Libertyland Logo Memphis

Libertyland: Memphis’ Amusement Park

In Midtown by Caitlin L. Horton9 Comments

I’m pleased to bring you a guest post by John Stevenson on Libertyland today. Even if you spent your childhood at the park, this post is sure to bring back lots of memories. Or if you’re like me and didn’t get to Memphis in time to truly experience the park you’ll get a small taste of what a wonderful little place it was. Please be sure to leave your own memory of the park in the comments at the end of the post!

Do you remember your first visit to Libertyland? Or are you too young or too new to Memphis to even know what Libertyland is? Sadly, the latter group seems to be growing with each passing year.

Libertyland Memphis Front Gates

From 1976 until 2005, Memphis was home to Libertyland, a modest amusement park located at the Mid-South Fairgrounds. Growing up as a roller coaster enthusiast, Libertyland was my favorite place in town. I recall begging my parents to take me to the park — even though I was too scared for most of the “big kid” attractions.

Opening during America’s bicentennial, Libertyland was patriotically themed from top to bottom. Each of the park’s three areas represented the nation in a different period: Colonial Land, Frontier Land and Turn-of-the-Century Land.

More than 13,500 people visited the park on opening day, July 4, 1976. Special guests were on hand as well, like Barbara Bonifield, the great-great-great-great-granddaughter of second president John Adams. She fittingly rang the park’s own replica of the Liberty Bell.

Libertyland wasn’t the biggest or greatest amusement park. But its quirky and historical charm was distinctly Memphis. And it offered something no other park could claim — Elvis Presley’s favorite ride.

Libertyland Zippin Pippin Entrance

The Zippin Pippin wooden roller coaster originally opened as the “Pippin” at the Fairgrounds Amusement Park (the precursor to Libertyland) in 1912. Or 1915. Or 1917. Or 1923. No one seems to know for sure. Some say it was originally built at the short-lived East End Amusement Park (near the Overton Square area). Others believe the East End roller coaster was unrelated.

Zippin Pippin Survive the Revolution Poster

Various issues of the Commercial Appeal tell conflicting stories about the Zippin Pippin. A severe storm supposedly damaged the roller coaster so badly in 1928 that it was rebuilt — “higher and longer” — just a few months later. Regardless of when it opened or in what form, it was undoubtedly one of the oldest operating roller coasters in North America when it closed in October of 2005.

zippin pippin rollercoaster

You probably remember your first ride on the Zippin Pippin quite well. Although it was notorious for giving wild and “out of control” rides, the coaster was safe — its wooden structure was replaced in sections every seven years.

Libertyland was quirky, indeed. At one time, there was a dolphin show inside the park, as well as a seasonal ice-skating rink (the skates for which are now used at the Memphis Zoo’s rink).

Memphis Libertyland Dolphins

The park was also home to an assortment of unassuming historical knick knacks collected over the years — like the 26-foot-tall, hand-carved totem pole brought from the Northwest by a vacationing E.H. Crump. There was also the old-fashioned, dogtrot-style log cabin that was moved to Davis Manor Plantation in December 2006. And who could forget the rustic train caboose that sat near the front of the park?

Some of these historical gems were sold in a June 2006 auction of the park’s assets. Others vanished or have been locked away in storage. The historic 1909 Grand Carousel was dismantled and is currently in storage at an undisclosed location. The full-size replica of the original Liberty Bell now sits in a warehouse in Tunica along with other park memorabilia.

Libertyland Logo Memphis

Sure, Libertyland wasn’t Disneyland. It wasn’t Six Flags. But it was Memphis. It was a piece of the mosaic that makes Memphis such an incredibly unique city. And while the amusement park is long gone, I hope that the memories of Libertyland are able to live on. And perhaps pieces of the park, like the Grand Carousel, will someday return to entertain future generations of Memphians.

Leave your Libertyland memory in the comments below! For more on the park, stop in at www.rememberlibertyland.com.

[If you believe any of the images posted here infringe on your copyright, please email us memphistypehistory(at)gmail.com]

Caitlin L. Horton

Author of Memphis Type History & Brand Strategist at Caitlin L. Horton Brand Strategy
Partner-in-crime for entrepreneurs and community builders getting their message out with thoughtful design and marketing.

Comments

  1. Holy cow at the memories that surfaced after reading this. My first visit to the park was in the early 80s. I loved the Revolution, but it terrified my older sister. Was there another roller coaster other than the Zippin’ Pippin and Revolution? Or does my memory need to be calibrated?

    1. There was also the Super Loop that was just a big circle. My sister and I used to stand under it and gather the money that fell from people’s pockets lmao

  2. I rode the Pippin when I was only 8 years old, in the early 50s. SO many memories. Thank you so much for this nostalgic look back!

  3. I remember the tall paper flowers for sale as we left the park at night. Such good memories there.

  4. Yes I remember liberty land so well.went on lot dates. To the park.one my first dates was when it opened I 1976. I was only 16. So many great times. I worked there.To.Love ed it. Even when I had kids they loved going there to ride the.cars and zippinpippin. Log flume, car’s, resolution…Mega. drop, spider, twister,,,scrambler,, 1912. Horses. Merry go round.. But was there in October 2006. When last day at mid south fair close ed. It was very saddle day for my family. We show ed sheep at mid south fair. For 10 years. Memphis let all of fun go. KNOW we don’t have nothing. Sonja

  5. Yes liberty land was great me And. family loved going. Loved seeing rides at nite.my pawpaw took us.miss liberty and great memories

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