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gets OK to demolish Whalom Park buildings
By Malinda Govoni
Article Launched: 02/13/2007 10:53:30 AM EST
LUNENBURG -- Planning Board officials unanimously
voted Monday that
Global Property Developers Corporation complied with
bylaw requirements for three Whalom Park buildings,
giving them the go-
ahead to obtain permits for demolition.
The structures, slated for demolition within the next
include two actors' houses and the carousel building on
amusement park grounds. But Planning Board officials
agreed that the
developers are still not in compliance with a demolition
for one Whalom Park building after an hour-and-a-half of
Emerick R. Bakaysa, vice chairman of the board, made a
motion to ask
the developer to try and save the Lufkin House.
"I don't think they satisfactorily met the
requirements for that
building," Bakaysa said.
Bakaysa's motion came after Carl Pearson, Global
Corporation's vice president, described the company's
efforts to save
or sell two actors' houses for $1,000 and $2,000,
respectively, and a
carousel house for $10,000.
"Global has reached out to preservation groups.
Global has placed them
on MLS real estate services," Pearson said. "At
this point, structures
are planned to be demolished on or before May 1."
Historical Commission member Chriztine Foltz argued
argued for the
delay, and Pearson said Lufkin House is currently off the
because the developers are using it as shelter and an
"You don't have any paperwork on it," Foltz
said. "As is, it cannot go
forward for a permit to be destroyed."
The developers had 180 days to try and save the
sales, restoration or moving them. And each structure,
Lufkin House, was on the market for 92 days, according to
The Planning Board told Pearson that GPDC has to put
the Lufkin House
on the market for 90 days before it can rightfully
demolish it. But
members expressed their satisfaction with GPDC's efforts
at the old
amusement park nonetheless.
"The developer stepped up, cleaned it up,"
Coasting to a stop at Whalom Park
LUNENBURG -- There were plenty of signs the end was
coming: When Whalom Park finally closed its gates, after
more than a century as a Central Massachusetts landmark;
when its ballroom burned down and its antique carousel
was auctioned off, horse by horse; when a developer
bought the lakefront site and made plans to build condos.
Still, for many area residents whose teenage years
were defined by weekends spent at Whalom Park, who
remember their first kisses at the roller-skating rink
and their first dates in the Rose Garden dance hall, the
end of the amusement park was not quite real until
yesterday morning, when a roaring yellow excavator tore a
hole in the park's best-loved attraction, the Flying
Comet roller coaster (also known as ``The Black
As the 60-year-old wooden coaster was demolished, a
steady stream of spectators, a few choking back tears,
parked by the shore of Whalom Lake and stood outside the
chain-link fence to watch.
``I'm broken-hearted," said Bill Murphy, the
caretaker of the 30-acre park since it closed six years
ago. ``It hurts; it really does. It's part of my
By the end of yesterday, the roller coaster was gone,
along with most of the other major structures on the
property. The demolition, which began a week ago, is on
track to be finished next week, officials said.
Construction of 240 condominiums on the property will
begin next spring, said Carl Pearson, vice president of
Global Property Developers Corp., the Bridgewater firm
that purchased the former park earlier this year. An
appeal by neighbors who oppose the project was dismissed
by a judge; they have appealed the dismissal, said their
lawyer, June Riddle of Lunenburg.
Yesterday, as a piece of local history vanished before
their eyes, reduced to a field of broken lumber and
tangled, rusted, 20-foot sections of steel track,
residents snapped photos and reminisced with strangers.
Some visitors sought company, while others stood apart,
quiet, seemingly lost in a fog of memory.
When it first opened in 1893, Whalom Park was a
traditional, English-style park of gardens and walking
paths, created by a streetcar operator in Leominster and
Fitchburg as a way to lure riders on weekends. Its
carousel, with 58 hand-carved animals, was installed in
1914. Animal exhibits, summer stock theater, and a dance
hall arrived, The first roller coaster was built in the
1920s, according to Pearson. After World War II, with the
added excitement of skee-ball, arcades, a funhouse, and
bumper cars, Whalom thrived.
Its decline began in the 1970s, after Walt Disney set
new standards for theme parks. The thrills of Whalom,
along with other parks of its era, began to seem faded.
One by one in the decades that followed, small,
family-owned amusement parks were shuttered, from Rocky
Point on Warwick Neck in Rhode Island to Revere Beach,
once known as the Coney Island of the North.
The rides at Whalom -- the Black Hole; the Whip; the
Bouncer -- ``were nothing compared to today, but back
then, it was the cat's meow," said Gerry Farinelli,
65, of Attleboro, as he watched the excavator crush the
Installed in the early 1940s, after the infamous
hurricane of 1938 flattened its predecessor, Whalom's
Flying Comet coaster offered sweeping lake views from its
high point 60 feet above the ground, but it was just as
well known for its creaks, rattles, and ominous
vibrations, onlookers said.
``It would always shake, and you knew it would shake,
and you went on it anyway," said Jean DiBona, 63,
who traveled to Lunenburg from her home in North
Providence, R.I., to bid farewell to the roller coaster.
``I used to cry on the way up, and I'd cry on the way
down -- and then I would go on it again."
David Pothier, 52, of Lunenberg, remembered the wooden
slide in Whalom's Funhouse, where children would ride
scraps of burlap. Another ride was a spinning wooden disc
that children rode, without seat belts, until the speed
of the rotation was enough to throw them off, he said.
Not all of Whalom's pleasures induced bruises or
screams of terror. Residents recalled leisurely summer
picnics under the pine trees on the property and trout
fishing in the lake. An organ player provided live music
in the roller rink. There were Easter egg hunts and New
Year's Eve dances and car races on the frozen lake in the
Perhaps the oddest attraction was featured in the
1920s, when a trained horse would ride a waterslide into
the lake, Pearson said.
For many former patrons, Whalom was a place for young
romance. Bill Phelps, 62, met his wife on the dance floor
at the Rose Garden, where the roof opened up to the stars
in the summer and some of the biggest names of the Big
Band era played.
``If my wife was alive, she would be crying,"
One section of the roller coaster's track was salvaged
yesterday, along with some of its cars, and Pearson said
there are plans to incorporate fragments and memorabilia
into the final design of the condo development. The
building where the carousel was housed may also be
Onlookers mused yesterday about the strangeness of the
altered landscape and about the likely name of the condo
``No matter what they call it," Nancy Nurmi said,
``people will call it Whalom Park."
Whalom coaster comes tumbling
By Marisa Donelan
10/19/2006 Sentinel & Enterprise
LUNENBURG -- Susan Campbell remembers watching the
sun set behind the roller coaster at Whalom Park from her
uncle's lake house.
"You'd see the sun come right through the rails
on the roller coaster, and it was like the roller coaster
was coming from heaven," the Fitchburg resident, 49,
said Wednesday. "It was an amazing, amazing
Campbell watched with sadness Wednesday afternoon as a
demolition crew from Roberts Corp., of Hudson, N.H.,
broke apart the tracks and railings from the iconic
coaster, the Flyer Comet.
"It's heartbreaking," she said, shaking her
head. "Your whole life as a child here was Whalom
Park. If you didn't grow up around here, you can't
understand. They're pulverizing generations of
A worker used a bulldozer to smash up and separate the
wood and steel from the roller coaster, which stood
partially demolished around 3 p.m. Wednesday.
Workers have been tearing down buildings and rides at
the park since last Tuesday, to make way for a 240-unit
condominium project that Bridgewater-based Global
Property Developers Corp. is planning to build there
Carl Pearson, vice president of Global Property, told
the Sentinel & Enterprise last week that clearing
Whalom Park will take about four weeks in total, and that
he doesn't know when construction on the condos will
Four buildings at the park will remain standing for
now, under a town demolition-delay bylaw, Pearson said.
Bill Murphy, 52, who has lived on the property -- in a
house the bylaw is temporarily protecting -- and worked
as a groundskeeper since the amusement park closed for
good in 2000, said deconstruction on the 1939 coaster
began at 8 a.m. Wednesday.
"It's very, very sad," he said. "It
hurts a lot."
The Flyer Comet, which featured a tunnel named the
Black Hole, was Murphy's favorite part of visiting Whalom
Park as a child.
"Without a doubt, when you reached the top on
that first ride of the day, it was always a big
rush," he said.
Murphy spent the afternoon wearing a Whalom Park
Maintenance T-shirt and watching the bulldozer operator.
He also ran out frequently to nearby Lakefront Avenue,
where a steady stream of drivers slowed to watch the
Murphy kept bringing out scraps of wood from the
falling coaster to drivers who wanted a memorial of
"Everyone wants a piece, and you can't give it to
everyone, but I'm trying," he said.
Charlton resident Alice Leeds, 68, who grew up a few
blocks away from Whalom Park, snatched up a piece of
the Flyer Comet's rails, as well as a floorboard from the
now-demolished roller skating rink.
"We spent all of our time here. This was our very
own playground," she said, holding up a plank of
wood. "This right here is our childhood."
Leeds said she is unhappy with the decision to raze
the park for condos, saying an influx of residents will
cause traffic headaches in the neighborhood, where
several of her family members still live.
Leominster resident Sheila Roy, 48, whose daughter
worked at Whalom Park, also said she is sad to see it go.
"I'm not a big fan of the condo idea at
all," she said.
Fitchburg resident Bobby Lupis, 32, said he was an
assistant manager for rides and food service at the park
in the 1990s.
"It hurts to see it gone," he said, while
watching the demolition. "There's no place to bring
your family anymore, unless you want to travel."
The Flyer Comet, with its views of Lake Whalom, was
the main attraction of the park, Lupis said.
"The roller coaster had a mind of its own,"
Lupis said. "When it got to the top, it was like it
said, 'If I want the brakes to work, they'll work. If
not, everyone's getting another ride.'"
Lunenburg resident Rita Ragusa, 80, came to watch the
demolition after seeing coverage of it on television news
broadcasts Wednesday, she said.
"We used to come here every Friday night, and you
could always get one thing, like fried clams, after
dinner," she said. "We came with our friends
and tried everything. I miss that. When I come by here, I
think of that."
The roller coaster served as a big symbol of all the
attractions inside the Whalom Park gates, said Dick Wise,
78, of Leominster.
"It was everything, the roller coaster, the
roller skating rink, the ballroom dancing, the big-band
music," he said. "At one time it was a very
busy place. But times do change."
Disassembling Whalom Park
By James Downing
Source: Sentinel and Enterprise
LUNENBURG -- Workers began demolishing buildings at the
former Whalom Park Tuesday, tearing down the roller
skating rink and the ballroom, according to Carl Pearson,
vice president of Global Property Developers Corporation.
"We have started our demolition program at Whalom
Park," Pearson said in a phone interview. "The
buildings will be removed from the park over the next
four weeks, with the exception of the four buildings that
are currently under the demolition delay bylaw."
The merry-go-round, two historic cottages and a historic
house are the structures temporarily saved from
demolition under the bylaw, Pearson said.
Global Property Developers is constructing a 240-unit
condominium project at the site.
No workers could be seen at the site at 4:15 p.m., but
piles of boards and other materials stood where the rink
and ballroom used to be, and were visible from the
Pearson said he did not know how long it will take to
build the 240 condominium units and accompanying
Planning Board members praised the start of demolition at
"I think it will be a benefit for the town, it will
upgrade the town," Planning Board chairman Lynn
Sallee said Tuesday.
Global's plan originally called for finishing work he
condominiums within three years, but it would likely take
a little longer as they are not likely to begin
construction this year with winter approaching, Sallee
The project is also currently embroiled in a lawsuit.
The suit alleges the Planning Board violated open meeting
and state zoning laws, as well as the Lunenburg overlay
district in which the development is based. The overlay
district is a special area allowing higher-density
projects containing both residential and commercial
Sallee defended the board's and developers' actions,
saying all guidelines were followed.
Pearson declined to comment on the suit.
The plaintiffs' homes would be affected negatively by the
entrance to the development on Route 13, according to the
plaintiffs' attorney, June Riddle.
"Whatever they do, they do at their own risk,"
she said of the demolition.
Planning Board member James Halloran echoed Sallee in
saying the Planning Board -- which along with Global is
named as a defendant -- followed due process.
Halloran said the development would be nothing but
beneficial for the town, noting that it would be better
than the decaying amusement rides and former concession
stands that are there now.
"As for my personal feelings, it's going to be a big
improvement over what's already there," he said.
"It gives the townspeople a place to go when they
feel they can no longer keep up their own
The development will also increase housing options in
Lunenburg, he said.
Halloran said there was an effort to save Whalom Park,
which ultimately failed, but he thought the park was on
its way out 25 years ago.
"I was only there a couple of times," he said.
"I thought to myself it was a failing business. It
was something that was dying a slow death."
Selectman Tom Alonzo said he thought the process of how
the development came about was fine, but he would have
liked to see a smaller number of units.
"I think it's overwhelming for the area," he
Possible condos may keep Whalom
Source: Sentinel and Enterprise
The Whalom Park theme may live on despite development,
according to the parks potential buyer.
Developer John Callahan said he expects to build upscale
condominiums on the site of the former amusement park.
However, the development may contain some Whalom Park
artifacts, he indicated.
Whalom Park sale can move forward
Source: Sentinel and Enterprise
The settlement of an ongoing
lawsuit means the sale of the now-closed Whalom Park can
go forward, according to one of the attorneys involved in
Attorney Scott Fenton of Worcester,
who represents the Whalom Park Amusement company, which
owns the abandoned amusement park on Lake Front Avenue,
said the closing date for the property is in early 2006.
Tuesday, May 11, 2004
CRANRAIL CORPORATION ASSETS TO BE SOLD AT
Crainrail, the company that operated
Edaville USA for the past few years, is selling off its
assets in an auction scheduled for Thursday, May 13.
Among the items on the block will be the Tumble Bug that
Cranrail had purchased from Whalom Park some time ago.
Whalom's Tilt-a-Whirl and Hershell Astronaut (kiddie)
ride are also up for bids. Auction details are available
Money Raised from *Whales* Returned to Enthusiasts
I want to thank those of you who supported the effort to
Save Whalom Park by buying a Whale. Your financial
contribution gave much more than money to the project. It
showed the spirit of the community, the belief and the
desire that Whalom could capture the imaginations of
children for another century.
Many of the checks I received were accompanied by notes:
memories of loved ones met at the Park, or of loved ones
lost who had worked at Whalom. There were nostalgic
stories of other parks torn down for development in other
states across the country. These letters motivated me to
continue working on the larger effort to build a
coalition of investors and financiers to restore and
reopen the park. Thank you.
I began the Buy a Whale campaign two years ago, in
January of 2002. The efforts to save the Park began even
before, when Whalom closed and the property was put up
for sale at the end of the 2000 summer season. Now, as
2004 approaches and the fate of the property remains in
limbo, I feel it is time to return your money.
As such, letters with a check enclosed were sent out on
Tuesday, December 9, 2003 to all enthusiasts who had
bought Whales. I wish, with all my heart, that I could be
sending you season passes to the Park, instead of your
money. But for many reasons, those that have been made
public, and those that never will, it has not come to
If at some point in the future it does, I hope that you
will remember the same sentiments that led you to
contribute this time, and join us again. Until then, hold
onto those pictures and those memories of Whalom, or of
any bygone place that makes you nostalgic for your youth.
Fighting off the amusement sharks
Jan 10. 2002
BY MIKE MILIARD
Since its opening in 1893,
Lunenbergs Whalom Amusement Park, with rides like
the wooden Flyer Comet Coaster and the Tumble Bug, has
been a favorite summer fun spot for generations
and a humble yet dignified rejoinder to brash young
upstarts like Six Flags New England. In September 2000,
however, "the playground of central New
England" was put up for sale and has since remained
But its owner, Whalom Park Amusement Company, has yet to
sell the 33-acre site. An auction slated for January 8
was canceled, but another is scheduled for February. When
that day comes, theres a good chance the new owners
will prefer the filthy lucre of real-estate development
to the charm of the carousel. So a group of true
believers is mounting a last-ditch effort to reopen the
place true to its original glory.
True-believer-in-chief Allyson Bowen is heading up Save
Whalom Park (SWP), an organization trying to cobble
together the many millions needed to make a viable bid.
The bulk of the groups financing comes from a
handful of people, with some ponying up as much as
$100,000. But Bowen is also enlisting the publics
help: anyone with fond recollections of lazy summer days
at Whalom can buy a "whale" for $50. In
addition to helping SWP reach its goal, the purchase of a
"whale" gives the owner discounts on admissions
passes if and when the park reopens. Bowen hopes to make
$500,000 from whale sales. (If the money isnt
raised, or if SWP is outbid, all donors will be
Bowen sees four equally valid reasons to buy a whale:
"First, youll be preserving a part of our
cultural, architectural, and local history. Whalom is one
of the 10-oldest amusement parks in the country, and
its right in our back yard. Second, youll get
discounts at the park next season. Third, youll be
impacting the economic well-being of the community by
creating jobs. Finally, on a gut level, this is for
people who cant stand the thought of having condos
or a strip mall or some other noxious development built
where they remember riding a roller coaster or eating
If the group succeeds in purchasing the park in the next
month or so, "we could conceivably open for the 2002
season," Bowen says. "It would be a lot of
work, but its doable."
Police: Teens set fire at Whalom Park
March 21, 2002
By Benjamin Cole
LUNENBURG -- After a three-week investigation aided by a
hotline tip, police will file charges against four teens
for allegedly setting the fire that razed a Whalom Park
building on March 2.
The three-alarm blaze destroyed the park's 70-year-old
ballroom. Damage to the building was estimated at
The Lunenburg police and fire departments, state troopers
from the office of the state fire marshal, and the
federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms conducted
a joint investigation of the fire, which was deemed to be
arson shortly after it occurred.
The investigation was aided by a tip phoned in to the
state's Arson Hotline, police said.
"The successful conclusion of this investigation was
as a result of information received on the Arson
Hotline," Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan said in a
press release. "This shows how important community
involvement is in solving the serious crime of
Charges against four juveniles will be filed in Fitchburg
Juvenile Court. Police allege that the youths, one age 15
and the others 16, illegally entered several buildings on
the Whalom Park premises and lit the fire that destroyed
Two days after the blaze officials were calling it arson,
after ruling out several other possible causes and taking
into account several minor fires set in other buildings
around the park.
Twelve engines and three ladder companies from Lunenburg,
Fitchburg, Leominster and Townsend -- more than 90
firefighters -- fought the ballroom blaze, which fire
officials could have easily spread to nearby wooden
structures. No fire alarms or sprinklers were installed
in the ballroom because they were not required when it
Mutual aid at the Lunenburg station was provided by the
Ayer and Ashby fire departments.
"I want to thank the communities who provided mutual
aid the night of March 2 and commend the members of the
fire investigation team who worked together all month to
solve this case," said Lunenburg Fire Chief Dennis
One of the youths charged with setting the fire is from
Lunenburg, and the others are from area communities,
People rally for Whalom Park
By Bob Green
March 10, 2002.
LUNENBURG -- One day last summer, Tom Ford and his family
set out from their home in Newton for Whalom Park. But
when they arrived they found the amusement park closed
down, its front gates padlocked.
Ford returned Saturday to lend support to a grassroots
campaign that is seeking to preserve the 108-year-old
"It's not fancy, but what this place is is a living
museum," he said about the place he first visited in
1948, when his aunt and uncle took the 3-year-old Ford
for a day of fun while his mother was giving birth.
He was among the 35 people at the intersection of Whalom
Road and Electric Avenue toting signs with slogans like
"Coaster or Condos?" and "Skeeball or
Strip Mall?" and handing leaflets to passersby.
Organizers of the "Save Whalom Park" campaign
are hoping to raise money to buy the park from Whalom
Park Amusement Co., which has reportedly signed a sales
agreement with a developer.
James Gravallese, who grew up in Leominster, made
frequent visits to the park as a child and is concerned
that others might not be able to do the same.
"This place has a lot going for it," said the
Littleton resident. "They just need someone with
some money to come in here and help out."
Allyson Bowen, whose family owned a majority interest in
the park for 60 years, organized Saturday's rally. She is
attempting to raise $500,000, with donors receiving
discounted tickets if and when the park reopens. To date,
she has taken in $35,000. Bowen is also negotiating with
banks and seeking out larger investors.
Last Saturday, a fire that authorities believe was
deliberately set burned the park's ballroom -- built in
1933 -- to the ground. No arrests have been made.
The ballroom's charred remains are visible from Lakefront
Avenue. Standing a short distance away, the park's wooden
roller coaster was scorched by the blaze but did not
suffer any structural damage.
Bowen said she was motivated to organize the rally after
hearing comments following the fire.
"People said to me, 'I'm so sorry it's over,' but
it's not over," she said. With the fire drawing
people's attention, Bowen felt the time was right to
build support for the preservation effort.
Many at the rally spoke of their dedication to the cause.
"I told (Bowen) if the park needed any fixing, I'd
be willing to paint and help out in any way," said
Linda Graham, of Gardner. Dressed in a clown suit, Graham
compared the thrill of a childhood trip to Whalom Park to
a visit to Disney World.
Kevin Coutermarsh, who drove to the rally from his home
in Nashua, N.H., has been searching the Internet for
amusement park rides to rent and has kept Bowen informed
of his progress.
Admitting that he might be in the minority, Coutermarsh,
a roller coaster enthusiast, said he would rather spend a
day at Whalom Park than one of the more modern parks.
His brother, Michael, agreed: "This place still has
a lot of rides that other parks have gotten rid of."
Bob Cornellier said he would make the hour-and-a-half
trip from Hinsdale, N.H., to Whalom Park five or six
times a year. What sold him on the park was the
manageable crowds, the gentle, children-friendly rides
and the prices.
"Family parks like this are on the way out, and if
we don't save them we won't have anything but Six Flags
(amusement parks) left," said Bob Cornellier.
"And some people aren't able to afford them."\
Information about the campaign to save Whalom Park can be
found on the organization's Web site,
Fire destroys Whalom ballroom
By Benjamin Cole
LUNENBURG -- A three-alarm fire late Saturday, deemed
suspicious by officials, destroyed the historic
70-year-old ballroom at Whalom Park.
Arson investigators called the park a crime scene
yesterday and officials from the state fire marshal's
office are expected to continue searching for a cause
today, according to published reports.
The Lunenburg Fire Department responded to multiple calls
reporting the blaze around 11 p.m. Saturday. On arrival,
firefighters found the ballroom and restaurant fully
engulfed in flames, fire officials said.
Twelve engines and three ladder companies from Lunenburg,
Fitchburg, Leominster, Shirley and Townsend fought and
quickly contained a blaze that could have easily spread
to the many nearby wooden structures at the former
amusement park, including the park's signature Flyer
Comet roller coaster, which stands less than 10 yards
away from the ballroom. The coaster was reportedly
scorched by the flames.
The Ashby and Ayer Fire Departments covered the Lunenburg
station during the blaze.
The fire was under control by 11:37 p.m., but
firefighters remained on the scene throughout the night.
"Indications are it's suspicious," Lunenburg
Fire Chief Dennis M. Carrier told the Telegram &
Gazette of Worcester Sunday.
There were no injuries as a result of the fire.
During the Big Band era, the Whalom ballroom was a
popular dance hall; top local orchestras and big-name
entertainers performed there over the course of many
years. In 1963, the banquet hall was set up to cater
meals for large groups.
The Whalom Amusement Park was one of the last remaining
19th-century trolley parks in the nation. It had been in
continuous seasonal operation for 107 years before for
the 2001 season, when for the first time in its history,
the park did not open.
In January, an unnamed buyer signed a purchase and sale
agreement with Whalom Amusement Park Co. to develop the
land, but likely not as an amusement park.
Despite the purported sale, efforts to raise money to
save the park have been continued by Allyson C. Bowen of
Westminster, whose family owned a majority interest in
the park for 60 years.
Whalom Park created memories
Monday, February 11, 2002
To me, the Winter Olympics bring out good feelings and
There are always so many good moments during the games. I
recall with fondness the Jamaican bobsledders, Eddie
Eagle, the British ski jumper who was short on talent and
long on heart, and daring downhill races.
OK, sure, there is now a little too much professionalism
in the Olympics. (Admit it, if the U.S. hockey team wins
the gold, it won't be the same as when we used to field
an amateur team.) There also has been far too much focus
on Americans in events at the expense of the top
international athletes, but there will still be plenty of
chances for great moments this year.
This kind of happiness and good memories are what we live
for. Our ordinary existence is made more bearable by the
occasional great time or good memory.
Long before television made it easy for us to find
entertainment and good moments without leaving our homes,
places such as Whalom Park were crowded with people
Whalom Park may soon be sold, bulldozed and paved over,
but when it was operating, the Lunenburg amusement park
was a place of fond memories for many people.
Allyson Bowen's family owns a minority share in the park.
Although they were forced to agree with the sale of their
ownership of the park to avoid bankruptcy, they don't
want to see it torn down and replaced by a housing
Ms. Bowen spearheads a campaign to save the park, seeking
donations from people who share her view that the park is
But Ms. Bowen may have finally run up against an
insurmountable wall with the recent announcement that the
park's owners and a potential buyer have signed a
purchase and sale agreement. The deal seems to be near
completion, but she still holds hope that the developer
will back out of the project or be forced to negotiate a
lower price her family can match or exceed.
What keeps her spirits up in the face of continuing bad
news about the park's future are the people who responded
to her Save the Park campaign. Attached to
checks, she has received a flood of letters from
residents urging her to fight on. Many also shared their
fond memories of the park.
One woman from Leominster wrote that she met her husband
in 1939 at the park's roller-skating rink. They married
two years later and raised four children. They often
returned to the park with their children on Saturdays and
Sundays and hope to take their grandchildren there.
One woman who grew up in the Whalom area said she would
help clean the park in the spring if it was reopened.
Many of the people who wrote to Ms. Bowen have deep
connections to the park. Others have never been there,
but love old, smaller amusement parks. They hate to see
that type of Americana lost to development.
The campaign has involved unique financing. If the park
is saved, it will be saved by small investors. Anyone
donating $50 to Ms. Bowen's program was offered one free
general-admission pass to the park for the entire year
and a 25-percent discount on a season pass for the next
season. If $100 was donated, the donor received a free
general-admission pass to the park for one year and
either a 25-percent discount on four all-day ride and
slide passes or a 25-percent discount on two season
passes for the next operating season.
All the money will be returned if the bid is unsuccessful
-- and it appears now that the park will likely be sold.
For many who wrote Ms. Bowen, the free passes were not
the reason they sent money -- it was the memories.
One woman who grew up in Lowell talked about visiting
Whalom Park and other small parks, including The
Enchanted Forest (now The Great Escape) in Glens Falls,
N.Y., Lake View Park in Tyngsboro, Canobie Lake Park in
Salem, N.H., and Pine Island Park in Manchester, N.H. She
said she visited Whalom Park as a child, returned with
her children and donated in the hope she could take her
grandchildren there. Others who had no money to give
offered their labor if the park was reopened and to help
advertise the fund-raising effort on their Web pages on
There were many letters and e-mails from people who had
family connections to the park as well. One man worked
with Ms. Bowen's father when they were teen-agers.
Another woman worked at the park as a cashier in 1983 and
first went to the park as a customer in 1965. Another man
is the great-grandson of a worker who assisted in the
reconstruction of the Flying Comet roller coaster. He
said it was something he took pride in mentioning.
The people who wrote are from every walk of life. Some
are wealthy. Others could not afford to donate, but they
shared memories of the little amusement park in their
There is still a lot of money to be made building and
selling housing. Every scrap of land is being snapped up;
you can't fault people for wanting to make money.
But at some point, we need to step back and take stock of
what we are losing. Whalom Park is a place of good
moments, of irreplaceable childhood memories. Those
places are worth preserving.
Save Whalom Park raises $13,000 toward $500,000 goal
January 18, 2002 Fitchburg Sentinel
LUNENBURG -- The campaign to buy back Whalom Park has
raised $13,000, according to Allyson C. Bowen of
Bowen is leading a group of investors selling packaged
discount packages, called "whales," for $50 and
$100, with the hope of raising $500,000 toward purchasing
the park. The money raised would be part of a larger
financial plan for restoring and reopening the park next
If the park reopens, the discounts can be applied to
admission or rides. If the effort to save the park fails,
the money will be returned to the contributors, Bowen
The investors have publicized the fund-raising effort
through the American Coaster Enthusiasts, an organization
with members across the country, Bowen said.
Most of the financial support comes from people living in
Massachusetts, Bowen said, but many contributions have
been received from people in Arizona, California and
The park directors have approved the selling the park and
are negotiating with a prospective buyer.
However, Bowen said, so far as she knows no agreements
have been signed and she believes the investors still
have time to meet their goal.
People who want to contribute to the effort, she said,
can send checks made out to "Save Whalom Park,"
to the Enterprise Bank & Trust Co. in Leominster,
where an account has been established.
-- ANDRIENNE CLARK
There's still time to save Whalom Park
February 07, 2002 Fitchburg Sentinel
If you have a chance to read the latest newsletter from
Historic Massachusetts, entitled "Preservation and
People," you will see Whalom Park's rare, 1939
wooden roller coaster prominently featured on our cover.
Whalom Park is listed on our Ten Most Endangered
Statewide Properties list this year. We, as the statewide
nonprofit historic preservation organization in
Massachusetts, are very concerned about preserving this
wonderfully historic treasure. This old amusement park
should be saved for historical, cultural and, most
obviously, nostalgic reasons. It's still not too late -
we as a community, one that remembers all the great times
in the park, have to act. As the former director of
Preservation Worcester and now acting in that same
capacity at Historic Massachusetts, I have witnessed
development deals fall apart. This isn't a deal until it
closes, and that hasn't happened yet.
We need to rally around the effort to Save Whalom Park.
My personal interest in Whalom Park is as a historic
site. But, unlike many historic sites with which I have
had no personal contact, Whalom is different. My class
trip as a freshman in high school - many years ago - was
to Whalom. I still remember rolling around in the barrel
in the funhouse. Years later, my family and another
family would pack all our kids in the car and spend every
Labor Day at the Park. The kids always looked forward to
the annual outing. I'm sure so many people have these
same great memories. It would be such a shame to lose the
park. We've already lost too many amusement parks to
With nostalgia in vogue, we have to resist losing such
treasures as Whalom Park. We never appreciate the loss
until it's gone. Let's not lose another gem. There is an
organized group called Save Whalom Park. You should
contact them and see what you can do to help.
JAMES W. IGOE
Preservation of Whalom is government's responsibility
February 08, 2002 Fitchburg Sentinel
Whalom Park, one of the nation's last "trolley
car" amusement parks, is in trouble. Its decline is
marked by the paint peeling on the Whalom Park ballroom
and missing carousel horses. Supporters are making a
last-ditch effort to save this last piece of Americana.
Whalom Park was not helped by the condition of the public
roads around it. The infrastructure was allowed to go to
seed. Whalom Park Boulevard is pockmarked and pitted. A
rusty chain-link fence keeps residents from the lake. The
public fishing piers are off-limits. The boulevard is an
How could this have been allowed to happen? Why weren't
public moneys used to maintain the infrastructure around
this central Massachusetts tourist attraction? Were
locally elected politicians indifferent to the needs of
Whalom Lake? Did the Big Dig suck all expenditures
In New Hampshire, a state known for its penny-pinching
ways, we value our tourist sites. The Weirs Beach
boardwalk on Lake Winnipesaukee was been rebuilt several
times during the time Whalom Lake Boulevard was lost.
There is even an effort to restore the original Weirs
Beach sign. State moneys are also spent on the sea wall
at Hampton Beach. While we begrudge such expenditures, we
realize the value of tourist attractions to the state's
As individuals in the private sector are being solicited
to buy "whales" in an effort to save venerable
Whalom Park, local and state governments should come
forward with public moneys to return Whalom Lake
Boulevard to its former glory.
November 7, 2001
Investors hope to purchase, reopen Whalom Park
November 07, 2001By Andrienne ClarkStaff
WriterLUNENBURG -- A group of investors, led by the Bowen
family, plan to purchase Whalom Park at an upcoming
foreclosure sale and reopen it as an amusement park next
Whalom Park did not open last spring for the first time
in its history.
If investors are successful in buying the property, they
plan to reopen the park on Easter Sunday -- the park's
traditional opening day. The date the park reopens
depends, however, on when the foreclosure sale becomes
final, Allyson Bowen, a family spokesman, pointed out.
Besides John A. Bowen and his wife, Beth Bowen, investors
include New England businessmen and people within the
amusement park business, according to Bowen. Equity
investors backed by independent funding from other
sources will finance the purchase, Bowen said.
Earlier this year the Bowen family, which owns 41 percent
of the company, tried to buy out other minority
stockholders. That offer was rejected.
"It's disappointing it had to come to this when we
were poised to buy the property six months ago,"
Diversified Credit Extension Corp. is foreclosing on the
property due to an alleged breach of conditions of a
mortgage given to Boston Concessions Group by the Whalom
Park Amusement Co.
The foreclosure sale will be held at 11 a.m. Dec. 6 at
the park on Route 13.
Boston Concessions Group in Cambridge, which ran the food
concession at the park, is owned by Joseph O'Donnell, a
minority shareholder in the amusement company and a
member of the board of directors. O'Donnell is also,
Bowen said, one of the people bidding to buy the Boston
Red Sox baseball team.
The foreclosure terms do not specify a minimum bid, Bowen
said, adding she believes it is unlikely a developer
would bid on the property. The economy is declining, and
the town planning office has received few telephone calls
about the property.
Last winter and spring rumors circulated that developers
wanted to buy the property, close the park and convert
the land into some type of residential development.
Marion M. Benson, chairman of the town's Planning Board,
said at the time that the planning office had received a
few inquiries about town zoning ordinances and how they
might apply to the park. Interest, however, apparently
never extended beyond initial inquiries.Whalom Park was
recently included on the list of Massachusetts Ten Most
Endangered Historic Resources, but the property has not
been declared a landmark and the park could still be
demolished if it were sold for development, an
announcement from the investors stated.
"The Bowens respect the history and nostalgia of
Whalom and plan to incorporate the historic rides and
structures in their restoration of the 108-year-old
park," the announcement said.
The park was built in 1893 by the Fitchburg &
Leominster Street Railway Company, which created the
"trolley park" as a way to increase profits by
boosting its nighttime and weekend ridership.
Today, Whalom Park is a traditional amusement park with
two dozen rides, some of which are rare, including the
Tumble Bug, Whip, Flying Scooters and a 1939 wooden
roller coaster. Impressive early structures include a
turn-of-the-19th century roller skating rink and a
Depression-era grand ballroom.
Anyone interested in becoming involved in the effort to
save Whalom Park should send an e-mail to
firstname.lastname@example.org or call (978) 874-0544.