Monday, July 2, 2012

Rocky Glen Amusement Park, Rocky Glen Road, Moosic, PA

Rocky Glen was originally spelled Rocky Glenn. Throughout its history, the park used many names including:
    •    Rocky Glenn
    •    Rocky Glen
    •    Rocky Glen Park
    •    Sterling’s Rocky Glen
    •    Sterling’s
    •    Ghost Town in the Glen
    •    Ghost Town Amusement Park
    •    Ghost Town Park
    •    New Rocky Glen
    •    New Rocky Glen Park(1)

Originally opened as a picnic park in 1885 after the land was purchased by Arthur Frothingham for fifteen dollars in a tax sale.

The following year, 1886, Rocky Glenn was open to the public as a picnic park.

About 1900, Frothingham contracted E. S. Williams to dam Dry Valley Run Creek to create a lake on the property; when Frothingham failed to pay Williams for the work, Williams sued and was awarded one-half interest in the park.[2][3]
Soon afterward, Frothingham obtained a Pennsylvania state cemetery charter for the park after learning of plans of extending tracks of the Lehigh Valley Railroad over the grounds. To avoid losing the park via eminent domain, Frothingham interred two bodies (one of a man who died in a mining accident, one of a man who died in a train accident) in the proposed route of the track; the Lehigh Valley Railway purchased a parcel of the cemetery for $25,000 and agreed to build a Laurel Line station nearby.[2][4][5]
In 1904, Frottingham and Frederick Ingersoll establish Rocky Glen Park, and begin adding amusement rides and concessions.(6) The first roller coaster, the Figure Eight, opened in 1905. The debut of Ingersoll's signature figure eight roller coaster happened as the Pittsburgh engineer started diverting his energies to his soon-to-open Luna Parks in Pittsburgh and Cleveland (his Luna Park in nearby Scranton was to open the following year).

It was a favorite stop on the Lackawanna and Wyoming Valley Railroad’s Laurel Line electric trolley system.

A rift between park owner Frothingham and park manager Ingersoll led to the parting of their ways in 1906.[2]
Interest in the park waned in the 1910's, and Frothingham wished to sell his half of the property. After failed attempts to sell the park to MGM and Federal Feature Film Corporation of New York,[7] Williams and Frothingham sold it to a trio of businessmen (John Nallin, Joe Jennings, and Ben Sterling) in 1919.[8]

During the mid 1940s or prior, partners in the park had a falling out. The result was the separation of the park into two adjacent parks separated by a concrete wall that shared essentially the same name.  The northwestern side (Rocky Glen Park) was owned by the Nallin-Jennings Park Company and was accessible by a public road.  The southeastern portion (Sterling's Rocky Glen Park) was owned by Ben Sterling and his wife (operating as Glen Amusement Company) and was accessible primarily by rail.
By 1945, Rocky Glen Park's popularity was on the upswing when Sterling added the Million Dollar Coaster, a 96-foot-tall, 4700-foot-long, out-and-back roller coaster that became the park's new signature attraction. Despite its name, the ride cost Sterling only $100,000 to build.[10] Shoehorned between Glen Lake and the tracks of the Lackawanna and Wyoming Valley Railroad, it was one of the world's largest roller coasters at the time.[2][10] It carried more than one million passengers in the first three years of its existence (it was dismantled in 1957).[11]

By 1949, each park had a carousel, a roller coaster, a restaurant, bath-houses on the lake frontage and bumper cars.  The 1950 fire destroyed Sterling's penny arcade, the coaster, funhouse and Tokio Canals ride owned by Nallin-Jennings.  The following year, Sterling bought out his competitor, combined the parks and disposing of duplicate rides.
After a tumultuous period in which the three partners disagreed about park management (at one point, Rocky Glen Park was divided in two by a fence), Sterling ultimately gained complete control in 1950[9] and renamed the park Sterling's Rocky Glen,[2] the name he used for his half of the park when it was divided (eventually the name was shortened to Sterling's).

Some of Rocky Glen’s roller coasters have included:
Figure Eight, 1905-1936
Giant Coaster, 1920-1950
Mountain Dip, opened in 1924
Jazz Railway, 1925-1927
Million Dollar Coaster, 1946-1957
Comet Jr., 1955-1958
Comet/Jet Star/Jet/Mighty Lightning, 1959-1987(1)
Monster Mouse, 1982

All the roller coasters were made of wood.

The post-World War II increase in use of the automobile contributed to the gradual decline in the use of the railroad, and the few remaining trolley parks were slowly fading into the sunset. Sterling's/Rocky Glen was no exception (it's plight exacerbated by the decline in the coal industry at the same time),[12] and by 1970, Ben Sterling opted to sell the park to an Atlanta, Georgia-based entertainment company, National Recreation Service.[8]
The new owners promptly converted the grounds into a theme park, renaming it Ghost Town in the Glen (later Ghost Town Amusement Park) and gave it a western theme.[12] The rebranding was not successful: the park changed hands once again in 1979 and became New Rocky Glen. The lake became a venue for concerts starting in 1980.

The park closed for the last time in 1987 after 101 years of operation.(1)

After the closure
In 1988, the park's 1902-vintage carousel was sold in auction for $220,000 as the park's facilities were being dismantled. Later, the local congregation of Hare Krishna attempted to purchase the Rocky Glen Park grounds so it could erect a walled "City of God" on the site. Seven hundred residents signed petitions protesting the proposed sale, which fell through as a result.[12][13]
Eventually, the grounds became part of Glenmaura National Golf Club, a private golf course.[14]

Rocky Glen Lake (is this where Garcia performed, on the lake?)

Jerry performed here on
8/10/84 JGB

 1.)^nminer, Celebrate the history of Rocky Glen Park, 2008-07-30,
2.)^The Scranton Times, 25 July 1982, as cited in Rocky Glen (Circa 1904-1987)
3.)^Rocky Glen: Early Years (1885 - 1902)
4.)^Rocky Glen Park Pennsylvania State historical marker, as shown on commemoration page
5.)^Rocky Glen: Laurel Line Connection (1902 - 1903)
6.)^West Pittston history
7.)^James N. J. Henwood and John G. Muncie, Laurel Line: An Anthracite Region Railway (Tribute Books 2005)
8.)^Go west, young man, to relive park's era - Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, 1 August 2009
9.)^Park listing in Roller Coaster data base
10.)^Robert Cartmell, The Incredible Scream Machine: A History of the Roller Coaster (Popular Press 1987)
11.)^Electric City Renaissance - Rocky Glen Park page
12.)^Jim Futrell, Amusement Parks of Pennsylvania (Stackpole Books 2002)
13.)^Jeff Pillets,"The Krishnas: It's sour music up in Moosic," Wilkes-Barre Times, 4 February 1988, p. 1A. , cited in International Cultic Studies Association (The Cult Observer), 2001
14.)^Landmark Amusement Park Honored with New Historic Marker, Celebration - LHVA Ambassadors' Update June/July 2008


  1. Just wanted to let you know, I am a 'self professed' Rocky Glen Historian, just wanted to let you know that the caption under the one picture stated "Is this where Jerry played" is NOT where they had bands at; the Dam side of the lake which that is a picture of was not accesible to the general public; bands actually played in a giant building near the other side of the lake. This can actually be seen in todays google flyover pics, it looks like a big rectangle stone slab; search "moosic pa" in Google and you should see the body of water called "rocky glen pond" (lake) (

  2. Thank you for the information. To be clear, the actual stage and audience were inside a big building near Rocky Glen Pond? I had thought there was an outdoor venue.

  3. Hi - I attended this show as a student from Binghamton, NY on summer vacation before my senior year. I had also visited Rocky Glen Park many times as a child; it used to be knows as Ghost Town in the Glen.
    The venue for the Garcia Band show was essentially a pavilion built on pilings out on the water of the lake. Due to security reasons for the show, the promoters decided not to open the garage-like openings that were on each side of the building. It was a very hot August night, and as a result, the show was almost unbearably uncomfortable - so hot I remember at the time thinking I have never sweated this much in my life, and a fair number of people went outside to listen because it was just too hot. There was no air conditioning or any kind of fan-forced ventilation in this venue, which was obviously not designed for rock concerts. Worse yet, there were no drinks for sale at the venue, and none allowed inside. The band played well enough, but we were wondering how they could stand being on stage it was so unbearably hot. It was obvious to many of us that the organizers did not want anyone sneaking into this show, so much so that they felt it was acceptable to subject paying fans to suffer inside a venue that I would conservatively estimate to be 95 degrees.
    In the second set, fans decided to break open the garage doors and finally allow some fresh air in the building, and immediately a large number of people jumped straight over the rails into the lake to cool off, and a sort of peaceful pandemonium ensued, although the band seemed oblivious to it.
    When we left after the show was over, the lake had at least 50 or more people swimming in it and many paddleboats had been seized without permission and overturned on the lake. I got in trouble with my parents because I didn't get home until 3 am that night.

    1. I was there as well. That's exactly how I remember it. One of the funner jgb venues!

  4. Great description of the venue, thank you!

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