Rensselaer Park - Troy, NY

1867 - 1917

Written By Jeffrey Stanton

Renssealer Park was located in the  town of Lansingburgh, which was annexed to Troy, New York in 1900. The 42-acre park was formed in 1867 by the Rensselaer Park Association on the east side of Fifth Avenue, between 108th to 110th street, and ran east to the foot of Oakwood Cemetery, in a residential area about 3 miles north  of downtown Troy. Its entrance was on Fifth Avenue just north of 108th Street. Among the attractions in the park were a 1.5 mile race track with grandstand for harness bicycle and chariot races, and pavilions for exhibitions and concerts. It hosted the Rensselaer County Fair for a week each summer.

View of Renssealer Park from Oakwood Cemetary Hill

View of Renssealaer Park with Carousel Building in the background.

In 1907 the Diamond Novelty Company in Syracuse, N.Y. leased 30 acres of the park to build an amusement park. The amusement park, which was located in a dense grove of trees, had a figure-eight wooden roller coaster, a dancing pavilion, a ten-seat Ferris Wheel,  bowling alley,  pony rides, skating rink, and a band shell where concerts were held every afternoon and evening. Fireworks were held every Thursday night. Thepark’s carousel, called the Menagerie., featured  hand carved horses, bears, giraffes, camels, lions, elephants, and goats.  Shortly before arriving at the park, the stationary carousel had been refurbished by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company to include two rows of jumping animals.

View of Rensselawer Park

The cries of barkers filled the air. For only a dime, you could view Bama The Ostrich Girl, or step up to the Hindu Theater, watch wild animals get tamed,  or be awed as J.W. Groman's High Diving Horses leaped from a tower into a lake that was located within the southern portion of the race track.

Figure 8 roller coaster - 1907

Rensselaer Park was sold for $60,000 in 1911. The following year Tony Greco ordered a coaster built by Auburn, NY contractor John C. Jenner to be installed by Memorial Day.

Roller Coaster built for Tony Greco in 1912

Aviator, George L. Newberry of Binghamton, N.Y. gave barnstorming exhibitions at county fairs throughout the state. In August 1914 at a county fair in Plattsville, New York his takeoff was cut short by a team of horses that suddenly crossed his path. He veered into the fence at the edge of the race track and wrecked his aircraft. Newberry suffered a fractured skull. And was close to death for several days. He wasn’t deterred and vowed from the hospital to continue his flying once his recovery was complete. But George Newberry didn't cheat death for much longer. Near the end of May of the following year, Newberry was performing at Renssalaer Park in Troy, New York. As a crowd of nearly 20,000 spectators gazed upward, his aircraft suddenly twisted and plunged toward the earth. His unconscious body was pulled from the wreckage and taken to a hospital where he died a short time later.

The park closed in 1917 and the land was sold in foreclosure the following year to a new owner for $30,000, who claimed that the amusement park would reopen.  But the lots were sold to home owners and turned into into the residential neighborhood  that exists today.


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