Between the PATH train, buses running through the Lincoln Tunnel, and NY Waterways ferries, traveling from Hoboken to Manhattan while living in this area has become as easy as living in the city itself. In fact, over 5,000 people ride the PATH into the city on a daily basis, proving the Hudson River obsolete as an obstacle to interstate travel.
However, it wasn’t always so easy to cross from Hudson County into Manhattan. Before the early 1900s, tourists and city dwellers relied solely on the ferry system to cross the NY/NJ border. In the summer, boats filled up as New Yorkers fled the concrete confines of Manhattan for the solace offered by New Jersey’s coastline and the fun offered at the Eldorado Amusement Park on this side of the Hudson.
Between 1891-1894, weekend travel between New York and New Jersey escalated as the Eldorado Amusement Park in Weehawken lived out its heyday. The Moorish style amusement park spanned 15-acres of land across the top of the Palisade Cliffs. Unlike the amusement parks of today though, Eldorado didn’t boast roller coasters or thrill rides. The park took on the imagination of Hungarian entrepreneur Bolossy Kiralfy, and gleamed with opulence. Centered around a castle on the cliff’s edge, 30-foot high fountain, and casino, the amusement park was intended to draw crowds for entertainment and performances. Discover more about the rise and fall of the Eldorado Amusement Park in Weehawken.
About Bolossy Kiralfy
Kiralfy, the genius behind Eldorado, was born in Budapest and grew up traveling around Europe with his brother, performing traditional Hungarian dances. In 1869 the brothers immigrated to the U.S. to bring epic theater and performance to the Northeast. However, after some disputes, the duo cut ties and Kiralfy set out on his own. The Eldorado Amusement park was his first solo act, in partnership with the Palisade Amusement and Exhibition Company.
The theatrical performances of the park became a mainstay of Eldorado and were housed in an extravagant amphitheater, modeled after the Roman Coliseum. At the time it was said to be the largest theater ever built. In addition to shows and ballet performances, spectators also came to watch dare-devil-like balloon stunts. In this elaborate sport, performers would run towards balloons filled with hot air and hop on as the balloon took flight. When the balloon gained enough height, the performer would cut himself loose and parachute down. You can read more about the details of this stunt here.
The Eldorado Amusement Park seemed to be a place for New Jersey locals and New Yorkers to escape — a place where people could play games at the casino or enjoy live entertainment. It was a destination that lived at the center of the developing Hudson County area. Without the popularity or accessibility of air travel, and before the rise of the American automobile industry, people looked to their local area for entertainment.
However, Eldoradodidn’t last long. It’s rumored that a fire in the casino lead to the demise of the park just three years after its grand opening. Details on the actual events of the fire are difficult to find and remain somewhat of a mystery. Now, more than a century after the Eldorado disappeared from the top of the Palisade Cliffs, the only trace you’ll find of its existence is a plaque in the spot where it once stood. Just like that, a place that was once bustling with people from both sides of the Hudson is gone in a flash.
Have more details on what actually lead to the destruction of the park? Comment below and help us learn more about this unique piece of Hudson County history!