The original greater Cincinnati Amusement Park wasn’t King’s Island. It wasn’t even Coney Island. In fact, it wasn’t even Ludlow’s Lagoon. It was Parlor Grove, in Boone County.
Parlor Grove was located on the Ohio River, where it was an easy ride by steamboat from Cincinnati, as well as the other river towns. They had a Flying Dutchman – a merry-go-round – and featured cock fighting, dog fighting, picnicing, wrestling, boxing, dancing, and brass bands. They had their own baseball team as early as 1869.
A May 12, 1860 ad in the Covington Journal advertised a “Grand Social Pic-Nic” to be held at Parlor Grove on Wednesday, May 16th. Professor Warwood’s Band was featured entertainment, and tickets, “Admitting Ladies and Gentlemen,” could be had for $1. You could board the Steamer Champion at the foot of Walnut Street in Cincinnati at 7:30 a.m., Newport at 8 a.m., or Covington at 8:30 a.m.
The March, 2002 S&D Reflector has this to say: "In 1870, the first Sængerfest held in Cincinnati was concluded by a monster picnic, given at a grove on the bank of the Ohio within a few miles of the city. It was estimated that 50,000 people were transported thither on not more than ten steamboats, each of which made two or three trips. As most of these people remained at the grove till a late hour of the afternoon, the reader may imagine the density of the throng on the last return trip of the boats."
The St. Aloysius Young Men’s Society of the Mother of God Church held their “Pic-Nic” at Parlor Grove on May 29, “Pentecost Monday,” 1871. On June 18, 1872, the Young Men’s Sodality of St. Mary’s Cathedral held their pic-nic at Parlor Grove.
Lewis A. Yoder, of Petersburg, wrote in his diary on July 28, 1877: “88° F & Clear – a Picnic at Parlor Grove – Str Minnie took up a lot of people to it – Leon [his brother] & myself went up in a Buggy.”
The First Harvest Home Festival of Boone County was held at Parlor Grove in September of 1882. The Daily Commonwealth of Sept. 11, 1882 reported “target shooting, wheel of fortune, dancing, etc. were indulged in.” Gen. John W. Finnell gave an address, and premiums were awarded for fruit and grain crops, as well as sewing, lace, crochet, and embroidery work.
A Jim Reis column from the Kentucky Post notes that an account on March 28, 1900, said the Coney Island Co. was tearing down all the buildings at Parlor Grove and using the timber for Coney buildings. Charles Hempfling bought the old Parlor Grove site in 1903, and turned it into orchards.