Riverview Amusement Park....
What began in pre-1915 as a zoological garden and trolley destination in Highland Park, Riverview Park in Des Moines would grow to become the best-known entertainment oasis in early Iowa history. Creating priceless vintage recollections spanning the park's 63-year existence, we can only try to resurrect the fond memories of romance, entertainment, and family fun.
Built upon a pseudo island by a group of nine businessmen, people traveled from all over the state to visit the colorful enchanted "island" . Eventually adding an open air ballroom, The Riviera, and a filtered swimming pool in 1920s it also became the official headquarters for the local dance bands in the 1930s and 1940s adding to the parks popularity. The Riviera Ballroom boasted the largest wood dance floor in the state for many years. The park contributed to the Big Band years, featuring the likes of Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman along with Iowa based Ralph Zarnow.
Also showcased are the events and attractions that made Riverview Park a fondly remembered family get-away, including an Allen Herschell Carousel with German hand carved horses, and a John Miller designed Roller Coaster. The period during World War II brought more changes to the island park. With rationing and the lack of an abundant male work force, women became ride operators which was semi novel for the times. Much of the guest make up was military personnel training or based at Camp Dodge and Fort Des Moines. Riverview then also became a popular place for returning servicemen and began to thrive again after the lag during the thirties.
The postwar baby boom of the late 1940s and 1950s brought additional prosperity to Riverview. It was obvious to the owners that the families coming to the park now consisted of three or four or more children rather than the one or two of previous years. During the fifties, the post-war boom brought record crowds to Riverview. The downside to this increased popularity was the rise of other amusement parks that presented stiff competition for Riverview. In 1948 there were only 420 amusement parks nationwide; in 1958 the number had grown to over 700.