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Noah's Ark 75th Anniversary

August 27, 2011

By Rick Davis

In the spring of 1936 the rains came and the snow melted, flooding Pittsburgh. Appropriately, Kennywood opened their newest funhouse, Noah’s Ark.

Kennywood’s Noah’s Ark is a rarity today for several reasons – It is the only one that was originally constructed by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (with Kennywood’s help), one of two (of the two-dozen or so built) left in the world and the only one operational at this time.
The Ark has seen many changes in its 75-year history, from the addition of a “laughing man” ballyhoo (and its later replacement with a clown) to props that reflected the time period: During World War II a coffin prop contained a “corpse” of Hitler, in the 50s a television antenna appeared on the roof and in the 60s Snoopy and other animals circled the Ark on a track, just to name a few changes.
In 1996 another flood plagued Pittsburgh as a brand new Arkwas created. Due for a major upgrade, the plan was to remove Mt Ararat and to lift the Ark off its foundation. It was soon discovered that 60 years of use were not kind to the structure; it would not survive the lifting process. Instead of leveling the attraction, Kennywood did what few other parks would even consider – it built a brand new Ark.
It was so well done that many park visitors don’t realize that the Ark was replaced. To most visitors, it appeared that Kennywood had removed the mountain and whale entrance and merely upgraded the Ark. The whale entrance was replaced with an “elevator” that would start your exploration of the boat.
In addition to the new entrance, all new scenes were introduced including the bathyscaph room before the exit. While this seems out of place, it is an interesting, and coincidental throw back to one original Noah’s Ark’s constructed in 1922. The plans for that Ark included a submarine scene in its lower deck!


A Celebration
 On August 27, 2011, approximately 50 DAFE members arrived at Kennywood to celebrate Noah’s Ark’s 75th anniversary. Kennywood’s Public Relations Director, Jeff Filicko, met us at the front gate at 9:30 am to treat us to a very special tour before the park opened to the public. Jeff then introduced us to Andy Quinn, Kennywood’s Director of Community Relations, who led us around the park on a historic tour of Kennywood’s dark attractions, past and present. Of course the highlight of the tour was Noah’s Ark.

As Andy related the history of the Ark, he proudly mentioned that one of his relatives carved the original animals that graced the outside of the Ark.
Ark Basement

Soon it was time for the behind-the-scenes tour of the Ark into areas that few people have seen. Groups of 4 or 5 were led first to the last remaining original portion of the Ark, the giant arm that makes the boat rock. Ride Operations Director, Marie Ruby, explained the heart of the attraction; this is also where the giant air compressor is located that provides motion to the props as well as the equipment necessary for creating the bursting wall illusion in the bathyscaph room not to mention access to the bottom of the two moving walkway sections.

In the next area of the tour the secret of the elevator is revealed. Of course, the elevator does not go up and down, it merely shakes and rattles, but few people realize that it also turns slightly counterclockwise to create the illusion that you are on a different level when the door opens.

Ride operator Tim Michalak pointed out that some artwork from a previous version of the Ark is still on the walls of this area normally not seen by the public.

From this point on we were free to continue on to enjoy the rest of the Ark that the public sees.

After the entire group finished the tour, Rick Davis presented Marie Ruby with a plaque commemorating the Ark’s anniversary.

There was still one special surprise for DAFE members though; we were invited to take the first ride of the day on Ghostwood Estate. Jeff Filicko announced that the two high scorers would be invited to see another special area of Kennywood that very few people get to see – the park’s archive which is actually located above the loading area of Ghostwood Estate. Rick Davis (who was “banned” from competing!) and Dave Hahner were the high scorers (Dave graciously bowed out as well) leaving Pam Kanai and Barb Ranker as the top scorers. Barb allowed Pam’s husband Brian to accompany Pam in the archive.

Kennywood may have the best record of its history of any park in existence other than Disney parks. Even those of us that have used the archive in the past in its original location were surprised by the additional material to be found in the new location.

As Pam and Brian perused the archive, the remainder of the membership enjoyed the rest of the day in the park.

Thanks again, Kennywood for a very special day and our best wishes to Noah’s Ark for another 75 years of entertainment for generations to come!