Willow Beach

Cullen Park, Point Place
Willow Beach - Unholy Toledo Tour
00:00 / 00:00

Developed by Jimmy Hayes, with amusement rides for the kids, coupled with entertainment, dining, alcohol, and gambling for their parents, Willow Beach had it all. Opened in 1929, Toledo's latest attraction was located minutes from downtown Toledo. Hayes and his partners had created an exciting family entertainment destination just a short car or train ride from half the population of the United States. Hayes was decades ahead of what developers eventually did with Las Vegas!

Advertised as a half a million-dollar project, Willow Beach opened the third weekend in June of 1929, about 4 months shy of the stock market crash and the launch of the Great Depression. Opening weekend featured music by Bill Davallo's Call of the North Orchestra. The beautiful dance pavilion was decorated in shades of green and white with decorations rumored to have cost over $2,200 dollars, worth about $31,000 in today’s dollars.

Willow Beach featured the Bug, Laugh in the Dark, Scooter, Parachute Drop, Bumper Cars, and the Seaplane Twirl. The only ride that wasn't ready for opening day was the roller coaster nicknamed the Thriller. At roughly the same time, both Willow Beach and Cedar Point had ordered a roller coaster from the same manufacturer. With both parks clamoring for their roller coaster on opening day, a coin was tossed, and the Willow Beach Thriller was renamed the Cyclone and delivered to Cedar Point Amusement Park. Willow Beach's coaster was installed several weeks later, and became one of the parks most popular rides.

The Willow Beach bath house could accommodate 2,500 bathers and beaches opened until midnight. The park featured aquaplanes to fly passengers to the Toledo harbor light and back, and a 1,600-foot breakwater to protect the dance pavilion.

Many say that Willow Beach was Jimmy Hayes biggest gamble. Although it paid off in a big way that opening summer, the tumbling American economy of the early 30's had a disastrous effect on the project.

A fire swept through the park in 1932 and while rebuilding was attempted, Willow Beach was never the same and went downhill quickly in the years that followed. Gambling at Willow Beach continued until 1937 when the area was annexed into Toledo. In 1947, the park was closed after an East Toledo girl was killed in a fall from the roller coaster.

Exit Cullen Park by turning right on Summit, turn right on 119th and left on 304th.  Stop at the intersection of 121st Street.

Copyright © 2020 Tedd Long

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