When The Enchanted Forest opened on August 15th, 1955, it was one of the first theme parks in the United States (opened almost a month after Disneyland)
The park is located in Ellicott City, Maryland, on U.S. Route 40 (Baltimore National Pike) near the intersection with Bethany Lane. Photos: Forsaken Fotos/Flickr
More than 20 acres of brightly colored concrete structures, rides, and characters filled the park and its visitors with joy.
But, unfortunately, the park was permanently shuttered from 1995 to 2005, when active preservation began.
The park featured fairy tale buildings and characters, but no mechanical rides originally.
Track rides were added later, including the Alice in Wonderland ride with teacup-shaped cars, a Cinderella’s castle ride with mice for the cars,.
The “Little Toot” boat that took children to Mount Vesuvius for giant slides, and the Jungleland Safari which was driven by open Land Rover-type vehicles.
Children’s birthday parties were often held in the picnic areas among the attractions; many local teenagers worked as ticket-takers at the park.
Unlike many other attractions of the time, the Enchanted Forest was integrated from the day it opened.
Admission cost one dollar for adults and fifty cents for children. The park expanded from 20 acres (81,000 m2) to 52 acres (210,000 m2).
At its peak, the Enchanted Forest welcomed 300,000 children per summer season. After its original owners, the Harrison family sold the park for $4.5 million to JHP Development in 1988, the park closed for the first time in 1989.
While the Eastern side of the park was bulldozed to allow room for a shopping mall, the other half remains untouched.
JHP Development reopened the park for the 1994 summer season, predominantly for children’s birthday parties.
Much of the theme park sat undisturbed yet neglected behind a chain-link fence. On June 30th, 1998, the post office opened an Enchanted Forest branch onsite.
In 1999, the Friends of the Enchanted Forest was formed with the goal of reopening the park and then in 2003 the Enchanted Forest Preservation Society was formed with the long-term goal of reviving the Enchanted Forest.
Their work focused on preventing the structures from being lost forever.
The owner of the land, Kimco Realty Group, agreed in 2004 to allow most of the fairy tale structures and figures to be moved to nearby Clark’s Elioak Farm for display and preservation.
Moving and restoration began in 2005. Contributions were still being welcomed in 2011, although many of the exhibits had been restored and returned to service at the farm.
In 2013, the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning approved Kimco to build a bank next to the castle site and wetlands by rerouting the stream that ran around the base.
In 2015, Martha Clark announced the concrete block Castle would be relocated to Elioak while the Cinderella Castle and the Gingerbread House would be demolished.