Described by Best of America Online as a “family treasure,” Midway State Park was built in 1898, as a picnic and recreation area for travelers riding now long-abandoned streetcar lines. Once owned by the Broadhead family, the Jamestown, Westfield, and Northwestern Railway (JW & NW) transported passengers the 28 minutes from Jamestown to Midway from the early 1900s until 1951. A precursor to today’s larger amusement parks, Midway was designed to encourage weekend trolley use, as well as, provide a place of respite and recreation for families.
The JW & NW Railroad constructed playing fields, tennis courts, bath houses, and a dance hall along the shores of Chautauqua Lake for its ridership. The “Chair Plane” or Flying Swings, as it was more commonly known, made its debut in 1936. The iconic Herschell Carousel was added to the grounds in 1946, where it still resides today. Midway reached its zenith in the 1950s with the addition of the Chautauqua Choo-Choo, a miniature train whose tracks still encircle the park, and other famous kiddie rides like the “Dodgem” cars, “Roto-Whip,” “Tubs of Fun,” and later, “Tilt-A-Whirl.”
Miniature golf appears to have also reached its peak in popularity during the 1950s. Midway subsequently added its own course, but as years passed by it fell into decline.
Established to “recreate a true atmosphere from the park’s heyday in the 1950s,” the Friends of Midway State Park, completed full restorations of the Herschell Carousel and Chautauqua Choo-Choo. It is now in the process of turning its attention toward an entirely renovated miniature golf course. Currently under construction, the 18 holes will feature Chautauqua County attractions and landmarks, including: the Chautauqua Belle, Chautauqua Institution, Bemus Point-Stowe Ferry, Lucille Ball, and others.
A grant from the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation’s Fund for the Region is helping offset the cost of a brand new miniature golf course. While material and labor will be contributed through the state parks system, Peter Sullivan, member of “Friends” and design leader, said, “The success of the course depends on the financial support of those who love golf and love Midway.”