One of the highlights of entertainment in the New York metropolitan area in the late 1800s and early 1900s was the Roton Point Amusement Park.
In the mid 1880’s,the entire Roton Point area was a quiet enclave used mainly for picnics and bathing by local residents. Soon thereafter,however, all the surrounding land was consolidated under one ownership, and thanks to the introduction of the trolley car—first horse-drawn, then electrified—the park quickly started to expand. Trolleys came into the park through the present entrance and made a sweeping loop close to today’s tennis building where they would discharge their passengers and wait for the mass exodus at the end of the day. The fare was five cents, and a trolley arrived about every 20 minutes.
A pier was extended into the Sound on the east side to allow excursion boats to dock and activity was extremely brisk by the turn of the century. Some 12,000 visitors were able to arrive in one day by boat alone.
Many small concession stands were concentrated in the area behind the hotel, and they extended along the border of what is now Bayley Beach. In addition to refreshment stands, these included a shooting gallery, penny arcade, "crazy house," palm reader, skeet ball and many other games of chance. One of the most popular attractions was the glass blower’s booth. As beautiful, small glass pieces were shaped in front of them, fascinated by-standers would crowd in front of the skilled craftsman.
The park’s first roller coaster extended down along the side of Bayley Beach, along with other simple rides of that time, such as an automated circular swing. The first carousal was located near the north west corner of the "hotel." Circling around the Park was a miniature steam train that gave a pleasant and thrilling ride to children...and adults. The present day circular bathhouse was built to house the first carousal but was actually used as a vaudeville theater and then as a skating rink.
Roton Point evolved slowly during the years up to the 1920’s when Neville Bayley, an astute and successful entrepreneur, took over ownership of the park and expanded it with more rides, chance booths and a variety of other attractions.
Dances and dance competitions were held from the earliest days of the pavilion, and endurance contests, with generous prizes, were very popular. Nationally known big bands were scheduled for Sunday nights, and thousands turned out to see and hear them…Glen Miller, the Dorsey brothers, Eddie Duchin, Bunny Berrigan, Guy Lombardo, Wayne King, Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington, just to name a few. Beauty contests were an annual event, and for years, "Miss Connecticut" was selected at Roton Point before going on to Atlantic City.
The hurricane of 1938 marked the beginning of the end for the park. Especially hard hit were the rides in the mid-way, and most of them were never restored. As World War II approached, fuel rationing crippled the 1941 season, and all the excursion boats were taken for the war effort. The park was then closed…never to re-open again.
The above information excerpted from the newsletter of the History Committee of the Roton Point Association, with specific reference to Rowayton on the half-shell by Frank E. Raymond, Phoenix Publishing, copyright 1990.