The Buckroe Beach Amusement Park in Hampton, Va., welcomed visitors for the last time yesterday. T-shirts being sold at the 90-year-old amusement park in Hampton told the story: "Buckroe Beach Amusement Park . . . 1895-1985."
In the park's heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, "every day looked like today," Wallace Stieffen, 60, one of three brothers who own the 9-acre park, said of the large crowds for the final weekend. Competition from area theme parks made crowds in recent years scarce at Buckroe.
"Where have they been for the last 20 years?" asked another brother, Billy Stieffen. "Now they're coming down all sad, but they didn't support the place. They went to Busch Gardens and Kings Dominion."
The $7-million roller coaster at Busch Gardens in nearby Williamsburg cost more than all of Buckroe is worth, said Dennis Stieffen, the third brother.
Annual attendance has fallen under 100,000, he said, and the park -- which featured 12 rides for adults, 10 rides for children and 10 games -- last made money in 1968.
The Buckroe park was known for its 1920-vintage carousel with hand-carved horses. Also, its roller coaster, built in 1920, is the oldest large roller coaster in the country and the second-oldest overall, Dennis Stieffen said.
The roller coaster will be torn down and sold for lumber, he said, but the carousel probably will be sold. Stieffen said $750,000 has been offered for it, but the brothers are holding out for $1 million.