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Palace Amusements

Palace Amusements

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Palace Amusements was an historical indoor amusement park
Amusement park
thumb|Cinderella Castle in [[Magic Kingdom]], [[Disney World]]Amusement and theme parks are terms for a group of entertainment attractions and rides and other events in a location for the enjoyment of large numbers of people...

 in Asbury Park
Asbury Park, New Jersey
Asbury Park is a city in Monmouth County, New Jersey, United States, located on the Jersey Shore and part of the New York City Metropolitan Area. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city population was 16,116. The city is known for its rich musical history, including its association with...

, New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

, USA
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Started Monday, Feb. 20, 1888, Ernest S. Schnitzler was soon placing advertisements in the city directory
City directory
A city directory is a listing of residents, streets, businesses, organizations or institutions, giving their location in a city. Antedating telephone directories, they have been in use for centuries....

 describing his pleasure palace as a place of "refined amusement for Ladies, Gents, and Children. Polite Attendants. First-Class Soda for sale in the Building."

It was famous for having one of America's greatest hand-carved carousel
Carousel
A carousel , or merry-go-round, is an amusement ride consisting of a rotating circular platform with seats for riders...

s. The three-row machine held 70 hand-carved animals, of slender and stylized bodies, spirited expressions and elaborate trappings. Most were carved by Charles I. D. Looff
Charles I. D. Looff
Charles I. D. Looff was a master carver and builder of hand-carved carousels and amusement rides in America. Looff built the first carousel at Coney Island in 1876. During his lifetime, he manufactured over 50 carousels,twelve amusements parks, several roller coasters and Ferris wheels, and built...

, but under the pressure of a delivery deadline, a few were purchased from the master carver Gustav Dentzel of Philadelphia.

In 1895, Schnitzler contracted with the Phoenix Iron and Bridge Company of Phoenixville, PA., to build a wheel that was 67 feet. It gave passengers a view of the area, because at the top of the ride, they could debark onto a platform, climb a short flight of stairs, and from an observatory have unparalleled views Asbury Park
Asbury Park, New Jersey
Asbury Park is a city in Monmouth County, New Jersey, United States, located on the Jersey Shore and part of the New York City Metropolitan Area. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city population was 16,116. The city is known for its rich musical history, including its association with...

, Ocean Grove
Ocean Grove, New Jersey
Ocean Grove is an unincorporated community and a census-designated place in Neptune Township, Monmouth County, New Jersey. It had a population of 3,342 at the 2010 census. It is located on the Atlantic Ocean Jersey Shore, between Asbury Park to the north and Bradley Beach to the south...

, and the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

. Over the years, changes to the Ferris wheel
Ferris wheel
A Ferris wheel is a nonbuilding structure consisting of a rotating upright wheel with passenger cars attached to the rim in such a way that as the wheel turns, the cars are kept upright, usually by gravity.Some of the largest and most modern Ferris wheels have cars mounted on...

 were made; the mid-1920s, saw the removal of the observatory owing to insurance concerns, and a reduction in the number of carriages from 20 to 18 owing to the tendency of carriages to lock together when they rocked. This Ferris wheel carried passengers for more years than any other in history.

When Williams bought the Palace from Ernest Schnitzler in the mid-1920s, the arcade was a 100-foot by 153-foot rectangle, consisting of the original pavilion, the rotating wheel building, and the Crystal Maze building (a mirror maze). In large measure, Williams' success in keeping the Palace alive during the Depression owed a great deal to a designer, "Nick" Nichols, and a Polish carpenter remembered today only as Mr. D.

The first major innovation by Nichols and Mr. D was the construction of a steep, surprise-filled Funhouse rising all the way to the eaves of the Palace roof, flush along the northern wall of Ernest Schnitzler's original Victorian pavilion. It could be navigated, said Joe Travers, the Palace's chief mechanic in the late 1930s and early 1940s, in 15 or 20 minutes, but at times, "sailors would come in with a girl and not come out for a half hour or more."

Nichols also appeared to have been a major player in the development of the first dark ride
Dark ride
A dark ride or ghost train is an indoor amusement ride where riders in guided vehicles travel through specially lit scenes that typically contain animation, sound, music, and special effects....

 at the Palace. As dark rides go, the Palace was highly unusual. The dark ride was known as Ghost Town, featuring a series of spooky encounters and figures created by Nichols. One Nichols figure was a papier-maché
Papier-mâché
Papier-mâché , alternatively, paper-mache, is a composite material consisting of paper pieces or pulp, sometimes reinforced with textiles, bound with an adhesive, such as glue, starch, or wallpaper paste....

 image of a barker
Barker (occupation)
A barker is a person who attempts to attract patrons to entertainment events, such as a circus or funfair, by exhorting passing public, describing attractions of show and emphasizing variety, novelty, beauty, or some other feature believed to incite listeners to attend entertainment...

, reputedly patterned after a local Asbury Park politician; another was a manufactured animation of a bulldog, dressed as an Asbury Park police chief with the title deliberately misspelled "The Cheef" on his hat.

This park was known for inspiring a generation of artists, photographers and songwriters (including Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen , nicknamed "The Boss," is an American singer-songwriter who records and tours with the E Street Band...

). Thanks to its iconic wall murals, including a grinning fun face known as Tillie
Tillie
Tillie is the nickname of two murals of a grinning figure that were painted on the side of the Palace Amusements building in Asbury Park, New Jersey, United States. Tillie is an amusement park "fun face," painted over the winter of 1955-1956. The name Tillie is likely a nod to George C. Tilyou,...

, the Palace was one of the most identifiable buildings on the Jersey Shore. Honored by a place on both the New Jersey
New Jersey Register of Historic Places
The New Jersey Register of Historic Places is the official list of historic resources of local, state, and national interest in the U.S. state of New Jersey. The program is administered by the Historic Preservation Office of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.The register was...

 and National Registers of Historic Places
National Register of Historic Places
The National Register of Historic Places is the United States government's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation...

, the Palace operated for 100 years (from 1888 to 1988). Demolition, in 2004, occurred over the protest of the National Trust for Historic Preservation
National Trust for Historic Preservation
The National Trust for Historic Preservation is an American member-supported organization that was founded in 1949 by congressional charter to support preservation of historic buildings and neighborhoods through a range of programs and activities, including the publication of Preservation...

, the Asbury Park Historical Society, Preservation New Jersey, and the Save Tillie organization. Prior to demolition, Save Tillie members spent five days removing over 125 artifacts from inside the Palace. All items were given to the Asbury Park Historical Society and the City of Asbury Park for safekeeping. However, in February 2010, officials of both organizations said they had destroyed all but four of the more than 125 artifacts, an act denounced by Save Tillie's president, Bob Crane, who said that at no time was Save Tillie alerted to the impending loss or given a chance to reclaim the items. "We would have taken all of them," he said. "These irreplaceable items were all viable candidates for restoration, and all told a part of the Asbury Park story that is now lost."

On May 26, 2005, on the first anniversary of the demolition of the Palace, the Save Tillie group launched the official online museum.

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