You can still see them, once every decade. An army of pilings sunk in the tide flats off West Seattle. They stay submerged under all but the lowest tides, hearkening thoughts of Easter Island. Relics of an earlier, forgotten age.
Luna Park once claimed those pilings. Some called it “The Greatest Amusement Park in the West”; others, “The Coney Island of Seattle.” But it dazzled everyone in turn-of-the-century Seattle. Luna Park was a glittering icon off the northern tip of West Seattle, with electric bulbs outlining every ride and building, shining for miles across Elliott Bay. For seven bright years, everyone knew Luna Park.
Luna Park occupied a giant boardwalk between 1907 and 1913, and its rides and laughter and energy made it an instant landmark. It was a champion of an earlier, less-industrial era, boasting a hand-carved carousel, meticulous in detail. The park had a figure-eight roller coaster, too, along with a water side and a host of other rides: The Canal of Venice, The Joy Wheel, Infant Electrobator, etc. In a time when phones were rare and electric light was still exciting, Luna Park astounded. Shocked. Thrilled.
The place was more than a simple amusement park. It was the site of Seattle’s first manned flight, and it had the best-stocked bar in all of Elliot Bay. There were two theatres, too; every week, you could watch a new play. As if that weren’t enough, Luna Park employed performers like “The Original Human Ostrich” and “Don Carlo’s Trained Monkey and Dog Circus.” And then there was the Natatorium. The giant Natatorium building that housed saltwater and freshwater swimming pools.
But then it ended.
Luna Park ended the same way so many great icons have ended: lawsuits.
One man fell off a ride and broke his neck. Another broke his knee. More injuries followed. The lawsuits piled up, and the park’s management fell into infighting. In 1913, the park closed. Those brilliant lights stopped shining, and Luna Park faded into memory. The swimming pools in the Natatorium kept operating, but the building caught fire in 1931. Flames destroyed the pools and burnt the boardwalk. Luna Park, 18 years after it closed, was finally destroyed.
West Seattle’s Anchor Park has since replaced Luna Park. It’s small—the opposite of “The Greatest Amusement Park in the West.” But if you go to Anchor Park at low, low tide, you just might see a hint of the past jutting up from the waves. You just might see the last remnants of Luna Park.