Happy 4th of July! Can you believe in just two years from today, the United States will be having its U.S. Semiquincentennial? Only July 4th, 2026, we will be celebrating the 250th Anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Imagine the fireworks displays that will be planned that year?

Many folks in Dutchess County will be gathering on the Walkway Over the Hudson and surrounding parks to watch the fireworks display on the Hudson River. Something that my family and I would do for many years was go to Marist College to watch the fireworks, What started out as a small group of people over the years turned into hot spot for fireworks viewing. But did you know that if you decide to watch the fireworks from Marist College this year, you'll be watching the fireworks on the grounds of a former amusement park?

Woodcliff Pleasure Park

Perhaps this is common knowledge if you attend the college, just like how "Jimmy Fallon went here" was the running trivia fact at my alma mater, The College of Saint Rose. If you were to ask a number of Poughkeepsie and Hyde Park residents; however, I'm sure the general population may not have known, or at least, have forgotten.

This weekend, I saw old posts being shared, reminding residents that, "Hey! There was once an amusement park here!"

It's Links to Playland

I'm sure plenty of us New Yorkers have heard of and probably have even visited Rye Playland Amusement Park! Well, in 1926, the land was sold to Fred H Ponty of Rye, New York. Ponty was responsible for the development of an amusement park which became the Playland we know today!

The Attractions of Woodcliff

I would have loved to have seen this amusement park. Park-goers could enjoy band concerts, fireworks, a ballroom looking over the Hudson, a carousel with music played by a $10,000 orchestral organ, a kiddie playground, a swimming pool that could hold up to 3,000 bathers, mini-golf, picnic areas, gardens, and more!

The park even held a few records. One included "Ely's Stupendous Electrical Display and Aeroplane Swing", which was considered the largest in the world, at the time. Also, the crowning attraction was the Blue Streak Roller Coaster designed by Vernon Keenan, who also designed Coney Island's famed Cyclone Coaster. At the time, it was the tallest and fastest rollercoaster in the world, with a height of 127 feet and a speed of 65mph.

So Why Do We Have Marist College, and Not an Awesome Amusement Park?

A number of things are credited for the demise of Woodcliff. First of all, The Great Depression played a major roll in the fact that families and individuals had much less money to even consider pleasure parks such as this.

A riot sure doesn't bode well for both care of the park, and reputation. According to Hudson Valley Sojourner, in 1941, the Inn was booked on the same day to both 3,000 Odd Fellows from NYC and 1,000 guests from a local Poughkeepsie church. Apparently, issues arose between the groups, and a large brawl broke out. The police and sheriffs were called in to restore order, but several considerable damage was done to the park. The park was closed in August of 1941 for repairs, but it never re-opened.

Could you imagine if the park never closed? We wouldn't have Marist College, or at least, it wouldn't be in it's exact spot. Instead of being the college town that we are known as, we may have been considered an amusement park town, a tourist destination! Yes, our area brings in tourism for other things, but the whole landscape of Poughkeepsie and neighboring towns would probably be so different!

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