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Stoughton's Beach

Tucked away in the forest along the banks of Slippery Rock Creek was once a magical park called Stoughton’s Beach. Sounds of laughter resonated above the joyful melodies of the carousel, and the buttery aroma of freshly-popped popcorn wafted through the breeze.

Stoughton’s Beach opened in 1932 on part of Saul Stoughton’s farm. It quickly became a favorite recreational attraction. Locals and Pittsburghers came to escape the summer heat and camp in the rustic cabins dotting the shores of Slippery Rock Creek.

The park’s main attraction was a heated swimming pool, claimed to be the largest in Pennsylvania. Every Sunday a diving exhibition featured divers plummeting off the 20-foot diving board into the water, which had been set aflame with fire and gasoline. This trick ended in 1941 when gasoline was rationed during World War II.

Another favorite activity at Stoughton’s Beach was the carousel, built in 1915 by the Herschell-Spillman Company. The ride accommodated 40 people on its hand-carved horses, complete with real horsehair. During its heyday, Stoughton’s Beach also featured a skating pavilion, dance hall, custard stand, popcorn stand, and penny arcade.

But the good times couldn't last forever. By the 1950s, more communities built their own swimming pools, and other forms of recreation competed for the public's attention. As the park declined, then-owner Albert MacDonald sold the carousel to an antique dealer for $400. The carousel is now located in Maryland in Wheaton Regional Park.

Stoughton’s Beach, renamed Rock Falls Park in later years, closed in 1975. Although it is no longer an amusement park, Rock Falls is still open as a forested park for camping and swimming in Slippery Rock Creek. The park also hosts a variety of musical festivals, as well as a local farmer’s market.

Images

Stoughton's Beach gate, c. 1930s Promotional image for Stoughton's Beach, the "gateway to hours of happiness"
Swimming pool Reputedly one of the largest in Pennsylvania when it opened in the 1930s, the Stoughton's Beach pool drew swimmers who preferred its placid waters to the rushing Slippery Rock creek.
Postcard, c. 1940s Promotional postcard for Stoughton's Beach
Stoughton Beach Pavilion and Pool Visitors enjoying a day at Stoughton's Beach pool, c. 1950s
Park ride Swing rides at the park, date unknown

Location

Metadata

Rock Falls Park website www.rockfallspark.com
Courtney Ciccarelli, “Stoughton's Beach,” Butler County Historical, accessed April 12, 2024, http://butlerhistorical.org/items/show/32.