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Neil, M.W, 2012, Luna Park: since 1912, Bounce Books, Thornbury, Vic , p. 11

Luna Park, St. Kilda, [1912]; H91.249/2 

It all started as fun, the best kind of fun, passing time on fast forward. Today it is an icon; you can’t visit Melbourne and not at least have a selfie with the impressive grinning entrance of Luna Park. 

The first mention of an Australian Luna Park was in a 1906 Billboard magazine announcing that architects and designers were working on plans for amusement parks in England and Australia. Things didn’t go so well and those plans were soon abandoned, but the idea had been planted. On 13th December 1912, 15,000 lights were turned on to announce the opening of Luna Park under the umbrella of Greater J.D. Williams Amusement Company. 

Luna Park. St. Kilda Beach showing the Ariel Railway with one of the cars going up it, [ca. 1912- ca.1915]; H90.160/937 

Luna Park holds all the thrills modern science can produce, has the biggest Scenic Railway Ride ever built, contains the only Bowl slide built outside America, was designed and built by one of the most capable contractors in the business, holds the largest and most elaborate Tea Terrace Garden in Australia and will be crowded nightly and be an assured success from the moment her spacious gates are flung open-because that is the Williams’ way.

Marshall, S, 1995, Luna Park just for fun, Luna Park Reserve Trust, Sydney, p. 37

22,319 people attended on opening night. At one point people had to be turned away from the gates. The first season operated until 26 April 1913 and during this time 439,000 people crossed the gates of the ‘fun house’. No wonder J.D Williams declared, “Australians are entitled to the best amusements in the world because they are the best amusement public in the world”1

For him [J.D Williams] Australia was a place of delightful climate peopled by working classes who had more money to spend on amusement than the average American and more time to spend in it.  

Marshall, S, 1995, Luna Park just for fun, Luna Park Reserve Trust, Sydney, p. 40

Luna Park carried many attractions over time, like a Curious Flea Circus, Electro and Electra (who gave electrical demonstrations), Siamese twins Daisy and Violet Hilton, Ardo the Human Frog, the River Caves and more. Inside the Palais des Folies (later called The Giggle Palace and Lounge) one could easily get lost by taking up the Devil’s Staircase or visiting the Distorting Mirrors. The revolving barrel and the Slippery Dips were also lots of fun. 

Luna Park, [ca. 1926]; H89.23 

New rides and attractions were added from time to time – moving pictures were shown in 1914 in the Palais des Folies (now Lounge).  

The two World Wars didn’t stop the fun world, but they did limit its activity. The park was closed during WWI, except for charity concerts. During WWII the park remained open and was very popular with American soldiers and their girlfriends, but the thousands of lights were dimmed at night so as not to provide an easy target for potential bombing raids. 

In 1951 major changes were made. An electricity generating plant was installed, and the Rotor was installed. Jack and Jill, the Carousel Building, and more were reconstructed. In 1953, the Park was refurbished for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. 

Luna Park at night, St. Kilda, Melbourne, Vic, [ca.1920-1954]. Photo by Rose Stereograph Co; H32492/6958 

Luna Park St Kilda is acclaimed as the world’s oldest amusement park under one management2. Its Scenic Railway is the world’s oldest operating roller coaster. Luna Park today is as alive as ever, filled with joy and laughter. Mr. Moon, with his giant mouth, is always ready to welcome fun-seekers of any age. 

  1. Marshall, S, 1995, Luna Park just for fun, Luna Park Reserve Trust, Sydney, p. 40
  2. ibid

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