A day at the beach sounds relaxing, but visitors to Arlington Amusement Beach in the 1920s sometimes got more thrills - and even chills - than anticipated…
Located along the Potomac River near present-day Long Bridge Park from 1923-1929, Arlington Amusement Beach was also quite close to a local aviation field.
The famous aviator Charles Lindbergh didn’t make his first historic trans-Atlantic flight until 1927, so many beach-goers were as fascinated by the spectacle of low flying planes practicing takeoffs and landings at National Aviation Field - and later Hoover Field and Washington Airport - as they were interested in a day on the water.
The first photo, taken in the late 1920s, shows a plane at Washington Airport. The second photo, taken in 1926, shows an aerial view of Hoover field, the Arlington Amusement Beach, and Washington airport.
Arlington Beach pamphlet, cover and page 4
But airplane watching wasn’t always fun. Beach-goers occasionally witnessed plane crashes and accidents, some even fatal.
On June 17, 1923, 2,000 people watched as Clarendon resident Clarence A. Rossignol fell to his death attempting to jump from airplanes to entertain the beach crowd. He was reportedly hoping that by successfully completing this stunt he would sign a contract with Arlington Amusement Beach to perform regularly.
In another accident, due to a heavy tailwind, a two-passenger plane crashed into the Potomac. Luckily both the pilot and his passenger—a tourist seeking the “thrill of a ride in an airplane”—survived.
To learn more visit the Center for Local History on the first floor of the Central Library.
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