Baby boomers who enjoyed a history theme park in The Bronx 60 years ago continue to recall and talk about their fond memories of Freedomland U.S.A. Some of the many recollections are included in a new book, Freedomland U.S.A.: The Definitive History, published by Theme Park Press.
Freedomland memories will be featured in a presentation at the Reed Memorial Library (1733 Route 6, Carmel) on Tuesday, December 10, at 11 a.m. Registration is required as seating is limited. Visit the library calendar to register. Call 845-225-2439 for more information.
The book documents the entire story from conception to bankruptcy of one of the most innovative and beloved theme parks in America. It is available on Amazon and other online stores at the suggested retail price of $24.95. The book will be available for purchase ($25/cash only) and signing at the event.
Freedomland U.S.A. (visit the Facebook group) was celebrated as the “Disneyland of the East.” It survived only five seasons (1960-1964). Contrary to what has become an urban legend, Freedomland‘s failure was not caused by the opening of the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair.
Besides its attractions, Freedomland featured the popular music stars of the day. For its second season, Freedomland created a performance venue in its Satellite City area, the only themed section of seven that focused on the present. While the other sections featured the history of the Civil War, Wild West gun fights and New York, Chicago and San Francisco from 1870 through the early 1900s, Satellite City replicated Cape Canaveral and the space race. Appropriately named the Moon Bowl, the entertainment stage was complemented by the world’s largest outdoor dance floor. Paul Anka, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Marvin Gaye, The Four Seasons and The Temptations were among the more than 150 entertainers who appeared at Freedomland.
Freedomland U.S.A. was conceived and built by C.V. Wood and his Marco Engineering Company. Known to many as Woody, he was Disneyland’s first employee and he brought Walt Disney’s imagination to life by leading the team that built that park. He then created Marco Engineering to build theme parks and other venues across the country. Several continue to prosper.
Unknown to Woody and the general public at the time, Freedomland property owner William Zeckendorf, Sr., local politicians, city planners and construction unions considered the park a “placeholder” until property variances permitted significant development on Bronx marshland. The variances provided the green light for the construction of Co-op City, the largest cooperative housing community in the world. A shopping center was added about a decade later and an indoor mall was constructed on the remaining undeveloped land during 2012.