Charles River. There's a gazebo there, as well as this old stairway leading up to some benches.

Goin' up

At the northern end of the park, where it meets with a nice residential neighborhood, I found this sagging barbed wire fence. Strange.

Keeping out or in?


  1. Norumbega Tower! I've never heard of...I'm looking forward to seeing your next post!

  2. Shuko -- it's a place I've driven past a number of times in recent years, but it wasn't until I finally got out of my car that I realized just what an oddity it is.

  3. My Mom grew up in Newton (1930's & 40's), and I was poking around to learn more about her old neighborhood, and where she might have hung out. She probably visited Norumbega Park on a number of occsions... Thanks for posting this.

    1. Hi Julie:

      Glad you found my post. I wish there was more to take pictures of from Norumbega. Sounds like it was quite the place; your mother surely had a great time there!

  4. My mother grew up in Newtonville in the '30s and '40s … actually right across from "The Lake" (Nonantum) …

    Great photography.

  5. Thanks, Peter. I've lived in Newtonville for 11 1/2 years, very close to Nonantum. I love taking pictures there.