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A park that was part of a larger hotel and museum complex, it was located near the Canadian entrance of The Rainbow Bridge to The United States. Opening in May, 1979, the amusement park itself had lovely landscaping and flower beds, and it provided the usual assortment of flat rides such as a carousel (Illions/Carmel - Carmel/Parker, from another source), bumper cars, pirate ship, etc. However, it boasted a rare Chance "Turbo" and a large 56-meter high ferris wheel (Carousel Holland), which was reportedly the tallest in the Western Hemisphere at that time. Some of the rides were provided by Conklin Shows. They had the midway contract for The Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto and were Canadian agents for a number of ride manufacturers. Researcher Ken Jones of Niagara Falls, Ontario says that the park was originally owned by Conklin & Garrett.
Maple Leaf Park's Entrance
|Here is the new entrance. The castle motif was built over top of the old entrance in 1991. The Giant Wheel is visible inside.|
A number of kiddie rides in the park included a small electric coaster (Schiff?). Maple Leaf Village also featured a wax museum, an arcade, minigolf, a funhouse with a haunted riverboat theme called The "Showboat", games, picnic grounds, two restaurants, numerous snack bars, and stage shows featuring comics, dancing, and a disc jockey, plus a 1950s style road house.
The Giant Wheel rises in the
background behind the Lighthouse
Associated with the park was an Elvis Presley Museum devoted to the 1950s - 70s rock star. It featured a red & black, 1967 Cadillac Coupe de Ville that was believed to have been used by Elvis and Priscilla during their honeymoon in May of 1967. Also linked to the park was an observation tower sponsored by Kodak. It was an existing 104-metre tall tower that had been erected in 1964 by Oneida Community Developments. A decade later it was taken over and became the Niagara Tower. Six years after Maple Leaf Village opened, the landmark became part of the village's shopping complex as The Kodak Tower. An elevator took visitors to the an observation deck at the top.
There were three motel/hotels associated with the amusement park: The Skyline Brock, Skyline Foxhead, and the Village Motor Inn. Together, they contained a total of 843 rooms. Two of these hotels have notable histories:
The Brock, built at a cost of $1.5 million, opened July 1, 1929 as Hotel General Brock. It was named for Major General Sir Isaac Brock, military commander of the British and Canadian forces during the early months of the War of 1812. The hotel had 260 rooms, a roof garden, and a large ballroom. Over the years, notables of the world staying there included : King George VI and his wife, Queen Elizabeth, Angelica Houston, Bridgette Fonda, Gene Autry, Jack Paar, Jessica Tandy, Jimmy Stewart, Matt Dillon, Pierre Trudeau, Princess Margaret, Shirley Temple, and Walt Disney. Marilyn Monroe stayed there, along with co-stars Joseph Cotton and Jean Peters, while filming "Niagara", which was released in 1953.
In 1948, two floors were added on top of the building to obtain additional guest room space, a new Rainbow Salon, an enlarged Rainbow Dining Room and a new kitchen. Also that year, the first international television broadcast in The Americas was made from here and this hotel became the first in Canada to have a commercial television installation. In 1959, the Grand Ballroom was almost doubled in size and completely redecorated at a cost of $500,000.
At some point, The Sheraton chain acquired the hotel, but during the amusement park's run, it was named The Skyline Brock. It has since reverted to The Sheraton Brock.
The Skyline Foxhead site has housed guests to Niagara falls for over 100 years. The first hotel at this location, The Parkside Inn, was built in the early 1890s. It was a three-story building, with an observatory. The grounds were well kept and amenities included hot & cold running water, electricity, and gas. In later years, the Parkside was enlarged by incorporating two adjacent buildings into the original structure. In 1923, Howard Fox purchased the hotel and changed its name to The Clifton Inn which was later shortened to The Inn. It became The Foxhead in 1926 after being remodelled into an old-style old English Inn.
During 1959, the western end of the Foxhead was converted into Tussaud's Waxworks, which still stands today. The rest of the building was demolished in 1964, where upon a new Foxhead Inn opened in 1966. After the amusement park's demise, this hotel became Sheraton on the Falls.
Maple Leaf Village Park had a good collection of rides in its final years. A "Wipe Out" (Chance) was a "Trabant" update and was the first one in Canada. It was also at The CNE for 1991. As mentioned, Conklin Shows provided the CNE midway. They also had concessions at this park, and may have still owned part of it at that time. Contrasting that supposition is a late 1980s brochure indicating that the park was owned by York-Hannover Hotels, which at that time owned The Brock, The Foxhead and The Village Inn.
This postcard shows the
ferris wheel from below.
The plate that was on The
Giant Wheel. It was
removed before the wheel was sold.
Terry Brown of Niagara Falls, Ontario contributes that late in the park's run were a Conklin Shows train car (where you could apply for a job at the park), and a "Caterpillar" with a working cover called "Lovers Lake". This was later changed to swans with a cover over them and that was apparently renamed as "Music Express". Also there was an original "Hey Day". This ride is described in the Crystal Beach Park article.
Regarding the "Music Express" ride, Ken Jones says that it was indeed a renamed "Lovers Lake". The cover was removed and the ride named changed. "Music Express" may have been chosen because without a canopy, a "Caterpillar" would be similar to the newer "Music Express" ride. Ken adds: "I don't know when the canopy was removed, but I have been told it is the same ride that was there originally."
In addition, Terry mentions a Nickelodeon (player piano) in the mall complex, a Fascination Ball (game), "Whack-a-Mole", and a Country Bear Jamboree and Maple Leaf Village character puppet show. There was also a spooky ghost show at the back with illusions. Some of these were only in the park for a short while and thus were likely concessions.
Jim Abbate of Chicago was there in 1982 and in addition to previously mentioned rides were the "Lighthouse Slide" (a "Helter-Skelter"), "Enterprise", "Bumper Cars", "Rotor" (Chance ?), "Wave Swinger", and "Showboat" - a walk-through funhouse. The "Lighthouse Slide" later housed a laser show and was removed some years before the park closed.
Ken Jones contributes that the swing ride was not a "Wave Swinger" model. He says: "It was just a plain old swing ride called The `Dixie Dangler'. I have talked with a former employee and the swing ride that was there at the end, was there the entire time, right from day one. Yes, it may have looked like one, but it was definilty not. It just went round and round, and if you hit the Emergency Stop button, it took ages to stop."
Safety Guide Sign
|Here is a typical sign at the entrance to each ride. This particular one was at The Giant Wheel.|
Also in the park was a Chance "Turbo". Only a few of these were ever made. The ride gives a wild twisting motion as two parallel wheels, each of ten cars, rotate while the wheels revolve about the central support. As well, the cars can twist! One other ride mentioned is "Jimmy's Auto", an antique car ride.
|In this view, taken from the ferris wheel, may be seen The Scrambler and Turbo. The building at Upper Right is for the bumper cars.|
Here is more of the midway, as seen from
the ferris wheel. A Tilt-A-Whirl, Go-Gator,
Dixie Dangler, Spider, and Sea Dragon are
With competition from MarineLand and Canada's Wonderland, the amusement park closed after the 1992 season and an auction held in early 1993. The money was used to pay on the debt acquired by the parent company when it bought the three hotels. The rides were sold off individually to parks worldwide, with the big wheel going to a site in Asia. Its asking price was $560,000. Apparently, the Illions carousel had already been auctioned in April of 1989 and was replaced by a smaller, Chance model.
Seen here at right are the Turbo cars packed onto a trailer. The rest of the ride is seen partially at left on its second trailer.
It would soon be on its way to Old Indiana Fun Park and eventually to Conneaut Lake Park in Pennsylvania.
Today, the former amusement area is the parking lot for Casino Niagara which opened in 1996. No traces of the park remain.
The following is a list of rides at the park's closure. Ken Jones was an employee of the park for its final four years and has provided some updates to it.
Boat Ride (Kiddie) Bumper Cars (Sold to The Skylon Tower) `Car' Carousel (Mack ?) Used Automobiles Instead of Horses. (Purchased from Crystal Beach) 36-Horse Carousel (Chance) "Dixie Dangler" Swing Ride Ferris Wheel (Eli ?) Kiddie Fire Engines (Zamperla ?) "Giant Wheel" (Carousel Holland) 56 Meters in Height (1979) "Go-Gator" (Wisdom) Sold. Destroyed in a Fire "Gravitron" (Wisdom) "Krazy Cars" (Inner-Tube Bumper Car Ride) (Had not been in operation for the final season.) "Music Express" Went to Mexico "Rainbow" (Huss) Went to Vancouver "Red Baron" (Zamperla) "Sea Dragon" (Chance) Pirate Ship (Sold to a Carnival Operator in Nova Scotia) "Scrambler" (Eli) "Showboat" (Walk-Thru FunHouse) "Spider" (Eyerly) (Sold to a Carnival Operator in the U.S.) SR II Simulator (Doron) "Tea Cups" (Sold to Darien Lake, New York) "Tilt-A-Whirl" (Sellner) "Turbo" (Chance) (Sold to Conneaut Lake Park. Not currently running.) "Turtle" (Wisdom ?) "Whip" (Kiddie - Mangels) (This may have come from Coney Island, NY) "Wipe Out" (Chance)
For another look at this park, see:
Thanks to Cathy Crabbe of The Business Development Department of
the City of Niagara Falls, Ontario for information on the
hotels and the destination of the ferris wheel.)
Special thanks goes to Ken Jones of Niagara Falls, Ontario for his on-going contributions to this article. The midway, "Turbo", "Wheel" ID Plate, and Safety Sign photographs were provided by him. See his site: -Niagara's Lost Amusement Parks
Appreciation goes to Terry Brown of Niagara Falls, Ontario for his remembrances of the park.
Thanks to Anthony Macken of Millville, New Jersey for the "Midway" and "Giant Wheel" postcard scans.
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Closed Canadian Parks Index