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Before there was Kennywood, there was Luna Park

Mary Pickels
| Tuesday, July 18, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Luna Park was only open for four years in the early 1900s.
Luna Park was only open for four years in the early 1900s.
Luna Park was only open for four years in the early 1900s.
Luna Park was only open for four years in the early 1900s.

Younger, and newer, visitors to Kennywood Park may be unaware of its predecessor, Luna Park, a short-lived, turn-of-the-20th-century amusement park in North Oakland that is perhaps more accurately described as a carnival sideshow.

The park's strange and nearly forgotten tales are highlighted in a new book, "Luna: Pittsburgh's Original Lost Kennywood," written by historian Brian Butko and published by the Senator John Heinz History Center, a Smithsonian Institution affiliate.

The book's stories will be highlighted in a July 21 event featuring Butko, fellow amusement park buff Rick Sebak and Kennywood insider Andy Quinn, hosted by Row House Cinema and Bierport in Lawrenceville.

Butko, who also authored "Kennywood: Behind the Screams," takes readers through a park open from 1905-09, and built by roller coaster inventor and amusement park visionary Frederick Ingersoll.

Barkers hawked souvenirs, live animal acts sometimes turned deadly and visitors paid to ogle newborn babies, housed in incubators, who had been born to indigent mothers. Overhead, displays of electric lights further illuminated a starry night sky.

Butko's new book of tales, historic photos and original artwork by Ron Grice, Leda Miller, Kathy Rooney, Marcel Lamont (M.L.) Walker, Wayno and Mark Zingarelli is on sale for pre-order for $12.95 at the history center museum shop or online at

Come one, come all, step right up to hear about Pittsburgh's fabled Luna Park

The July 21 event will include a carnival-esque atmosphere, with free admission, mini ice cream cone samples from Isaly's, balloon animals, fortune telling, a "Paper Moon" Luna Park entrance cutout for photo ops, and Kennywood's Bob the Juggler.

A ticketed session with Sebak, Butko, and Quinn is also available, with an exploration of Pittsburgh's amusement park history, the origins of Luna Park and Kennywood, and exclusive outtakes from Sebak's popular WQED special, "Kennywood Memories."

Admission also includes a copy of Butko's book and a souvenir.

Forgotten Kennywood: The (Often) Strange History of Luna Park

When: 6-9 p.m. July 21

Admission: Free, $20 for ticketed session

Where: Row House Cinema and Bierport, 4115 Butler St., Pittsburgh

Details: 412-454-6459 or

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