The late Charles R. Wood, who would be 99 this year, is known as the ‘Father of Theme Parks,’ after opening what is now known as The Great Escape in Lake George NY, and co-founding the Double ‘H’ Hole in the Woods Ranch, a camp in Lake Luzerne NY for children with cancer and blood-related diseases.
It’s always interesting tracing the history of well-known attractions, like the Great Escape. The story of Charles R. Wood and the impact he had in Lake George and on the world is no exception.
In 1954, Charles R. Wood and his wife purchased a mansion in Lake George NY and opened a resort. Although beautiful, guests complained there wasn’t much to do in the area. Hearing their requests for thrills and amusement, a land based on Mother Goose rhymes was born (a whole year before DisneyLand was opened!).
Many are familiar with the now Great Escape and Splashwater Kingdown, but less familiar that until 1982 the theme park was known as Storytown USA. The five-acre park opened with just four employees before it evolved into the 150-acre Great Escape, making it one of America’s oldest theme parks. Today, the Great Escape features a ‘kingdom’ of water-slides and more than 125 rides.
One of the most famous attractions at the Great Escape that Charles R. Wood brought back to life is the Comet, a wooden roller coaster that had been previously in Crystal Beach, Ontario. Coaster enthusiasts consider the Comet one of the world’s best wooden coasters. (It was the first and best roller coaster I’ve ever ridden!)
Charles R. Wood did not only dream of entertaining travelers at the Great Escape, but also of being able to fulfill the childhood dreams of sick children. In 1991 he, along with actor Paul Newman, purchased a 300-acre dude ranch in Lake Luzerne NY and founded the Double “H” Hole in the Woods Ranch.
The philanthropy of Charles R. Wood did not end at the Ranch, and in October of 2001, Mr. Wood donated $1.4 million to the oncology department at Glens Falls Hospital – the largest charitable gift from an individual in the institution’s history. In recognition of his significant contribution, the hospital re-named their community cancer center to the C.R. Wood Cancer Center.
The hospital boasts this quote from Mr. Wood,
“We do what we can for society but it must come from our heart.”
Charles R. Wood lived life with a pure heart, from bringing amusement to the public to giving hope and joy to those who are suffering. Honor Mr. Woods by visiting our local amusement parks or giving back in our community.
You can check our events page to see all the fun activities and volunteer opportunities in our area. What will you be doing to remember the ‘Father of Theme Parks’?