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The 1930's....

Into the 1930's Riverview was surviving the depression barely. A 25,000 dollar investment to add new attractions and bring in free acts was paying off. People were still choosing Riverview as their favorite fun spot. A large roller skating rink was a favorite attraction with skating offered every afternoon and evening.. The new Shoot the Chutes was becoming a must ride attraction along with the Coaster.

The park was now also offering boxing and wrestling events, as well as the rides, dances (6 nights a week), games, restaurants and free attractions ranging from dare devils to animal acts to gala musical reviews. The swimming pool was also going strong. The Des Moines Railway Company was even routing special Street Car Trolleys that went directly to Riverview's gates.

The rides and attractions in the 30's included a Fun House, the Aeroplane Roller coaster, the Shoot the Chutes, the Tumble Bug, the Whip, the Leaping Lena, a Miniature Train, gasoline powered Mini Autos, the Big Scooter, Mirror Palace, and of course, the Herschell -Spillman 3-abreast Menangerie Carouse


In 1938, the swimming pool era ended. The pool was filled in and became a sports arena for the boxing and wrestling events. The city had opened Birdland Pool just up 6th Avenue and that new modern pool quickly became the place to swim.

In 1933, disaster struck. At 1 am in the morning a fire alarm rang in to the main fire station...Riverview was on fire! Even at that hour, 1000 onlookers were drawn to the surrounding levee to watch while the fire department fought to save the park. Their efforts were hampered when the the small 2 inch lines feeding the fire hydrants in the park couldn't handle the load and the water pressure dropped to nearly nothing.

The pumper trucks on the scene then threw their suction hoses into the lagoon to pump water from the this unlimited supply of lake water to their hoses (a method called "drafting"). It worked...by dawn the fireman had the blaze nearly extinguished.

About 40 per cent of the park had burned or been affected. The dance hall, penny arcade, Riverview cafe and scooter building and funhouse were nothing but ash. The monkey island was also lost to the fire but during the height of the blaze a fireman humanely threw a 20 foot plank across the moat, allowing 23 monkeys to escape into the nearby neighborhoods. Three died before making the escape. The the fronts to the Chutes and west prominade walkway were gone.

The Board of Directors were determined to do whatever it took to bring it all back. With help from hundreds of volunteers, the Riverview team was able to open the park and operate in a limited fashion 3 days later, yet with the smell of burnt ruins still lingering in the air.

Everything lost was rebuilt the for the following season and the park again became the wondrous place day and night for the people. Riverview continued on offering entertainment and recreation for all ages.


1930's Riverview - click pictures to enlarge

Fraternity on the Coaster in 1935

Roller Skating rink

The Train


Firefighters battling the fire

The Dance Hall is lost - 1933

1934 Advertisement