As with most other amusement parks of the area it was segregated and excluded blacks. Oddly a sign was posted: Gentiles Only(?). This policy lasted till 1964 and vs. resisting change the park was closed.
The park was originally built by Robert Benson around 1938. He constructed several homes in the area, one by one. In a regular pattern, he'd build a house, move in. Build a new house, sell the old one.
Over the years, he and his son Harold, both multitalented with a variety of tools, constructed a roller coaster that ran on a U-shaped pier out over the water, a merry-go-round, a cavernous dance hall, an alligator pond, swimming and bathing facilities, and more.
Harold Benson, who died in 1993, found other uses for the 'gators. As the Civil Rights movement gained momentum, demonstrators stood outside the parks gates protesting against its "Gentiles Only, No Negroes" policy. The reptiles wore harnesses and Mr. Benson would leash up a pair and pretend to walk them to a waiting car for a visit to a vet. Snapping and snarling, the animals would lunge at the protesters, scattering them.
-----an unused ashtray printed with the logo "Mago Vista Beach Club" and a corroded aluminum locker room locker and key from the bathhouse. Ms. Mumma was given first pick of three 60-year-old wooden spindle-back chairs that had been used in the old dance pavilion. He also brought a sheaf of old photos.
Ms. Rafferty gazed at the photos and began speed-dialing her cellphone.
"Guys," she said to the first person who answered, "Get your butts over here. There's some really neat pictures and stuff!"
Looking back at some of the old beach scene photos, she said: "Look at all the people on the beach. That's more than live here now!"
"Look at the dancers!" exclaimed Ms. Towle. "That dance hall is big!"
The crowd settled down to hear Mr. Smith reminisce.
"The Bensons sold the property in 1964 to four investors. One of the investors was a Mrs. Harting who owned a farmhouse where the Harting Farm Community now stands," he said.
Mr. Ligon had grown up in Bethesda and his family knew Pat Patrick, a caterer who also delivered Krispy Kreme donuts in the Bethesda area. Going back and forth to his teaching job, Mr. Ligon couldn't help but notice the amusement park was struggling.
In 1978, Mr. Patrick bought the property from the investors and Mr. Ligon moved into the Harting farmhouse with fellow instructor Bob Rude.
Mr. Patrick needed a right-hand man, and urged Mr. Ligon to quit his teaching job to work with him. It was a move the teacher would regret.
According to Mr. Ligon, Mr. Patrick had big plans for the site.
He scrapped what was left of the amusement park, dredged a nearby natural pond, Schoolers Pond, and tore down the Benson house. He tried turning the dance hall into a restaurant and entertainment center. He quickly developed a reputation for his loud, late-night parties.
Then, in his biggest scheme of all, he trotted out plans for a 400-slip mega-marina grandly named The Baltimore Washington International Yachting Center.
Naturally, BWI Thurgood Marshall airport officials were apoplectic: it hadn't occurred to them to trademark "Baltimore Washington International."
Next, he battled the community and the Army Corps of Engineers, Mr. Ligon said.
One day the boss simply blurted, "You're through. Get outta here." Eventually, vociferous community opposition to the proposed marina-restaurant complex, and fears of round-the-clock traffic and noise doomed the project.
The property changed hands again. This time it was sold to the developers of The Moorings, who pulled down the remaining park structures. The first townhouses went on the market in 1984.
Pointing out landmarks to his wife, Sue, Mr. Ligon sighed, "That pavilion was beautiful. It was open all around on all sides. You could just feel you were out on the water."
All that remains are several pilings that poke up out of the water - and the photographs.
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