Cedar Point Turns 150

In the summer of 1870, a Sandusky, Ohio, excursion boat named Young Reindeer began regular service transporting visitors to the Cedar Point peninsula to swim, picnic, play games, dance and enjoy musical performances. It was the birth of Cedar Point.

For the next 30 years, Cedar Point grew, albeit slowly. The addition of the Grand Pavilion in 1888, along with a few rides, were popular attractions, but its focus remained local. Enter George Boeckling, an Indiana businessman who acquired the property in 1899. Boeckling was a visionary and believed Cedar Point’s potential was unlimited. He built the Hotel Breakers in 1905, the Coliseum in 1907, introduced a midway with rides and attractions, and marketed the park across the Midwest. Cedar Point entered its first golden age.

Boeckling died in 1931, just as the Great Depression was kicking into high gear. For the next 20 years, Cedar Point was in the doldrums. In the early 1950s, it started to rebound, and in 1956 it was acquired by George Roose, a Toledo bond dealer, and Emile Legros, a Cleveland banker. These two men led a comeback for Cedar Point that is legendary in the amusement park industry. Roose and Legros added new rides and attractions; introduced a Disney-style operating philosophy that focused on cleanliness, employee courtesy and safety; and established modern business practices.

Cedar Point entered a second golden age in the 1970s. Over the past four decades, Cedar Point has established itself as “America’s Roller Coast,” adding one world-class coaster after another. Starting in the 1990s, under the leadership of CEO Dick Kinzel, Cedar Point also returned to its roots as a resort with the addition of new hotels and a water park.

Kinzel also started acquiring other amusement parks. Today, Cedar Point has morphed into Cedar Fair Entertainment Co. with more than $1 billion in sales. It operates 11 parks and other attractions across the U.S. and Canada.

H John Hildebrandt
Cedar Point is a unique brand. The attachment folks have for Cedar Point can only be compared to what fans feel for specific sports teams. And it’s multigenerational. You first come to the park as a child, then as a teenager, then as a parent, then as a grandparent. I have watched from the platform as fathers take their sons and daughters on their first ride on Gemini, just as their fathers or mothers took them 30 or 40 years before.

Cedar Point is an Ohio treasure and this year it will celebrate its 150th anniversary. It’s been a wild ride and the station is nowhere in sight.

H. John Hildebrandt worked 40 years for Cedar Point, rising to vice president of marketing and then to general manager of the park. He retired in 2014 after 10 years as GM. He is a past president of the Ohio Travel Association and is currently president of the Erie County Historical Society. He and his wife, Marie, are co-authors of “Lake Erie’s Shores and Islands,” a history of tourism in the Lake Erie west region. Hildebrandt is the author of “Always Cedar Point,” a memoir of his 40 years walking the midway at Cedar Point. Both books are available through Amazon or your local bookseller.
For more information, visit www.alwayscedarpoint.com.

13 Replies to “Cedar Point Turns 150”

  1. In the early 1950’s some longtime friends of father’s built vacation cottages on the peninsula at Cedar Point. We would occasionally spend a weekend up there, & I was very impressed with seeing Lake Erie for the first time — & even more impressed with the fact that Canada, another country (!) was across the water I was gazing at.
    One day my Dad drove us from the cottage up to what we now what call “Cedar Point. “ I looked out the car window at a deserted building (the pavilion?), as my Dad told us that in “the old days” they had bands & dancing there. I imagined crowds of people enjoying summer nights of music & fun in that now derelict structure — & thought how sad it was that it was all in the past. Cedar Point’s glory days were now over. Or so I thought.

    Little did I know that Cedar Point was soon to be “reinvented” & to begin one of its many new lives.

    Thank you for sharing this history!

  2. In the fifties oh, we used to go to cedar point every year. we even camped on site and got into cedar point with no charge. One year we stayed in the hotel oh, another year we stayed in the cottages. My dad went fishing off the pier and caught perch like crazy. brought them back to the cabin and we fry them immediately. Great! daddy would drop us off in Sandusky and we took the ferry over and he drove over! Has been one of the fondest memories of my life.

  3. I remember my Aunt (Violet that I was named after) and Uncle Noble taking me to Cedar Point when I was about five years old. That would have been about l940. We stayed in a little cabin over night which was a first for me but the biggest thrill of all was a speed boat ride around Lake Erie and I remember my aunt telling everyone how I stood up and the wind was blowing my hair straight back and a big smile on my face and I did really get a big thrill out of it. I also remember Aunt Violet and I looking at post cards and souveniers on the boardwalk next to the water. I got in trouble because I ran back to Uncle Noble who was sitting on a park bench and Aunt Violet thought I had fallen in the lake. I spent a lot of time with this Aunt & Uncle but this was one of the best memories of all….. Sincerely, Violet J. Kinsey

  4. I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio in the 1950s to the early 1970s. We had Euclid Beach Park, also an old original amusement park built in the late 1800s, and improved upon until the 1970s. I think it failed in the later 1970s, and was torn down. On the shores of Lake Erie, there was beach to go to in addition to the rides, a mid-way, penny arcade, picnic areas, tons of food concessions. We also would go to Cedar Point. In the 1960s & early 1970s. Fun times at both places. The beaches surrounding the Cedar Point amusement park, were beautiful, the water was clean, and shore was low, so that one could walk out far, into the water, for hundreds of yards, and it was a low as 2 or 3 feet.

  5. My memories of cedar point are so fond. My first trip was when I was 15 which would be 60 years this summer. I went for the first time with my boyfriends family as a Whirlpool corporation summer trip. We married 4 years later and over the years went many times with kids and then grandkids. It’s tiring but a good tired. We would talk about it for days each time we went. Thanks for keeping it alive and well.

  6. This is amazing I grew up in Ohio and Cedar Point was apart of my childhood as well as my adulthood. However I never knew the history. Great Article and here’s to 150 more years!

  7. Our summer would not have been complete back in the 60’s without a day at Cedar Point. When I got married, our four daughters got the same treat , with Cedar Point having rides for all ages. Bringing a babysitter gave mom and dad rollercoaster time too. Thank you Cedar Point.

  8. I remember going to Cedar Point as a teenage. Staying overnight at a friends Aunts who lived in Sandusky and taking the Ferry to Cedar Point. Treasured Memories

  9. Cedar Point was in the “doldrums” when I was a child, but I went every summer. I loved the old wax museum and the tunnel of love ride. Cedar Point was dusty, old-fashioned, creepy, and I loved it! I am 76 now but have no grandchildren, and they would not see the Cedar Point I knew anyway.

  10. My father worked for the local radio station in Bucyrus OH. Back in the 60s and 70s , before opening for the general public, Cedar Point had a day for the media employees and their families. It was fantastic. We felt like royalty. With shorter lines, it felt like we had the park to ourselves. They provided us with a smorgasbord of an abundance of delicious food. I remember when the log ride, the first water ride premiered. The ride attendant made sure that my dad sat in the front so we would get the full effect of getting soaked. My dad benefitted the most from this seating arrangement.
    What great memories. Thank you for this article of the history of Cedar Point.

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