April 28, 2015 by

Krug Park was the place to be in early 20th century Omaha. The always-hopping amusement park lasted through a World War, the Great Depression, and Prohibition. There was nothing like it.

The park had a modest start in 1895 when German immigrant George Tietz bought land near what is now 52nd and Maple streets to create Tietz Park. He installed a beer garden and dance hall before later adding a bowling alley.

When Tietz died in 1903, the land went to brewery owner Frederick Krug of the Frederick Krug Brewing Co., who held the mortgage. Like Tietz, he was a German immigrant. Krug added rides, a tunnel of love, and ice cream parlor to the beer garden. He advertised the newly named Krug Park as “Omaha’s Polite Resort.”

Over the years, a 72-horse merry-go-round, a penny arcade, picnic grounds, swimming pool, wave machine, and dance pavilion were added. A  human cannonball, aerialists and horses diving into tanks also drew Omaha citizens, as did Sunday night balloon ascensions.

In 1908, a Methodist minister called “the fighting parson” led the Anti-Saloon League to challenge Krug Park’s beer permit and won. The park and its beer garden were closed until reopening in 1913.

Prohibition began in 1920. The beer garden closed, but the amusement park kept on swinging. Couples paid five cents a dance at the dance pavilion.

On May 12, 1922, an ad for Krug Park’s dance pavilion in the weekly newspaper The Mediator promised “no jazz music,” but instead “Just the best music of the better kind.” Ten West India monkeys arrived to live in the park’s monkey house.

Ads promoted performances by the popular Union Pacific Band. Krug Park was “the home of picnics,” bragged another ad. Sweltering citizens gathered at the shady park and splashed in the large swimming pool to escape the heat.

But the crowds dwindled after July 24, 1930, when four riders on the “Big Dipper” roller coaster were killed and 17 injured as the ride plunged 35 feet to the ground. At the time, it was called the worst roller coaster accident in the nation.

During the Depression, couples entered marathon dances at Krug Park hoping to win prizes. A 4,000-seat arena added in 1932 hosted wrestling and boxing matches.

The park closed in 1940. Neighbors concerned about the site near downtown Benson later petitioned the city to make it a
public park.

A fund drive led by the Omaha World-Herald in 1945 raised $30,000 to purchase the land and turn it into Gallagher Park, named after Mrs. Paul Gallagher, who fought to retain the land as a park. The city park opened in 1955.  A swimming pool and ball fields were added.

Krug Avenue in South Omaha was named for the original park’s namesake, Frederick Krug. Founded in 1859, his brewery sat in South Omaha at 29th and Vinton Streets.

Fittingly for a brewer who owned a beer garden, the word “krug” in German translates to ‘stein’ in English.

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