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Family Fun at Nantasket Beach and Paragon Park on Massachusetts' South Shore
When I was a child growing up in eastern Massachusetts, our family always took a vacation day trip to Paragon Park and Nantasket Beach in Hull, Massachusetts. Nantasket Beach is still a popular ocean seashore destination for Boston area families, but when I was a kid it boasted a boardwalk and amusement park, restaurants and attractions plus clean sandy ocean beach swimming all located just south of the city. Today Nantasket and Hull have changed, but it's still a great family beach destination close to Boston.
Wide sandy beaches and plenty of summer ocean fun
Anyone who grew up near Boston from the Victorian era through the 1970s remembers Paragon Park and its wonderful amusements including The Giant Coaster and the flying horses of the carousel (PTC #85, manufactured by Philadelphia Toboggan Company which built carousels and wooden roller coasters) plus the cold Atlantic Ocean and boardwalk at Nantasket.
My parents grew up in the Boston area in the 1930s and 1940s. Although they loved trips to Cape Cod when it was still a long drive from the city, Revere and Nantasket Beach were the regional favorites for families and teens from the 1940s until the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Today the beach and boardwalk are still popular and busy as is the Paragon Carousel. The Giant Coaster has a new home and still provides thrilling gravity-challenging rides.
The Giant Coaster LIVES!
Boston Hull Seashore Memories
Back in the good old days Hull was a Hot Spot!
Today, Paragon Park and its amusement rides are mostly gone, developed into modern condominium units, but the historic carousel and clocktower still remain. The park's famed wooden roller coaster (The Giant Coaster) built in 1917 was removed from the park in 1985 and now operates as "The Wild One" at Six Flags America, Baltimore/Washington DC.
Nantasket Beach offers all the attractions of a seaside resort, easily accessible from the city of Boston and surrounding communities west and north of Boston. Modern highways can take you to the Cape and Islands further south but it's a much longer drive and Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard are more crowded (and more expensive) than the south shore in the summertime. Nantasket is rated as one of the Top Ten Beaches in New England, and it's known as the closest clean beach to Boston.
Hull and Nantasket Beach - Favorite Massachusetts Summer Vacation Destinations
Amusement park and playground for Boston area residents was top for decades
Hull and Nantasket Beach were the premier summer destination vacation spots in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Hull boasted the largest summer hotel in the nation plus a boardwalk and wide sandy beaches in the late 1800s. By the late 1950s as more families owned automobiles, Cape Cod became the preferred beach vacation destination, but Nantasket's Paragon Park still offered close-by family entertainment and summer vacation fun.
A trip to Paragon Park on the south shore of metro Boston was the highlight of summer vacation for most kids growing up in Eastern Massachusetts from 1940 through the late 1970s. My parents would load six children into our family car and drive to Nantasket for a day's outing every summer. Even after our family moved away to the suburbs we still ventured back to Nantasket Beach for a day trip and family fun at Paragon Park every summer. This ritual ended only after we moved to New Hampshire, when Hampton Beach replaced Nantasket as our family summer beach vacation destination each year.
Paragon Park Back in the Day - Nantasket Beach - Hull Massachusetts
Paragon Park was an amusement park located on Nantasket Beach in Hull, Massachusetts. It closed in 1984.
Among the amusement rides in operation during Paragon Park's history was a traditional-style Philadelphia Toboggan Company carousel (PTC #85) with hand-crafted horses, a bumper cars ride known as "Auto Scooters", a Ferris wheel, a horror-themed dark ride called "Kooky Kastle", and a wooden roller coaster known as The Giant Coaster.
There was also a ski lift-type ride called the Sky Lark, an automobile-themed ride known as "Turnpike Cars" (replaced by a different ride in the 1970s called the "Indy 500"), and a water ride called "Bermuda Triangle" (formerly the "Congo Cruise," the "Jungle Ride," the "Red Mill", and the "Mill Rapids").
Today, the only surviving remnants of Paragon Park on the boardwalk are the historic Paragon Park Carousel and clock tower. The rest of the site is devoted to condominium development. The park's "Giant Coaster", built in 1917 and removed from the park in 1985, now operates as "The Wild One" at Six Flags America, Baltimore/Washington DC.
A small miniature golf course is located on one of the smaller sites that once housed a water slide, and previously a few rides. Dream Machine arcade is still in operation, as well as the historic "Fascination" game room. The remains of the "Turnpike Cars" roadway ride remain hidden in overgrowth beside the parking lot.
More rides that Paragon hosted over the years were the Trabant, the Tilt-a-Whirl, Galaxy Coaster, the Sky Diver, Paratrooper, Matterhorn, Himalaya, Round Up, Scrambler, Crazy Tea Cups, Twister Kiddie Coaster, Caterpillar, the Whip, Batman-slide, Super-slide, Salt and Pepper Shakers, Swing ride, along with many rides that were smaller versions of these, geared towards children.
Read more of this article about Paragon Park at Wikipedia.
Paragon Park Carousel
PTC #85, The Paragon Carousel
One of the few remaining attractions of Paragon Park is the historic grand carousel located at 205 Nantasket Avenue Hull, Massachusetts 02045. The carousel and its building were relocated from the former park site to this address, and the wonderful wooden-animal carousel is still in operation daily from Memorial Day-Labor Day - 10am-10pm. The Paragon Carousel was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.
As a child I loved horses and the carousel was (and still is) my favorite ride at Nantasket Beach. My parents rode the carousel as children; it was installed in 1928, number 85 of 89 carousel amusements crafted by Philadelphia Toboggan Company, renowned maker of hand-carved carousels.
Today, the Paragon Carousel is under historic restoration, and a non-profit fund has been created to raise money for its repair and continued operation.
FRIENDS OF THE PARAGON CAROUSEL
POST OFFICE BOX 100
HULL, MA 02045
The Friends of the Paragon Carousel is a 501(c)3 federal tax-exempt non-profit organization.
Photo credit: Waymarking .com
What's in a Name?
Hull - Nantasket - Paragon Park
The train station in Hull, England - Hull, Massachusetts' sister town for which the settlement took its name in 1644 - is called Paragon Station. Prior to the town's incorporation, the area was commonly known as the Nantasket Peninsula of Massachusetts.
The name "Nantasket" is from the native American Wampanoag language meaning "at the strait" or "low-tide place." The town of Hull encompasses a series of connected islands that form a peninsula; at low tide the beach area is wide and sandy with acres of tide pools.
You CAN Get There From Here - Hull is Near Boston - an easy drive or you can take the train or water taxi
Hull, Massachusetts is a small community situated along a peninsula of small linked sandy islands extending 7 sandy miles into Massachusetts Bay from the south. Along with its ocean beaches and plenty of sand for digging and making castles, Hull and Nantasket were famous for Paragon Park - an amusement park with plenty of family fun: rides, games, boardwalk and souvenirs galore.
Much like Coney Island in New York, Nantasket Beach and the community of Hull grew in the nineteenth century to become popular summer vacation playground resorts. Hull and Nantasket were an easy day trip or vacation destination for urban Boston residents seeking to escape summer's heat to spend a day, week or season at the shore in a family environment. Even if you didn't own an automobile, you could easily get to Nantasket from the city by way of public transportation.
Today, you still can take the commuter rail (the "T" as it's known in Massachusetts) or water taxi from Boston to Hull.
Hull and Nantasket are Close to Boston
"During the nineteenth century, a number of resort areas developed surrounding Boston to provide pleasure for its residents. In the late 1800s, Nantasket, or Hull, was known as the premier resort in New England, with the largest summer hotel in the nation.
With the advent of the automobile, the Boston metropolitan resorts lost favor to Cape Cod and northern New England. One by one, the merry-go-rounds disappeared by fire or sale. After a major fire at Paragon Park in Hull, a new large, elaborate carousel, PTC #85, was installed in 1928.
It was the 85th out of 89 carousels created by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, renowned maker of hand-carved carousels in the Philadelphia, or realistic, style. (Toboggan meant roller coaster) PTC #85 included two rare Roman Chariots, each pulled by two horses, carved by the Dentzel Company, founder of the Philadelphia style, and purchased when the last of the Dentzels died. Its scalloped canopy was one of the most beautiful ever constructed for carousel.
The fabled Paragon Park with its sweeping roller coaster is long gone, but preservation efforts are underway to restore this grand carousel with its Wurlitzer Band Organ, Bell Tower, and 66 horses. There are many shops, restaurants and amusement arcades along the beach -- and of course, sand and surf! "
Hull - Nantasket Beach - Paragon Park - Historical and Recent Hull Area Attractions Information
Nantasket Beach is probably the most famous location in Hull, Massachusetts. The once-thriving Paragon Park is now gone, but Hull is still a vacation destination within minutes of Boston. There are many beaches and attractions in Hull. Hiking and biking trails abound, and you're never far from the sea as you meander about the roads and byways in Hull, Massachusetts.
Paragon Carousel Restoration Project - Historic hand-carved animal carousel and boardwalk clock tower
- Paragon Carousel Restoration Funding
In April, 2009 the Paragon Carousel received a $100,000 restoration funding grant.
- Watercolor paintings, South Shore, Nantasket Beach, Paragon Park, art. Hull, MA
Architecturally inspired watercolor paintings of Nantasket Beach, Paragon Park, Hull, the South Shore and Boston on display in our art gallery. Hull, Massachusetts.
- Flying Horses - A History of PTC #85
A history of the historic grand wooden carousel formerly located in Paragon Park, now a community treasure in Hull, Massachusetts.
- Beach Water Quality: Massachusetts Department of Public Health
Search for up to date water test results for all Massachusetts beaches.
- Paragon Park Memories
This tribute site is filled with photos from Hull, Nantasket and Paragon Park, along with historic information and nostalgia.
Acknowledgments and Credits
Unless noted in the text, photographs and images used under Gnu and Creative Commons Licenses via Wikimedia public domain declarations.
© 2009 Lee Hansen
Welcome Day Trippers and Vacationers - Please Sign the Guestbook! - Anyone can leave a comment here - all are welcome
Kathryn Grace from San Francisco on May 27, 2014:
So many memories! I've never been there, yet I'm feeling the nostalgia, smelling the popcorn, cotton candy and fudgesickles. Looking at the dreamy photograph of that lovely peninsula, I'm keenly aware this morning that in another fifty years, it will all be underwater, which makes me incredibly sad. I'm thinking of the memories lost, the homes, the businesses. Where will the people go who earn their livelihood on those glittering shores? I know you had no intention of invoking such thoughts, but that photograph suddenly brought it all into focus.
Lee Hansen (author) from Vermont on March 16, 2014:
@evelynsaenz1: We went everywhere on the shore - North and South, plus the cape. My metro-Boston parents loved the ocean from Maine to Massachusetts as well as the mountains of NH.
Evelyn Saenz from Royalton on March 15, 2014:
Growing up in Vermont we always went to Hampton Beach in NH but after reading this lens I would love to check out Nantasket Beach and Paragon Park. I can't believe we never went there when we lived in Boston. We always went north to Nahant or Marblehead.
scholar-mulhern on February 18, 2014:
Wrote a story about my experiences at Nantasket Beach and Paragon Park. The story is available through Kindle--"Assumptions" by James Mulhern. Great memories of that time in my life.
bradcathy46 on February 18, 2014:
Spent many days at the park in the 60's with my best friends from Rockland,Mass. Brad Wambolt Lincoln ,Me
Lee Hansen (author) from Vermont on December 08, 2012:
@scholar-mulhern: Thanks for stopping by and I will check out your story about Paragon Park.
scholar-mulhern on November 23, 2012:
I have fond memories of Paragon Park. I wrote a published short story, "Assumptions," about a summer day I spent there a long time ago. If you're interested, you can google "James Mulhern Assumptions short story." Thanks for this great website.
fullofshoes on September 24, 2012:
Love this trip back to Nantasket :) I can still hear a whole bus full of day camp "field trippers" singing "a tisket, a tasket, we're almost at Nantasket". Okay, silly, but we thought we were clever at 9 years old. "blessed" for sure. Thanks for the memories!
Leah J. Hileman from East Berlin, PA, USA on September 14, 2012:
I've never been to Mass, but I love New England travel and beaches. I'd like to go on the carousel!
Lee Hansen (author) from Vermont on September 04, 2012:
@anonymous: Hi Diane - glad to have triggered some happy memories for you with this lens!
anonymous on August 31, 2012:
Wow! I remember going to Nantasket Beach as a child. My mother was from Massachusetts, but I grew up in NJ (where she met my dad and settled). Each summer we'd drive up to Massachusetts in my mom's VW Beetle to visit my grandmother and either rent a house in Hull, or drive daily to the beach. I remember the old houses up on the cliffs, the store on the corner that always smelled like beach and grease (which I always associate with my childhood summers there), the screams from the riders on the coaster, walking down the concrete ramps to the sand, collecting stones, crabs and seaweed (and usually leaving it in the trunk of the car lol) I got that car as my first vehicle in 83, a '66 Chevy II, and the trunk always smells of the ocean. It's a shame that Paragon Park is gone but I'll never forget my childhood there! Wonderful to read all this!
anonymous on July 19, 2012:
Love this trip down "Memory Lane." One thing. The "Clock Tower" property where the Carousel now resides was never a part of the original Paragon Park
property. When the Park closed, it was sold at auction, moved across the street for a couple of weeks and then trucked to its present site.
ismeedee on May 11, 2012:
Nice lens... from a fellow Massachusetts'er (I refuse the other phrase I've heard used for us!! :)
mewhoelse on May 30, 2011:
Wow very interesting! Will keep this in my favorites!
KonaGirl from New York on May 29, 2011:
I love to travel and I'm traveling on a Giant Squid Angel Road Trip for Memorial Day weekend that brought me to this lens. I hope to make it to Nantasket this summer. Leaving you with a Squid Blessing. I created a featured lens module for my Memorial Day journey at My Squid Angel Wings and have added this lens.
Mary Beth Granger from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA on March 17, 2011:
Looks great...blessed and added to my United States Travel Angel lens.
anonymous on March 11, 2011:
I have heard about Nantasket since I was little, but never read anything about it until now. Very interesting and wonderful place. There are lots of places in this world I would just love to visit, and I just added one more to that list.
Lee Hansen (author) from Vermont on August 12, 2010:
@CreditRestoration1: By train I think Amtrak might be less than $99.00 to Boston, then you'd take local rail or bus to Hull.
CreditRestoration1 on August 12, 2010:
Do you have an idea if how much would it cost to travel from New York to Paragon Park?
CreditRestoration1 on July 28, 2010:
when i was a child I loved horses and the carousel was one of my fave rides..im glad they are restoring it...
anonymous on May 17, 2010:
Thank you for sharing. I run a website dedicated to Paragon Park which can be found at www.paragonparkmemories.com. Photos, stories and video and more.
southshoretees on April 13, 2010:
I never got to see this, but I've seen the carousel. It's too bad, it would be a lot of fun. I'm lensrolling this lens to my lens on Hull, MA. Great work!
Joan4 on August 06, 2009:
I am so glad they are restoring the carousel! We need to hold on to as many pieces of our history as we possibly can!
Robin S from USA on August 05, 2009:
Wish I were there!