As the 19th-century came to a close, Rocky Point continued to be a popular destination among both Rhode Islanders and tourists alike. Colonel R.A. Harrington had been leasing the property for decades before he finally purchased the park outright from the Providence, Fall River, and Newport Steamboat Company in 1910 for the price of $250,000 (approximately $6.84 million in 2020).  For a time, the investment proved to be worthwhile, as spectators continued to roll in regularly.
In 1915, Harrington added the popular Thompson Scenic Railway in the park. During that same year, Rocky Point was home to a roller coaster, a toboggan ride, aerial swings, and a swinging boat ride among others giving patrons a variety of entertainment options. The park’s success was short-lived, however, as Col. Harrington died on October 13, 1918, and for a short time, his widow [who was 30 years his junior and would outlive her husband by 35 years] continued to operate the park, although lack of patronage caused its closure. The park, however, would reopen in 1920.
Rocky Point Amusement Park continued to see a significant number of visitors throughout the 1920s and 1930s until one fateful day, September 21, 1938. It was on that day that Rhode Island was struck by an incredible hurricane the likes of which it had never been seen before or since. The damage to Rocky Point Amusement Park was immense, causing the park to close for two years before opening its gates part-time in 1940.
This re-opening was brief, however, as shortages and rationing in response to the United States’ participation in World War II caused the park to close once again in 1942 and it remained shuttered until June 1948. In 1947, during the park’s closure, a carousel supposedly constructed by the Herschell-Spillman Company in 1915 was installed at Rocky Point. The carousel was distinguished by its 46 hand-carved and hand-painted animals.
In June of 1948, Rocky Point Amusement Park re-opened publicly to great fanfare as 35,000 patrons visited the park on the very first day, causing massive traffic jams for several miles. The popularity of Rocky Point among locals was quite obvious in the immediate years following the end of World War II. The year after the park re-opened, Rocky Point was purchased by Vincent Ferla, and his brother Conrad was named General Manager.
One feature of Rocky Point that was a mainstay for the amusement park’s entire history was the Shore Dinner Hall. In the 20th-century, the Shore Dinner Hall, which could seat as many as 4,000 customers, was well-known for its famed shore dinners which included various seafood options. In 1954, Rhode Island was struck by another vicious storm when Hurricane Carol tore across the shoreline, destroying the Shore Dinner Hall. Over the next six years, a new dinner hall was erected along with the Palladium Ballroom and the Windjammer Lounge.
In 1960, the year the new dinner hall was opened, a park guest could purchase a meal of chowder, clam cakes, and watermelon for just $1.10. By the start of the 1980s, it was claimed that the dinner hall served half a million meals each season and they served 75,000 lobsters as well as 100,000 pounds of shucked quahogs in their chowder each year.
The construction of the Palladium Ballroom in 1960 led to another popular pastime at Rocky Point Amusement Park: concerts. During the early 1960s, the Palladium was known for hosting hops for local teenagers and summer visitors. Throughout the decade, the venue was also the site of several notable rock concerts. On August 27, 1967, the Yardbirds, featuring future Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, performed at Rocky Point during an East Coast leg of their tour. Also notable were the two shows performed by Janis Joplin and her band Big Brother and the Holding Company in support of their landmark album, Cheap Thrills. On those nights, the Holding Company was supported by Sly and the Family Stone in what was almost certainly shows to remember.
Nearly a quarter of a century later on November 13, 1991, perhaps the greatest concert lineup (at least in this author’s opinion) of the 1990s graced the stage of Rocky Point’s Palladium when the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, and the Smashing Pumpkins took a brief detour between shows in New York City. One of the last concerts known to have been held at the Palladium took place on August 19, 1994, when a newcomer to the music scene, Weezer, performed a show promoting their debut effort, the Blue Album. The last band to hold a concert at Rocky Point, fittingly, was Rhode Island’s own Roomful of Blues who played there on October 15, 1994.
While the Palladium and the Shore Dinner Hall were among the more popular venues at Rocky Point, at its heart, Rocky Point was an amusement park, and as such, the thrill rides were major attractions in their own right. All the way back in 1912, a wooden roller coaster named Round the Treetops was constructed and opened to the public, surviving until at least 1930 and may have been standing at the time of the 1938 hurricane.
Two other wooden roller coasters, Wildcat (1926) and Flying Turns (1931), a bobsled-style roller coaster, were opened in the pre-war era, but they also met their end with the 1938 hurricane. In 1958, the park received what is believed to be their first steel roller coaster which was also named Wildcat.
The purchase of Rocky Point Amusement Park by Budco Associates in 1969 was another turning point in the park’s history, as the new owners added another notable ride, bumper cars, known as Skooters, as well as a petting zoo. During the following decade, an area known as ‘Kiddieland’ which featured children’s rides was developed, expanding the park’s appeal to families with younger children.
Another new innovation followed in the 1980s when the park introduced “POP” bracelets, which allowed visitors to ride almost all of the park’s rides for just $3.25 in addition to the price of admission which was only $4.50 in 1980 (approximately $14.25 in 2020, substantially less than virtually all amusement parks today). The final new ride to be installed at Rocky Point was the FreeFall which was purchased for $2.6 million and was added to the Park in 1987.
By the early 1990s, Rocky Point began to fall into decline, largely as a result of the park’s financial situation becoming increasingly unstable. During this period, the privately-held company that owned the park was unable to keep the park up to date while also turning a profit, ultimately resulting in the park’s closure in 1995. It was said that Rocky Point had been granting significant loans to non-related companies that were owned by the park’s shareholders and when those companies went bankrupt, Rocky Point could not collect their repayment.
These loans caused the park to suffer under heavy debts and by 1995, the park simply could not pay its own bills and was forced to close. The park reopened very briefly in 1996 to say farewell to its most dedicated patrons and after it closed permanently, rides including the Flume and Corkscrew were sold at auction and were transferred to other amusement parks.
For over a century and a half, Rocky Point Amusement Park served as Rhode Island’s playground, giving both visitors and locals a place to spend a beautiful summer day. Although it met a less than ideal end, Rocky Point should be remembered for the entertainment it provided. In 2008, the city of Warwick began purchasing portions of the 124-acre lot where the amusement park once stood.
By 2013, the city had acquired the entirety of the property and the following year, the space was opened to the public under the name Rocky Point State Park. Today, visitors to the State Park can witness the remnants of the amusement park: the circle swing ride which was built c. 1906, portions of the Skyliner gondola ride, an old water tower and an archway at the park’s entrance.