Fighting the Flames at Ontario Beach Park

Fighting the Flames at Ontario Beach Park

This article was scraped from Rochester Subway. This is a blog about Rochester history and urbanism has not been published since 2017. The current owners are now publishing link spam which made me want to preserve this history.. The original article was published April 28, 2014 and can be found here.

Birds eye view of Ontario Beach Park. c1900.

   No, the headline isn't in reference to the recent     controversy    surrounding the port development. I wanted to take a look back, at the "good ole days," when Ontario Beach was known as the Coney Island of central and western New York. Here's a birds eye of view of all the shiny happy fun... The Dentzel carousel. The L.A. Thompson's Scenic Railway. The Auditorium (a.k.a. the House of Hilarity). Such good times.

Then I noticed the peculiar site of smoke and flames in the background (click the image for a larger view). Holy smokes! Charlotte is burning! Somebody call 9-1-1!!

Messmore's Fighting the Flames attraction at Ontario Beach Park.

   Here's a better view of the action. The 4-story Livingston Hotel has been set ablaze and two young maidens are trapped on the upper floors!

Fear not. As it turns out, this isn't an actual fire. Well, it is... but it isn't. This is actually a unique amusement park attraction called Messmore's "Fighting the Flames." Each day during the beach-going season, a dramatic fire rescue scene was produced here - all for the crowd's entertainment.

Local history enthusiast Donovan Shilling     explains here

external link

:    One of the most amazing attractions was Messmore's "Fighting the Flames." At scheduled intervals throughout the day, flames and smoke would erupt from a half dozen windows in a large building facade. Alarm bells would ring, shouting actors would then pour out of the "blazing" Livingston Hotel and a dozen showcase firemen in red shirts would be summoned to the rescue.    There were always two young ladies "trapped" in the upper story. After a sizable crowd had gathered the shrieking and screaming maidens would be coaxed to jump into an awaiting net held by the valiant fire fighters. As skirts inevitably flew upward and the girls were saved, cheers and applause followed. The gentlemen of the prim Victorian Era were frequently rewarded with an exposed ankle or knee. It was terribly exciting.

"Terribly exciting" indeed. We don't have fun quite like this anymore. Thanks to my friend Howard Decker for this one. And on a related note...

Ontario Beach Park opening day poster. May 28, 1927.

   ...don't forget that the Ontario Beach     Kite Festival

external link

is THIS weekend, May 4, 2014 (11am to 3pm). Join expert kite flyers from around the area as they fly their unique, colorful creations. City recreation staff will also be on hand to provide free, kite-building workshops for youth 12 and under.

I doubt there'll be fire... but hopefully there'll be wind.

Chris Gemignani

Chris Gemignani

Rochester, NY, USA