When you think of amusement parks near Western Pennsylvania, places like Kennywood, Idlewild, or Conneaut may come to mind. In the early twentieth century, Butler boasted its own escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Just a five-cent, trolley car ride away lay Alameda Park.
In 1901 Alameda Park was opened by the Butler Traction Company, a streetcar company. The company charged tweny-five cents for trips by streetcar to the park. The opening ceremony was celebrated on the Fourth of July with a parade of brass bands from several surrounding cities like Prospect and Evans City. Other prominent displays included comedian acts, a vaudeville show, performing monkeys, trick cyclists, and fireworks in the evening, one of which exploded into the shape of George Washington. Over 7,000 people flocked to the park to partake in the excitement of opening day, and over the course of the first year, 43,000 people attended. The success of the park allowed the street car company to add new attractions, such as the roller coaster and carousel.
Alameda Park consisted of 400 hundred acres with trails and a large lake for boating. During its Golden Age, the park's rides included a large Ferris wheel, dodge-em cars, a merry-go-round, and a roller coaster. For food there was a restaurant and stands for ice cream, peanuts, and popcorn. Also on the grounds were a swimming pool, picnic shelters, a roller skating rink, a summer theater for "moving picture" displays, and a large pavilion that locals used regularly for dances.
Park and community organizers brought in special acts over the years. Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson, and King Oliver brought the nationwide jazz craze to Butler County. Local performances of Al Gumper’s band and "Slim Bryant and his Wildcats" entertained the park as well. In 1923 locals flocked to a boxing match hosted by Alameda. Not all of the visitors to Alameda park were so fashionable or entertaining; in 1926 the park hosted 5,000 members of the Ku Klux Klan.
As highway construction became more prevalent, street car businesses began to fail, and so did the popularity of "trolley parks" like Alameda. The Butler company discontinued streetcars in 1941, and the park closed in 1944. The County was approached and asked to buy the park lands, but they declined. The Nazarene Church bought the park on February 21, 1949 to serve as the location for their summer camp. The church used the park for nearly a decade before they acquired land elsewhere.
In 1967 Alameda Park was purchased by Butler County with the aid of several federal grants. The park was reopened to the public with its new purpose as a place for family gatherings, offering several picnic pavilions and a playground. The rides are long gone, and the only traces of the amusement park are pieces of foundation from the swimming pool and the “round house” structure that the carousel was once housed in (which now serves as a pavilion). The carousel survives to this day at the South Coast Plaza Mall in Costa Mesa, California. In later years a swimming pool was once again added to the grounds of Alameda Park and the park is still open as a place for recreational activity today.