|These gates to Wonderland
Park on Ackerman Island opened for business Nov. 22, 1905.
The island was located in the middle of the Arkansas River from Douglas Avenue and extending north past Second Street. Access to the island was gained by stairways from the Douglas bridge on the south or the Second Street bridge on the north.
|According to the post card book, Peerless Princess of the Plains, in addition to amusement park rides, the park included a baseball field, swimming pool, theater, dance pavilion, bandstand and a collection of larger-than-life statues.|
|It was speculated that these came from the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904. Their fate remains a mystery.|
|The roller coaster, the Giant Thriller, was advertised as the longest in the country and was located west of the present day Broadview Hotel. The theater was one of Wichita's first buildings constructed with the newly developed concrete blocks.|
The park was short-lived. Its doom was cast by the passage of "blue laws," which forbade shows on Sundays, and by the end of WWI the park closed. Only the baseball field survived for a few more years. But with the depression came the WPA, and in the '30s they filled in the west side of the island, making it part of the west bank. The baseball crowd left for the newly constructed Lawrence Stadium.
Today, Exploration Place, Wichita's grand new $62 million science center and children's museum, occupies the area just north of the main part of Ackerman Island. And, fittingly, most of the museum exhibits are located in an island building which extends out into the Arkansas River.
NOW: Standing just north of the site for Wonderland Park is Wichita's latest wonderland, Exploration Place, also enhabiting a man-made island. Photo by Churchman