On November 20, 1988, the famous Palace Amusements indoor amusement park and resort closed its doors for good after nearly 100 years in operation. The resort was the brainchild of Ernest Schnitzler, who had moved to Asbury Park and saw the attraction for guests in the boardwalk and beaches, but saw the opportunity to provide amusements for visitors that were not as plentiful then as now. Schnitzler’s vision was a four-sided Victorian pavilion, a 93-foot by 100-foot one-story structure, a big open box filled with rides and games.
The resort first opened in 1888 as the “Asbury Park Carrousselle and Riding School,” offering “refined amusement for Ladies, Gents, and Children. Polite Attendants. First-Class Soda for sale in the Building.” Newspaper ads of this type first appeared in June of 1888, and it was announced that Mr. Schnitzler at one point intended to open it on June 30, but most now agree the formal opening did not take place until August 17, 1888. When it finally did open, a flag was flown overhead that read “Palace Merry-Go-Round.”
A story in the Asbury Park Press on August 18 said of the opening, “A large business was done till late at night, and a great many people in the place took a ride. The room is large, cool and pleasant. Good music is furnished by a fine orchestration. The colored people are not allowed to ride until after ten p.m.” Asbury Park is an example of institutional racism, as the city was intially planned to divide white residents and visitors from black residents, and resorts and attractions and their rules and restrictions reflected the second-class citizen nature of African-Americans in the U.S. at that time.
The historic structure withstood nor’easters and hurricanes, the Great Depression and World War II. After a worsening economic situation in both Asbury Park and the U.S., the park had to close its doors for good. Efforts were made to save the historic structure, including the carousel and murals and decorations, but in 2004, after an independent structural inspection, the building was deemed unsafe and was ordered demolished. A local grassroots organization was able to save several pieces from the building, including the famed Tillie mural.
Palace Museum Online. (2005). Available: PalaceAmusements.com.
Save Tillie. (1998). Available: http://savetillie.homestead.com/.
The Carrousselle in Operation. (1888). Asbury Park Press, August 18, 1888, P. 1.
Martin, Patti (1988). Goodbye to the once grand Palace Amusements. Asbury Park Press, December 5, 1988, P. 9.
Surf Echoes. (1888). Mr. Schnitzler proposes to open his carrousselle next Saturday night. Asbury Park Press, June 23, 1888, P. 1.