Freedomland U.S.A.: The Definitive History – Michael R. Virgintino

‘Freedomland U.S.A. – The Definitive History” is a new book that documents the entire story from conception to bankruptcy of one of the most innovative and beloved theme parks in America. Published by Theme Park Press, the world’s leading independent publisher of books about the Disney company and its history, its films and animation, and its theme parks, the 305-page story includes first-time interviews with park employees and never before published photographs. Located in New York City, Freedomland was designated the “Disneyland of the East.” It survived only five seasons (1960-1964) but to this day the park generates fond memories with baby boomers who enjoyed the American history-themed attractions.

Freedomland was conceived and built by C.V. Wood’s Marco Engineering Company. Known to many as Woody, he was Disneyland’s first employee and brought Walt Disney’s imagination to life by leading a team to build the park. He then created a company that built theme parks and other venues across the country. Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington and the community of Lake Havaseu, Arizona, continue to prosper. The northeast Bronx property that featured Freedomland became the Co-op City housing project and a shopping center.

“Freedomland U.S.A. – The Definitive History” features stories about the building of the park, background about the various attractions from the recreation of the Chicago Fire to a trip in America’s untamed wilderness on the Northwest Fur Trapper bull boat attraction. Dark rides included the Earthquake of San Francisco, a Buccaneer attraction and the Tornado recreation in the New Orleans section of the park, and a Mine Cavern ride deep into the earth in the Old Southwest. These and other attractions were created by Arrow Development, which designed attractions for Disney and other parks.

Other popular Freedomland attractions included a ride on a correspondents’ wagon through the battle lines of Civil War armies that witnessed the early stage for audio-automatronics, wild west shoot-outs at Fort Cavalry and the staged robberies on vintage steam trains. A popular attraction with young children was the ride through Storyland on Danny the Dragon, the fire-breathing dragon with a heart of gold.

The book is filled with documentation about the more than 150 celebrities of the day who appeared at the park. They included entertainers (Paul Anka, Louis Armstrong, The Four Seasons, Benny Goodman, The Lennon Sisters, The Three Stooges) New York’s radio disc jockeys (Herb Oscar Anderson, Scott Muni, Murray the K, Jack Sterling), hosts of local television shows for kids and teens (Officer Joe Bolton, Clay Cole, Sonny Fox, Chuck McCann, Captain Jack McCarthy) and many others from movies, music, radio, stage and television.

“Freedomland U.S.A. – The Definitive History” also tells the stories of park employees through interviews with character actors who portrayed gunslinger Billy the Kid and cowgirl star Annie Oakley, hospitality hosts, restaurant staff and parking attendants, and those who operated some of the attractions, including the popular Great Lakes sternwheelers. A section of the book includes memories from baby boomers who were in awe of Freedomland’s fun and excitement.