Article From the Spring 2004 Issue of
The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation
SEABREEZE PARK NOW 125 YEARS OLD
by Charles R. Lowe
Since 1920, the famous Jack Rabbit roller coaster has been Seabreeze Park's central attraction. This exciting roller coaster has become the fourth-oldest wooden roller coaster in continuous operation in the United States.NYMT Photo
Every so often your editors are reminded of an important anniversary at the last minute, and the recent 125th anniversary of Seabreeze Park's opening falls into this category. Seabreeze Park dates to the opening of the Rochester and Lake Ontario, a six-mile-long standard-gauge steam railroad built in 1879. The R&LO extended north from the end of the North Avenue horsecar line along what is now Portland Avenue and continued east along East Ridge Road to a point near present-day Eastridge High School. From here, the line turned north and followed the route of today's Sea Breeze expressway.
The cars and locomotives were all in the R&LO yard by just after 11 P.M., but spirits remained high despite the late hour. "About 1 o'clock, 'dummy' number 1, and one car loaded with the officers of the road and a few invited guests started for the bay. It was feared that difficulty would be experienced with trees growing close to the track…but nothing serious happened. Yesterday [August 4, 1879], however, the gas lamps from Bay to Clifford street on the west side of North avenue, were all taken down by permission of the proper city officials to accommodate the road, and last night there was but one gas light in the sixteenth ward north of Bay street." The train finally returned to the Bay Street engine house at about 5 A.M.
At Seabreeze Park's 125th anniversary celebration, park manager Jeff Bailey places a ride wrist-band on Charlie Lowe. Working the controller at right is Sam Reifsnyder who, with photographer Dave Reifsnyder, helped move the NYMT display equipment. Later, the wrist bands were put to work on several rides including the 1920 Jack Rabbit roller coaster.
It also seems that a group from the Hudson street Memorial Church congregation was also taken over the new line. "It was found to be impossible to run [trains] on any regular time. The machinery being all new, runs, of course, a little hard, and the boilers 'foamed' so much that it was found necessary to clean them out. A trip was afterward made in the evening, and the waiting party at the Bay brought safely to town." The R&LO's grounds at the end of the line consisted of a simple "pic-nic" grove with access to the nearby beach on Lake Ontario. The grove was located within the confines of present-day Seabreeze Park. Rochester Transit Corporation sold Sea Breeze Park to long-time concessionaire George Long in 1946. In the 1970s, the park was renamed from its early-day "Sea Breeze Park" and post- World War II "Dreamland" to its current "Seabreeze Park" so as to distinguish the amusement park from the locale.
Although the railroad to Sea Breeze, electrified in 1900, was