The Way It Was – Eastwood Park, 1937

This amusement park wasn’t all fun and games
Photograph courtesy of the Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University (The Detroit News)

1937 Technically, it was known as Eastwood Amusement Park, but nearly everyone called it Eastwood Park, or just Eastwood. Even the words scrawled across its portal announced simply “Eastwood Park.”

The amusement was a given. These gleeful youngsters certainly seem amused on a ride at Eastwood, at the northeast corner of Eight Mile Road and Gratiot in what was once known as East Detroit but since 1992 has been Eastpointe. Easily accessible by streetcar from Gratiot in Detroit, Eastwood Park, which opened in 1926, had much more to offer than rides. There was also a large swimming pool, a roller rink, picnic grounds, a fun house, and a large ballroom called Eastwood Gardens, where big-band buffs danced to the strains of Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, and Glenn Miller.

But Eastwood wasn’t all fun and games. In 1936, a fire killed three visitors at a concession dubbed “The Jungle.” In 1943, shortly before racial violence flared up in the Detroit race riots, the East Detroit police were called to the park to quell fighting between groups of blacks and whites. After World War II, as once-sparsely populated East Detroit was beginning to flower into a full-fledged suburb, its growing populace objected to the noise and trash produced by the park, not to mention the gambling infractions.

Objections raised by East Detroit Mayor Mildred Stark and others did not fall on deaf ears, and the park lost its license to continue operations. Its owners appealed all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court to no avail. Although the ballroom, skating rink, and swimming pool operated for a few more years, the lifeblood of the park was gone. By the early 1950s, Eastwood — including, most noticeably, its amusements — was dismantled.