Bell's coming back -- a little at a time

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This is encouraging news: In a few weeks, as soon as PSO puts the necessary electrical hookups in place, the Bell family of Bell's Amusement Park will be operating a few of their kiddie rides at the Saturday Flea Market in west Tulsa. The rides will be open on Saturdays during the flea market's weekly session.

Saturday Flea Market is at 5802 W. 51st Street S., just about a mile west of the southwest junction of I-44 and I-244. They boast 100 vendors in two climate-controlled buildings and outdoors. It's just east of JRP Speedway.

It's a humble re-beginning, but it echoes the way Bell's Amusement Park began in 1951 with a half-dozen small rides at the County Fairgrounds. It wasn't until 1969 that Zingo, the wooden roller coaster, began operation, and many of the park's other major attractions -- the Phantasmagoria dark ride, Himalaya, White Lightning log flume -- came into being over the course of the 1970s.

It also reminds me of the way the Snyder family brought back the Mayo Hotel: First converting the basement into paid parking, then converting the lobby and mezzanine as an event space, then leasing the storefronts, with each stage providing revenue for the next stage of renovation.

The location is just a couple of miles from the site of the long-vanished Crystal City Amusement Park, on Southwest Blvd between 41st Street and 33rd West Avenue. The site is now occupied by the Crystal City Shopping Center (whose name was the nemesis of radio announcers). Crystal City was home to a roller coaster named Zingo, which became the namesake for the wooden coaster at Bell's decades later. The 1939 Sanborn map shows Zingo ("scenic railway") hugging the highway, a stream flowing through the property (with a monkey island in the middle of it), a massive dance hall, a giant pool with a large bath house, "amusement houses", Dodgem (bumper cars), a ride called "Bug," a few smaller rides, an octagonal refreshment building, ticket offices, and something called Hiram's Barn. TulsaGal has photos of Crystal City Amusement Park from the late 1920s that show many of these features.

(Click the picture to open a very large version of the map in a popup window.)


According to the County Assessor's records (parcel 31125-92-27-17380), the Crystal City Shopping Center was built in 1954 and sits on 442,060 sq. ft. of land, a bit more than 10 acres, about the same size as Bell's footprint at the Tulsa County Fairgrounds. Comparing the Sanborn map (Volume 3, Map 501) to the assessor's map, it appears that the highway department routed I-244 around the shopping center, taking homes to the east and moving the Tulsa-Sapulpa Union tracks further east as well. The site of the old amusement park is fully intact.

If I may dream a bit: Wouldn't it be cool to restore Crystal City on Historic Route 66 as an amusement park, right next to a restored Red Fork Main Street? Wouldn't it be cool to run an electric streetcar between Crystal City and the new Route 66 Village? The shopping center has seen better days, there are a whole bunch of rides that need a new home, the site has good visibility from the freeway, and it would give Route 66 travelers even more reason to follow the old alignment through Tulsa.

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This is great news. There is a small amusement 'park' on Route 66 in Joplin but it would be great to have a good sized park like Bell's rockin & rollin on the Mother Road. Especially with a minigolf with 66 icons (wigwam motel, round barn, gemini giant, cadillac ranch)

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 25, 2011 11:44 PM.

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