The Silver Beach Amusement Park

The Silver Beach Carousel History would be incomplete if not for the Silver Beach Amusement Park that garnered its fame. Below the bluffs of downtown St. Joseph on Silver Beach, carnival rides and games of chance entertained crowds and passersby on the midway. 

Silver Beach Amusement Park Aerial view 1957

History of the park

The Silver Beach Amusement Park was first opened on the shores of Lake Michigan in 1891, when Louis Wallace and Logan Drake, who were partners in the boat building business, decided they could make more money by opening a boardwalk. It started small with concessions and games. Then came the carnival rides.

For less than $2, a family could take a dip in Lake Michigan, gobble up sweets and play games of chance. They could spend the day riding the toboggan slide or the roller coaster called "Chase through the Clouds," which was a main attraction. As the 1920s roared on, Silver Beach kept climbing. The last improvement was made to the park in 1927. It was called the Shadowland Ballroom and was an instant hit. 

As the years passed, tourism slowed at Silver Beach, and, in 1971, the park was closed, as was the Carousel that had been added in 1910. 

historic photo of The Whip Ride from the Silver Beach Amusement Park

The legacy

Forty years later Silver Beach still draws a crowd. Most days it's a quiet place to take in the sun. Some say if you listen closely to the summer breeze, you'll hear the old band organ playing at today’s Carousel, singing a song of years gone by. The smell of ozone from the bumper cars and the pinging of the penny arcade machines are not so distant a memory in these moments.

The Silver Beach Amusement Park that graced the shores of St. Joseph, Michigan, from 1891-1971 meant something special to every one of its millions of patrons through the years – regardless of age. To some, the Silver Beach Amusement Park meant an afternoon of carnival rides, snacks and games of skill. To others it meant a family picnic, a swim in the big lake or a moonlight stroll along the boardwalk. And many of them saw it as a way of life.