If you’ve ever visited Walt Disney World Resort, you’ve probably spent time wandering Disney’s BoardWalk without a care in the world. The area is designed to look like it’s straight out of the turn of the century.
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While Disney’s version is supposed to evoke boardwalks on the East Coast, it turns out that Indiana had its own “BoardWalk” – complete with a dance hall! — in the 1920s and 1930s. Now the historic Rose Island amusement park has been abandoned and is left to rot in a Hoosier State Forest.
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The park is located on a peninsula called “Devil’s Backbone”. In its heyday, visitors drove their Model Ts and Model As to a swinging suspension bridge to cross Fourteen Mile Creek or, for the less adventurous, boarded a steam ferry to cross the water.
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By a article about the now abandoned Art Deco era park:
The land was purchased in 1923 by entrepreneur David Rose, who named it Rose Island and filled it with activities and entertainment. The complex had a hotel, a swimming pool, a wooden roller coaster, a dance hall, a Ferris wheel and even a small zoo. Today, information boards along the trail help provide historical context to the ruins you’ll see scattered across the ancient grounds of Rose Island.
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The article also notes that when modern travelers walk beneath the amusement park’s original archways, it’s still oddly easy “to imagine the crowds of eager vacationers and day-trippers whose footsteps you’re following.”
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Another article about Rose Island notes that the end of the Roaring Twenties was hard on the park, but it was a major flood in 1937 that caused its true demise. The flood is estimated to have had water levels as high as ten feet, and markers have been placed in the ruins so visitors today can get an idea of the flood’s intensity:
The Great Depression slowed business, but the epic flood of 1937 virtually ruined the park and the entire effort was abandoned. During World War II, the Indiana Army Munitions Plant owned the land. When the factory closed, the land was donated in 1995 to the state as part of Charlestown State Park.
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Today, visitors to Charlestown State Park who wish to spend time in the abandoned amusement park should take hiking trail 7. This can be accessed from hiking trail 3 via a restored bridge that crosses the White River.
Learn more about Disney’s BoardWalk
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the official description of Disney’s turn-of-the-century crown jewel reads:
Discover the timeless charm of Disney’s BoardWalk, a quarter-mile promenade of exquisite restaurants, unique shops and vibrant nightlife. Stroll along the water’s edge, play mid-game games in the afternoon, and check out the street performers in the evening. Evoking turn-of-the-century boardwalks in coastal towns like Coney Island and Atlantic City, Disney’s BoardWalk is just steps from Epcot and a breezy boat ride to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
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