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Pen Mar Park

Pen Mar Park, altitude 1400 feet, one of the finest scenic areas in Maryland. Located on High Rock Road at the Mason Dixon Line, this site was selected in 1871 by Colonel J. M. Hood of the Western Maryland Railroad and approved by the WMRR directors as the location for the development of an amusement park. After the acquisition and clearing of the land, the area was developed for the proposed park, including the building of a pavilion and a dining hall. The park was opened to the public on August 31, 1877.

In 1878, the WMRR completed construction of a two and one-half mile road to High Rock (altitude 2000 feet), where a two-floor observatory with a tower was built. And two miles of road were constructed from High Rock to Mt. Quirauk (altitude 2400 feet) where a 90 foot observatory was erected, offering a clear view of over 22 counties in four states. A concession at Pen Mar Park provided visitors with horse and carriage transportation to the higher points along the mountain.

Attractions in the park when it was dismantled in March of 1943 included:  Scenic Lookout, Roller Coaster, Movie Theatre, Dance Pavilion, Picnic Shelter, Miniature Train, Photo Studio, Concession Stand, Carousel, Penny Arcade, Dining Hall and Children's Playground.

The Scenic Lookout, Picnic Shelter, Children's Playground and Multipurpose Pavilion have been reconstructed on their original sites. The locations of former attractions are identified with numbered markers.

The Pen Mar dining hall, in a building of frame construction, had a seating capacity of approximately 450 persons. It was famous for its 50-cent dinners (25 cents to railroad men), with a choice of 2 or 3 meats, chicken, 6 vegetables, ice cream and coffee.

This was a popular attraction with park visitors. Around the turn of the 19th Century, they made pictures using the Tintype process and later, the film negative and print process to make black and white prints. The price: 10 cents each or 4 for a quarter. Park visitors had a choice of backgrounds for their picture: Devil's Race Course, High Rock Observatory or a plain curtain. The studio also provided a film developing and print service for park patrons.

High pitched yells, screams and laughter could be heard throughout the park when patrons rode the "hills and valleys" of the roller coaster. Thousands of people remember, after buying the 10-cent ticket, the sign they saw when ready to board the car: "HOLD YOUR HAT and DON'T STAND UP."

The theatre was a wooden structure in which folding wooden chairs were placed to accommodate 200 patrons. Hand cranked projectors with carbon rod arc lamps were used to show black and white silent films.  Each show consisted of a feature fill and a comedy. In later years, a newsreel was added. Show time was 7-9 PM;   Admission was 10 cents.

During the daytime hours some of the chairs were removed and dancing lessons were available to park visitors and vacationists.

The Carousel and Penny Arcade were in use until 1942. The circular path of the hand carved animals from Hamburg, Germany, as they moved up and down attached to their shiny poles, brought laughter and cheers from people of all ages. The strains of the band organ, equipped with instruments and snare drums, the constant hope of grabbing the "brass ring" for a free ride, added merriment for the 5 cents fire to ride the merry-go-round.

Built in April 1908, the building, housing the Carousel and "Penny Arcade" where, for 1 cent you could crank the handle and view your favorite pictures.

This was one of the first wood structures built for the park, opening on August 31, 1877. The pavilion was enlarged in 1911.  The band played for dancing each afternoon and evening, Monday through Saturday, and presented a concert each Sunday. The pavilion was the center of formal activities for "Everybody's Day," the biggest annual event of the season. On this day, there were contests for: the most handsome boy, prettiest girl, largest baby, smallest baby, most handsome twins, the boy with the most freckles, and the baby with the prettiest curls. After 50 years, the contest was still popular.  Records show that 500 children were registered in the 1921 baby show.

While the 5-cent ice cream cone and the 10-cent ice cream sundae made the concession stand, located nest ot the theatre, popular with children, the checking service made it also a favorite spot for adults. People arriving on the morning train for a day's outing would check their items until train departure time in the evening. For 10 cents they could check a suitcase, picnic basket or lunch box.

The original miniature railroad station was erected in 1904 by William N. Fleigh, a Western Maryland locomotive engineer. He constructed the miniature railroad as a "sideline" and was granted a three-month leave of absence each summer from the Western Maryland Railroad to operate the single miniature train.

This station was in use from 1904 to 1907, when the train operated on straight track laid in a northerly direction through the woods. During this period, the miniature train was called "The Little Wabash;" named after the Wabash Railroad which was then operating the Western Maryland Railroad.

Miniature Train Station (relocated 1907-1943)

In 1907, the track bed for the miniature railroad was enlarged to three-fourths of a mile of track laid in a figure eight. The 10-cent fare permitted the passenger two trips around the configuration. To meet the demand of increased ticket sales, a second train was in operation and a new larger station was erected at this location. Each "Miniature Train," to which they were then referred, consisted of a hard coal burning steam engine carrying 150 pounds of pressure and two canopy covered passenger cars. A third car was added when needed. Each passenger car would seat eight people. The trains were made in Niagara Falls, New York.

The Scenic Lookout has been reconstructed from the actual photographs; with one change in the design. A ramp was provided to facilitate movement of the handicapped. (This type of construction has been folloed throughout the park in accordance with Maryland Building Code for the Handicapped and Aged). A portion of the funds for the 1977 redevelopement of Pen Mar Park, including the observatory, was made possible by the Fleigh Family of Hagerstown, Maryland, through the Bob Fleigh Foundation Inc. A plaque paying tribute to William N. Fleigh and his family, who were the founders and operators of the miniature train at Pen Mar, is located in the Interpretive Center.

From the observatory, 2,000 square miles of the Cumberland Valley becomes a fairyland.

Multipurpose Pavilion: After the reopening of Pen Mar Park on Mary 22, 1977, the public voiced their desire for a multipurpose pavilion. With this in mind, 1978 a group of interested individuals from Maryland and Pennsylvania formed the Pen Mar Park Pavilion Committee with the responsibility to design the structure and raise private funds that were necessary for the construction of the multipurpose pavilion on the site of the original dance pavilion. Construction of the Pavilion was completed in 1980. It was dedicated and officially opened to the public on August 18, 1980.

The dance pavilion, with an induction loop system for the hearing impaired, is the site of Sunday dances with live music, June-September.



CREDITS:From papers in Hagerstown Public Library.