May 28, 2007

Preserve the historical landmarks of American popular culture.

I didn't know it was called Trimper's Rides. [CORRECTION: I'm mixing up Ocean City, Maryland and Ocean City, New Jersey.] We just called it "the Boardwalk," all those summers when it was the highlight of our week-long stay at Aunt Isabel and Uncle Henry's cottage in Ocean City, New Jersey. I was young enough to find the Tilt-a-Whirl unbearably thrilling and to marvel at the kids who had the nerve to ride the merry-go-round and grab for the brass ring.

Now, I see it was called Trimper's Rides. Tthere's a news story: after 117 years, the place is closing. The property is too valuable, and the taxes go too far beyond what you can make with an old-fashioned place like that:
Trimper's is the oldest continuously owned amusement park in the United States, and its demise would reverberate beyond the mid-Atlantic shore, said Jim Futrell of the National Amusement Park Historical Association.

Closing Trimper's "will forever change Ocean City, and I don't think it will change it for the better," Futrell said. "It would rob the community of its soul."...

There are the arcade with rows of Skee-Ball lanes, the pipe-organ carousel with hand-painted horses, the haunted house and the mirror maze.

Granville and Doug Trimper have appealed the taxes with the state. They also have reached out to Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and lawmakers for help. Options under consideration include a historic designation or legislation to change the way the park is assessed, Doug said.
The place is more than twice as old as the Coney Island amusement park. It is classic Americana. We are fools if we don't preserve these landmarks of American pop culture. This isn't even a question of designating the place a historical landmark to prevent its destruction. The owners want to preserve it. They just want tax relief to spare them from the spiraling property assessments. And doesn't the value of the surrounding property come, in part, front the classic amusement park that gives Ocean City character? I can't believe the city doesn't do everything it can not just to preserve but to restore something so distinctive and so profoundly and historically American.


AJ Lynch said...

Hmmm the Ocean City, New Jersey business owners appeal their case to the governor of Maryland.

Perhaps, they should get another lawyer to handle their case?

Harsh Pencil said...

As I'm sure the previous commenter is alluding to, the article is about an amusement park in Ocean City, Maryland, not Ocean City, New Jersey. Both are great places, but, so far, the memories for Professor Althouse (and me) of Ocean City, New Jersey are being preserved.

boston70 said...

I read this article this morning and I would hate to see this amusement park go.

I am a sucker for these kind of places. There is something about them that is so "americana".

There were a couple of these boardwalks/amusement parks on the beaches in Mass when I moved here in the 1990's and since have been taken down. Now replaced by, bland looking condo buildings that add nothing to the beach other then pricey real estate.

I also went to Coney Island every summer just for the amusement/boardwalk and was totally bummed when I heard it was going to be shut down and replaced by yet another boring casino or trump building.

I haven't to been this particular amusement park but would hate to see it go because personally I think these places are a wonderful reminder of an Americana of yesteryear. Also, there is something romantic about these places on the ocean as opposed to some amusement park that is not on the ocean.

AllenS said...

Seems to be some confusion about the amusement parks. Perhaps too many Tilt-A-Whirl rides.

Ann Althouse said...

Whoops. I'm sorry. I wonder if the place I remember is still there...

Correction noted.

Richard Fagin said...

For what it's worth, the condos that replaced Paragon Park in Nantasket Beach, Mass. nearly or actually did go bankrupt.

All that's left of Paragon after it closed in 1984 is the early 1900s carousel.

A pox on all those condo developers!

boston70 said...

thanks richard for the information about Nantasket Beach. Nantasket Beach and Salisbury Beach (which I think may actually be in NH) were the amusement parks I was thinking of.

Old Orchard Beach, Maine just over the border, still has its boardwalk though.

vet66 said...

What a pity! Replacing the soul of a city with a view of a memory!

Long Beach, California, had the Pike and Rainbow pier. Both are gone now and the memories of kissing under a light while listening to the 'Carny' sounds and smelling the popcorn and corn dogs become dimmer as time passes.

Thank goodness for Norman Rockwell

George said...

Where in Ireland its government building an "interstate" highway across ground where ancient Irish kings lived and made proclamations, where Stonehenge-type ruins have been uncovered.....?? Big controversy over there...

Seems like that's the kind of place that should be saved.

If the amusement park's owners can't make a go of it, it's hard to feel much sympathy for them.

And if it contains architectural elements that are noteworthy, folk art collectors will be all too happy to buy and preserve them.

AJ Lynch said...


FYI- don't despair because the merry-go-round you fondly recall in Ocean City New Jersey is still there. Around 5th Street on the Boardwalk.

But the horses look so much smaller than when I rode it.

Matthew said...

The only things worth preserving without question are historical landmarks. Pop culture is inherently transient, and most of what you remember will be gone and forgotten by even your own children.

downtownlad said...

Speaking of Coney Island, you do realize that Astroland is closing this summer don't you?

Ann Althouse said...

Matthew: I don't get it. History inherently involves the transient. The reason for historical preservation is that it is of the past. What you are really saying is that only serious things should be preserved, but pop culture is an essential part of America.

Ann Althouse said...

DTL: Yeah, that's in the linked article... along with stories of other old amusement parks that have closed... none anywhere newar as old as Trimper's.

Rick Lee said...

Same thing is happening in Myrtle Beach.> It's hard to imagine Myrtle without the Pavilion.

Cedarford said...

Matthew said...
The only things worth preserving without question are historical landmarks. Pop culture is inherently transient, and most of what you remember will be gone and forgotten by even your own children.

I side with Althouse with her smartly written post and her rebuttal to your comment.

What is culture but transient things we decide to preserve or not to?

Pop culture from slave folk art to Star Trek memorabilia is preserved in museums. It's value is recognized. It is harder with buildings...and we should have a national policy to preserve the best of America's era's of culture, architecture, noted moments. Right now we ignore some and go overboard on others (every colonial era house is "historic" while every art deco building in a city must be torn down to get a better tax use???)

In the boonies of Massachusetts, I once ran across the run-down, great remnants of the 19th Century Spiritualist Revival. A camp of some 400 minicabins done up in Victorian gingerbread. It still looked fabulous and I took 4 rolls of pictures and went into town to buy and use 3 of 4 more rolls up because I heard that the Church was going to sell the property and all the 1-person cabins torn down for a golf course development( cabins designed so people would be apart and alone from family who also had separate cabins, could reflect on the day's preaching from visiting ministers travelling and orating in the tradition of Johnathan Edwards.)

The country does need a better strategy to preserve certain things, but not ALL things in a class, for future generations. It is folly to say all Revolutionary era or Wild West buildings are sacred while the Victorians are torn down for McMansions, the great Amusement parks are considered discardable fluff in an electronic games era..

From Inwood said...

There were three museum exhibitions in NYC recently concerning the late Robert Moses. Unfortunately for me, I could only get to one of them.

The theme of all three was a retrospective on what Moses hath wrought. They represented a rethinking of Robert Caro's majestic but flawed 1970 bio of Moses, which, while tempered, basically said that he was an evil genius responsible for all NYC's ills at the time of its nadir in the '70s.

It was also a paean to the late Jane Jacobs who saved Greenwich Village from one of Moses' less-than-genius schemes.

There’s also a Book, originally published in the ‘60s, entitled “Lost New York” with pictures of demolished buildings which make me cry.

But as the one exhibit I saw shows & as reports of the others show, it wasn't that simple; and it isn’t that simple. These exhibitions were called “Revisionist History”, whatever that means. To me they were really an attempt at “fair & balanced” history if I may steal from Fox News. Everybody, including me, wants to preserve something, somewhere (now I’m stealing from Dean Martin) but as taxpayers no one wants to pay to preserve anything. More important, the powerful Real Estate interests tend to equate demolition & rebuilding with Progress and politicians tend to see powerful Real Estate interests as the financial contributors to their re-election coffers, which they, of course, are. And, RIP, Jane, but not to build anything, anywhere, anytime leads to decay & decline of a city. Or a get-away spot like the two Ocean Cities.

And an amusement park in the Bronx, Freedomland, was torn down for a mega housing complex now occupied by Blacks who found it an escape from Harlem & the lower Bronx.

Full disclosure: Moses put the Henry Hudson Pkwy thru Inwood Hill Park rather than my childhood apartment house & block, which are still thriving thank you. And the park is still a glorious place despite traffic, as is Central Park. Caro thought him a Big Bad Meanie for this, Inwoodites be damned. Typical Limo Lib attitude. Inconsistently, Caro didn't like Moses’ uprooting neighborhoods to ream/ram The Gowanus & The Cross Bronx Expressways through, especially when he could've gone through Crotona Park in the Bronx. But then preservationists don't have to be consistent I guess; their hearts are in the right place. And NYC hasn’t solved its traffic problem which the draconian Moses’ Jane Jacobs be damned destruction would have. (In 1807 traffic moved thru Manhattan at a rate of 4 Miles per hour. In 2007 no change in the rate, tho the streets are not knee-deep in horses**t.)

Also, Trinity Church sold all its land other than the famous church/graveyard on the lower West Side of Manhattan without allowing any space for parks, etc. for the profanum vulgus, an uncharitable decision which reverberates to this day.

So play your oldie “They Paved Paradise And Put Up A Parking Lot” & let’s open a brewski & hope that Ocean City can adopt a tax arrangement like the one you noted which may preserve the old & yet be acceptable to the taxpayers.

Pogo said...

Another victim of a regressive tax. Funnny how the government can confiscate your property an inch at a time merely by raising the property tax to coincide with popularity. One of the area's landmarks will vanish, depite having served as a vital reason for the existence of the surrounding properties in the first place.

But when the heart is cut out, what happens to to all that remains?

From Inwood said...


Not sure what exactly you mean by “a regressive tax” here.

Having argued tax assessment cases early in my career, I saw that all land valuation is subjective no matter how the assessors try to be objective. And assessors don’t always realize how much is too much of an increase for a development or a building which is vital. Except when a sport franchise threatens to leave, though they’ll let the old park be torn down if the owners says “take the deal or I leave”. Yankee Stadium (or rebuilt Yankee Stadium) will join The Polo Grounds & Ebbets Field, in this case to be paved for a parking lot in 2009, having been replaced by a newer than new, better than old park.

Prof A (or David Brooks) explains it in another post on another subject: We’re "envision[ing] a sort of Vulcan Utopia, in which dispassionate individuals exchange facts and arrive at logical conclusions."

Back to reality. Or to dystopia, if you will. If you, as an MD, own your office building, assuming the area you’re located in develops, even if you don’t paint your door, they’ll increase your property assessment, which you can then protest, LOL.

And, others will think it cool that your property has been reassessed upward, since most everyone says to the tax men “get that tax money you say you need from some other guy”.

Some Ocean City fathers (mothers) may be hoping, having heard about the Kelo result, that the place shuts down after this increase & a more “progressive” use found for it. Maybe not good in the long run, but to paraphrase Keynes, they’re not looking to the long run in election cycles. Maybe if Donald Trump could develop Central Park, he’d do it. Mort Zuckerman found a way to build a behemoth building on the SW corner (Columbus Circle) of the Park which makes the sun disappear after 1PM on 12/21 in a good portion of the park.

So my heart’s with you & I guess Prof A, but who are we against so many?

I weep when I think of the demolished “Movie-Palace Moorish” theaters I went to & sold candy in as a kid. And the Hotels. Not to mention Penn Station. And the Union League Club.

Victor Davis Hanson has a long piece in today’s PJ Media, part of which discusses land grabs & “progressive” uses of land in California & Greece. Read it & weep, as the saying goes. Seems that in your phrase “having served as a vital reason for the existence of the surrounding properties in the first place”, the operative words are “having served”.


But no easy answer. Unless everyone agrees to keep the Ocean City park’s assessment as is. And to patronize the place rather than sit home & watch the telly. And even then, the owners may come back & ask for a big reduction. Or go out of business anyway.