Idora Park (1903 – 1929) was an amusement park in North Oakland located on 17½ acres bordered by Telegraph and Shattuck Avenues, between 56th and 58th Streets. It opened May 16, 1903 on the site of the former Ayala's Park.
Built by Smith and Havens’ Realty Syndicate to encourage streetcar use, as well as boost real estate sales, the park began as a rural getaway—being at first little more than a scenic picnic spot at the end of a trolley line with a dance and music pavillion. However, as attractions (such as roller coasters, a zoo, a skating rink, an amphitheater and an opera house) came to be added, the place was enclosed by a wrought-iron fence, admission was charged (10¢) and it gradually turned into what many called the East Bay’s finest amusement park.
The rides at Idora Park included the Automobile Race Track, Barrel of Fun, Circle Swing, Circle Wave, Flying Swing, Haunted Swing, Helter-Skelter, Merry-Go-Round, Miniature Railway, Mountain Slide, Scenic Railway, Tickler Ride, Toboggan, Touring Car, as well as the Band Stand, Bear Pit, Illusion Theatre and the Skating Rink.
When it first opened, it included a coal mine exhibit, "The Great Coal Mine -- Showing the working of coal mining in Pennsylvania." 6
After the great 1906 earthquake, several thousand San Franciscan refugees camped at Idora; the Realty Syndicate provided food and relief supplies. Later (possibly due to its reportedly having one of the very first PA systems in existence), Idora came to serve as a sort of ad-hoc community center, the site of various scientific demonstrations, revival meetings, vaudeville shows, chatauquas and political rallies.
Idora Park closed and was torn down in 1929, victim of a double whammy: the Great Depression, and the decline of streetcars (in other words, the rise of the automobile). In its place was built a charming tract of storybook homes, with – some claim – the first undergrounded utilities in the West (LA may dispute this).
Some sources say the park was named for Idora Ingersoll, the daughter of Rodney Ingersoll, the man F.M. Smith hired to manage the park. 1,2 But...
The 1904 directory lists Audley Ingersoll as the head of Idora Park. His company managed numerous amusement parks around the country, including an Idora Park in Portsmouth, Ohio. In 1902 he leased "Central Park" (formerly Ayala Park) from the Realty Syndicate, and planned to call the park Kennywood Park, the same as his park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 3,4
But the Idora Park in Ohio was in Youngstown, not Portsmouth. It was originally called Terminal Park, because it was at the end of the trolley line.
According to Lost Idora Park:
There are at least a dozen theories as to how the name came about. They range from a shortened version of "I Adore A Park," to the name of a girl or woman who once lived in the area, to the name of a girl of woman who once lived in the area, to a competition for the town's favorite school teacher, who would get to choose the new name for the park. Somehow, the teacher who came in second place, and not the winner, received this honor, if this particular theory is true. Another popular idea attributes the name to a tribe of Indians who once inhabited the area. The problem with this is that there is no evidence of a tribe named Idora anywhere near Youngstown. So how Idora truly got its name is a mystery, but historians continue to search for the answer."
It's also unclear whether Audley Ingersoll was involved with that Idora Park. Ingersoll did have a daughter, but her name was Eva and she wasn't born until 1919.
So the origin of the name is still a mystery.
Links and References
- Idora Park Oakland North video
- Cycling Through History: Idora Park
- Idora Design: Oakland History Lecture: Greetings from Idora Park!
- Idora Park, Oakland, California Postcards
- Mabel’s Wilful Way starring Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and Mabel Normand in Idora Park, Oakland (1915)
- Idora Park's history of 'thrills and amusements' by Annalee Allen Oakland Tribune August 20, 2000
- Idora Park Wikipedia
- Wants To Lease Central Park Park Oakland Tribune November 21, 1902
- Central Park Is Leased For A Long Term Oakland Tribune November 24, 1902
- Idora Park Will Be Opened Oakland Tribune February 26, 1903
- opening ad Oakland Tribune May 7, 1903
…If you’re interested in Idora Park, you may be interested to learn more about Badger’s Park, another historic amusement park of Oakland.