Riverview Amusement Park
Riverview Amusement Park - Building Facades
Belmont and Western Aves.
Park closed in 1967
Riverview Amusement Park opened on the north side of Chicago in 1904. It was located on 64 acres of land next to the Chicago River. The Park included roller coaster and other rides, side shows, music, and many other activities.
John Mallin arrived in Chicago from the Czech Republic in January of 1907. One of his first jobs was working on building facades for Riverview Park, as shown in the two photographs dated 1907. In that year, $550,000 worth of attractions were added to Riverview, which likely led to the hiring of Mallin and others to create new facades, rides, and other attractions.
One of the shows at Riverview in 1906 and later was ‘Pain’s Pompeii’ or the ‘Last Days of Pompeii.’ This spectacle was first shown in Chicago at the White City amusement park on Chicago’s south side. Articles and display ads about Pain’s Pompeii at White City described it as an open-air amphitheater, with 500 people participating in pageants, scenes, and chariot rides. It included a display of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, and ended with fireworks. Display ads for Riverview Park in 1906 also advertised for “Pain’s Pompeii.” A July 29, 1906 article in the Chicago Tribune stated that “The Pain spectacle, ‘Pompeii,’ recently given at White City, will be brought to Riverview and the first performance will be next Saturday night. It will be on the same elaborate scale, employing several hundred people.” Newspaper ads for Riverview Park from 1916 still advertised for the “Last Days of Pompeii,” including 600 performers and fireworks.
A 1907 photograph from Riverview Park shows Mallin and three other workers working on a facade for the “City of Pompeii,” which would have been part of the Pompeii spectacle. In the photograph, Mallin is shown sitting on top of the scaffolding in front of a mural that is part of the facade. It is likely that he designed and painted this mural.
Another photo from 1907 shows Mallin and other workers working on what appears to be a German themed building. In this photo Mallin is wearing a suit and bow tie, next to a man with his hand on his shoulder. Next to this building is the Kansas Cyclone. A description of the Kansas Cyclone has been described by the Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal:
“The Kansas Cyclone was located on the Pike walkway. It was built in 1904 and razed in 1907 to make way for new amusement park rides. The Kansas Cyclone gives visitors a very realistic and safe view of the damage done by a sudden tornado or ‘twister.’ It is a real storm produced by electricity. Heavy rainfall and a thunderstorm proceed with the windstorm.”
Next to the Kansas Cyclone was the Katzenjammer Castle, which is the same building that Mallin is working on in the photo. Mallin and the other workers were converting the building to a new attraction. The German words on the facade are “Teufel’s Mühle,” translated as ‘Devil’s Mill.’ An article in the Inter-Ocean Newspaper dated June 30, 1907 describes this new attraction, which sounds like an early version of a haunted house.
“The ‘Devil’s Mill,’ directly opposite the great Dancing Pavilion, is one of the best patronized of the many amusement concessions on the avenue leading directly from the ball grounds to the Great Train Robbery. Movable floors, wobbly stairways, sinking trap doors, revolving doors, blind and false doors, floors with holes in them, through which cold air shooting up made my trousers look like balloons, dark halls that one emerges from to look into a mirror to behold a sawed-off monstrosity that you wouldn’t recognize as yourself if you met it, face to face at a rat fight.”
It is not known how long the Mallin facades lasted, as the park made many changes over the years. The Park closed in 1967. Little is left of the park except for the Riverview carousel which is located at Six Flags over Georgia. The site of the park is now occupied by the Riverview shopping mall.
“At the Summer Gardens.” Chicago Daily Tribune. Page 11. Jul 29, 1906.
Classified Ad. Chicago Daily Tribune. Page 18. Riverview Park “Last Days of Pompeii” June 27, 1916.
Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal. Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.
Waldo, Ralph. “Coney Island suffers in comparison with Chicago’s Riverview Park.” Inter Ocean Newspaper, Chicago, p. 4, June 30, 1907.