Like so much of old Knott's Berry Farm, there are certain areas that probably never should have disappeared. Walter Knott's Gold Mine is perhaps the best example. Serving as both a magnificently designed entry portal and introduction to Ghost Town proper, the mine attraction was probably one of the finest themed areas of the park - and it was clearly intended as such. The typical guest would cross this delightful threshold first thing after parking their car or having Knott's famous chicken dinner. While the wonders of Ghost Town beckoned you just beyond, this initial view was stunning. Look at that, will you?! There were dark gold mine tunnels to explore in that hole! And you could pan for real gold down there, too!
--- And we'd bet you did!
Most of the design credit for this spectacularly scenic attraction should go to gifted Hollywood artist, designer and Art Director of Ghost Town, Paul Von Klieben. Below is a rare article on the man as published in the March 1953 edition of the Knotty Post. Tragically, Paul died shortly after his retirement to gold country.
From our Liberty Ranch collection, here's a sampling of two older snapshots of the then newly opened mine. These treasured images would be from 1948. America having fun on a Sunday afternoon.
The rustic water wheel in the image below was a fine kinetic element of the rough and tumble gold mine area, adding greatly to the theme and background. How many of you still remember standing at the wooden rail up above it, peering down into the dusty mine pit and listening to its distinctive sound as it slowly turned? You'd hear the gentle rush of the creek water, of course, but there was a long iron pole in the gear mechanism of that wheel - and with every groaning turn of the wooden axle, the pole would rise slowly... and then fall with a delightful metallic bounce, CLANG ker-clink! CLANG ker-clink! Add to this ambient background the quiet hiss of the nearby steaming volcano (just out of picture) and the random deep RUMBLE of the volcanic activity (provided by the little devil figure turning his crank in Hades! You remember!) and you'd have one very memorable experience. Indeed, one that would last a lifetime.
Unfortunately, the old Knott's Gold Mine is no more, of course. Swept aside by the march of 'progress' and the need for bigger thrills. It's a pity, too, because the sculptured mountainous masterpiece you see in that top photo was more than a fine piece of theme park set design, it was nearly a transcendent work of art.
GhostRider, a large wooden roller coaster was built in and around the gold mine space in 1998. While a fine ride on its own, it's a shame that Walter Knott's original gold mine was largely removed (except for a small portion of the mountain) and not incorporated into the approach of the new attraction. The new coaster could only have been enhanced by its preservation and inclusion. Seen below, the cleared space where the gold mine once stood. Across the open dirt in this construction photo, one can see the once beautiful old Candy Kitchen building. She still stands today - though with a redesigned facade - serving primarily as a storage and locker area.
A little note on today's post: You may have noticed our new Stack's Liberty Ranch watermark on some of the photos. This will become commonplace as we make the transition to that venue. Please feel free to visit us soon on Facebook as we make progress on our exciting, theme park history project. From time to time, there will be goodies there for you to see, too! All are welcome! --- Ken