History of Kennywood and New Attractions

Kennywood Sign

Are you looking to enjoy your time with friends and family? Want to get out of the house and explore what Kennywood Park is all about? Be sure to check out the new features and the rich history of Kennywood Park.

Written by: Savannah Jackson
Fashion – Graphic Designer & Writer

The History

Kennywood Park, located ten miles outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was founded in 1898 on Kenny's Grove. Initially a picnic spot since the 1860s, the park opened to the public in 1899, offering a carousel, dance pavilion, and casino as its main features. A bandstand and athletic field were added to the park the following year.

In 1902, the Figure Eight Toboggan, one of the country's first figure-eight roller coasters, was built by Frederick Ingersoll for the Monongahela Street Railway Company. The same year, the Monongahela Street Railway Company merged with other trolley lines to form the Pittsburgh Railways Company (PRC), which took over the management of Kennywood Park. However, the PRC went bankrupt in 1905 and returned as the park's operator for the next two years. In 1906, the park's management was transferred to a partnership between Andrew S. McSwigan, Fred W. Henninger, and A. F. Meghan, who formed the Pittsburgh Kennywood Park Company, Limited.

Under the new management, the park embraced new technology and added rides and amusements to increase interest. In 1910, the park hired Ingersoll to build the first Racer rollercoaster, which was the largest twin-track coaster in the world at the time and cost almost $50,000 to construct. Kennywood Park also started showing motion pictures in 1904, a practice that continued until the 1930s. The park continued to add new mechanical attractions throughout the decade while maintaining its famous dance pavilion, which hosted special dances on weekends.

During the Great Depression in the 1930s, the park reduced staff and advertising while concentrating funds on maintenance and free entertainment to draw crowds into the park. Kennywood Park also faced growing competition with local parks in Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio for the lucrative and predictable picnic business. After World War II, the park faced material shortages and competed with other recreation forms, such as movies and television. However, it adapted to the new competition by developing new attractions and inviting television stars to perform at the park.

In 1971, the Kennywood Park Company purchased the park's 140 acres for 1.3 million dollars from the heirs of the Kenny family. The park's success continued over the next several decades by adding more roller coasters, earning its reputation as the "Roller Coaster Capital of the World." The park expanded locally by acquiring the Idlewild amusement park near Ligonier, Pennsylvania, in 1983 and constructing the Sandcastle water park in West Homestead, Pennsylvania, in 1989. In 1995, the Lost Kennywood section of the park was opened, modeled after amusement parks from the early 1900s.

In 2007, Parques Reunidos, based in Spain, purchased Kennywood Entertainment. Although Palace Entertainment, a subsidiary of Parques Reunidos, became Kennywood's parent company, day-to-day park operations continued to be managed by local staff.

What's New for Kennywood Park

Kennywood has reported that another ride known as Spinvasion will make its debut. The ride will be the first of its kind anyplace in the US.

“Spinvasion is a first of its kind attraction, which offers our guests something they can’t get at any other park in the country,” Kennywood general manager Mark Pauls said. “This extra-terrestrial thrill ride is the centerpiece of the all-new alien-inspired Area 412 section of the park. Featuring a massive themed ride backdrop, along with a fresh new look to the Cosmic Chaos and an improved retail shop, this is one giant leap for all Kennywood fans and Season Passholders."

Bonus New Partnership

In 2023, Kennywood partnered with Primanti Brothers to make a definitive fan and visitor experience with its first congregation-based event area. In celebration of Kennywood's 125th and Primanti Brothers' 90th birthday celebrations, it's the ideal marriage of two well-known Pittsburgh brands in Kennywood.

With these new attractions & learning the history behind Kennywood, You don't want to miss the new hot Kennywood rides & shops and the expanding Primanti Brothers restaurant.

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