1895-Lake Erie Park Casino opened. It was three stories high with slot machines, gambling wheels and five Kinescopes showing the prize fight between Eugene Hornbocker and Johnny Murphy were placed among numerous tables on the verandas. In the center of the Casino was the theater which held 3,500 people.
Adjacent to the boardwalk was the switchback (roller coaster) which ran over the water and back to the park, its wild ride terrifying the passengers. The park also contained a merry-go-round, crystal maze, scenic railroad ride, fish ponds and other amusements. There were picnic tables and soft drinks, beer, wine, popcorn and candy was sold. Most visitors arrived by street car-a round trip ticket including park admissions cost 10 cents.
The 18-member Casino Band held concerts regularly and the opera company performed nightly with matinees on Thursdays and Sundays. Hot air balloons containing fireworks, singers, dancers, contortionists and high wire acts and also variety of vaudeville acts were part of the entertainment.
In the 1890's when a dime could buy 100 pieces of fireworks, several train cars were needed to bring $3000 worth of fireworks only for the people in the park. A framework was carefully installed to obstruct the display of firework from viewers on the opposite shore or from boats in the area.
In 1899 the buildings burned. The second casino was opened in 1900 on piles over the water at the end of an over 1000 foot boardwalk. It burned again Dec. 30, 1901. The fire spread quickly through the wooden building as firemen struggled. The ice, which was thick enough to enable the firemen to get close to the burning building, was too thick to draw water through. Instead, the fire fighters were forced to lay lengths of hose from Mudjaw Creek, almost a half mile away. Although the loss was estimated at $50,000 the insured value was less. The cause of the fire was never determined. By Feb. 15 re-construction was started . The new Casino was rebuilt 120 feet longer. Five thousand red, white and blue incandescent lights formed a canopy over the boardwalks with another 5000 plain glass globes. The grand re-opening was held June 1, 1902 and admission was free. Shortly before the big annual Independence Day celebration in 1910, on June 25 another fire started and quickly spread and burned so intensely that 45 minutes later, the Casino was gone. For whatever reason the Casino was never rebuilt.
NOTE: In season, the biggest crop of June bugs in the world flourished there and often the board walk was covered four or five inches deep beneath the electric lights at night. 1