A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the history of roller coasters, and I learned their origin dates back about 400 years ago to ice slides in Russia. About that same time I wrote that post, in a moment of serendipity, I ran across a historical marker in my city of Sioux Falls, SD, that marked the spot of a giant wood slide!
The Big Slide was located at the top of a hill in Sherman Park from approximately 1913-1920. Just over 100 years ago, Edwin A. Sherman, an early businessman and civic leader in Sioux Falls, donated about 50 acres west of the city for a park. Sherman devoted much of the rest of his life to developing parks in both the city and the state.
The park became a popular place for swimming in the Big Sioux River. But, another of the amenities of the park was a wood slide almost 300 feet long, beginning at the top of a steep hill. Near the bottom of the hill, the slide continued over a road, but high enough horses and buggies could go under it. Imagine the fright the horse felt when a screaming person slid above it?
The slide was lined with tin, and riders would sit on waxed paper to go faster, or a piece of old carpet or burlap to protect them from the heat of the tin. However, the slide had a short life before it was deemed dangerous and dismantled.
For anyone interested in looking for the marker, it is next to a short rock wall that has a bench built into it. In addition, there are a few Native American Indian Burial Mounds close by.
Check out the Sioux Falls website for more info about Sherman Park’s history.
I had another serendipitous find while researching The Big Slide. The Center for Western Studies at Augustana College in Sioux Falls has a wonderful library! I will be spending more time there!
Have you heard of the Big Slide? Do you know any family stories about the slide? Do you know the purpose of the rock wall/bench? Was it a waiting area for slide riders, or perhaps seating for small concerts, etc.? Would you ride a 300-foot wood slide?
Roller coasters have been a summer staple for many people for many years.
In fact, roller coasters began as a winter amusement in Russia more than 400 years ago where people slid down giant ice slides. Then, during warmer weather, the Russians began using wheeled carts on the slides.
Later, the French dabbled with coasters, but Americans made the next major developments. As the coal mining industry in the Pennsylvania mountains waned in the late 1800s, entrepreneurs invited people to ride the gravity-powered train cars of The Scenic Railway down the mountains. And, in 1884, LaMarcus Adna Thompson designed and opened the first profitable roller coaster at Coney Island in New York.
Developers came up with more ways to power the coasters and thrill riders, and during the 1920s there were thousands of wooden roller coasters. But, The Depression and WWII caused roller coasters to take a financial dive. That began to change in 1959 when Disneyland opened the first steel coaster.
Although wood coasters are still popular, steel ones have allowed designers to continue pushing the limits of physics, designing bigger and faster coasters.
For more about the history of roller coasters, see:
Are roller coasters part of your summer fun? Which ones are your favorites? What kids’ books feature roller coasters?