Thrill Rides Lured Crowds to a Now Deserted Island

"The Greyhound," a wooden roller coaster that lured crowds to Burlington Island in the early 1900s. (Photo from the Burlington Board of Island Managers website)

In the early 1900s, thrill rides lured thousands of tourists to Burlington Island. 

There was a towering wooden rollercoaster - just a bit tamer than the Scream Machine - and a Jollier.  

A what?

Black and white photos found on the Board of Island Managers' website include a Jollier, a strange multi-seat swing anchored to the edges of a giant spinning top.  It must have treated riders to a dizzying jolly good time.  

The rollercoaster, named the Greyhound, was a major attraction with its hairy dips and twists.  Don't laugh too hard. You can bet future generations will mock us for being scared out of our wits by rides with harnesses that flip us only in every direction and not into a different dimension.  

Before a fire destroyed the island's park in 1932, the carousel was moved to Seaside Heights where it still makes merry.    

Tourists from Philadelphia and beyond would pack into steamboats and ferries to visit the island, between Burlington City and Bristol.  The 400-acre island also offered picnic areas, a big thing back then.

The fire left the island in shambles and deserted for decades.  A  few cottages were built as summer homes in the 70s, but they later were shuttered and abandoned. 

Since then, the island has sat idle.  There are plans to build a theme park on the island but they remain a dream.

An island that has long beckoned to people from the Jersey and Pennsylvania shores is still waiting for the days when it again will be a place with laughter and happy screams.