History of Knott's Berry Farm
The Knott's Berry Farm amusement park in Orange County, California originated from a berry farm owned by Walter Knott (1889-1981). In the 1920s, Knott and his wife, Cordelia, sold berries, berry preserves and pies from a roadside stand beside State Route 39, near the small town of Buena Park.
In 1932, on a visit to Rudolph Boysen's farm in nearby Anaheim, Walter Knott was introduced to a new hybrid berry of blackberry, red raspberry and loganberry cross-bred by Boysen, who gave Walter his last six wilted berry-hybrid plants. Walter planted and cultivated them, then the family sold the berries at their roadside stand. When people asked what kind they were, he called them "Boysenberrys".
In 1934, to make ends meet, Knott's wife Cordelia (1890–1974) reluctantly began serving fried chicken dinners on their wedding china. For dessert, Knott's signature Boysenberry Pie was also served to guests dining in the small tea room. As Southern California developed, Highway 39 became the major north-south connection between Los Angeles County and the beaches of Orange County, and the restaurant's location was a popular stopping point for drivers making the two-hour trip in those days before freeways. Until Interstate 605 and State Route 57 were built in the late 1960s, Highway 39 (now known in Orange County as Beach Boulevard) continued to carry the bulk of the traffic between eastern Los Angeles and Orange County. Great location and good value were the restaurant's conditions of success which attracted long lines of diners.
- 1 Amusements
- 2 Ghost Town
- 3 Calico Square
- 4 East side
- 5 More expansion
- 6 Enclosure
- 7 Timber Mountain Log Ride
- 8 1970's and beyond
- 9 Wild Water Wilderness
- 10 References
As time went on, more shops and interactive displays were opened to entertain patrons waiting for a seat at the Chicken Dinner Restaurant. The Berry Market expanded South from Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant along Grand Ave. with the addition of wishing wells, rock gardens with miniature waterfalls, water wheels and a grindstone "Down by the Old Mill Stream", near a replica of George Washington's Mount Vernon fireplace which the Knotts had seen while on vacation and admired it so much that they replicated it behind Jams & Jellies; Lost and Found, Nursery, Preserving Kitchen and Administration Offices. Before long, the Knotts had added Virginia's Gift Shop and several more shops and attractions such as a 15-million-year-old petrified log, a thirteen-foot diameter cross section of coastal redwood cut at age 750 years, a visible bee-hive and an oxcart, with several wagons  provided additional photo opportunities. The entire operation would soon be renamed Knott's Berry Place.
Walt built a 12-foot-tall volcano of lava rock trucked in from the Pisgah Mountain and equipped it with a boiler that rumbled, hissed, and spit steam at the push of a button. Two signs posted nearby read:
- "Danger, keep out" and
- "Only active volcano in Southern California moved in from the mojave desert complete—and has been erupting faithfully ever since."
"It's not half as fool a thing as it seems," Knott told the Farm Journal. "When the customers pile up so we can't seat them, the girls send them out to ... play with the volcano. They get so interested that I've had to install a loud speaker system to call them to their meals when the tables are ready." The volcano cost $600, and Knott figured it paid for itself the first month. At some point in the late '50s or early '60s, a fanciful mechanical contraption displayed within a 2'x2' box replaced the manual push button. A small red devil with fiery wings cranked a chain behind the glass driving a larger black drum fitted with bent sheet metal acting as cams around its edge, several turns of the demon would cause the cams to strike switches and the active volcano would illuminate, rumble, hiss and/or steam – simulating vulcan activity. The caption sign above the enclosure read "This is the apparatus that controls the volcano. It was made by Henry Legano, and is operated by the gentleman turning the crank. (Sound effect by Bob Halliard.)". The volcano became the "Cornerstone" for a real gold mine, both figuratively and literally.
The most popular genre of motion picture at the time was 'The Western,' and western theming was quick and easy to make: slap some concrete over chicken wire and carve it into rockwork before it sets, known today as shotcrete. This construction technique became the basis for fabricating much of what was to become Knott's – from stairways to mountains and tunnels, even the drinking fountains shaped like tree-stumps. Using techniques like those on the Watts Towers one could set decoration in it, like the sheet of quartz containing a dark sandy vein indicating gold – as was the entrance to the gold mine/pan for gold.
From the West side of the volcano, guests could enter a mine shaft following a vein of gold down into a large open pit and the Pan-for-Gold activity where customers could buy a ticket to pan for real gold to take home in a vial. Nearby the gold mine shaft entrance, the prospectors mule would haul a stone around an Arrastra, a circular ore grinding pit, filled with gold bearing quartz to release its gold. (In 1998 the mine entrance was converted to the entrance for the Ghost Rider rollercoaster which descended from the station into the former Gold Mine pit. Pan-for-Gold was moved West to School House Road between Boot Hill and the Miner's Bank, but has since been moved back to the original location.)
The Ghost Town is the oldest part of today's enclosed Knott's Berry Farm amusement park, and includes most of the buildings Walter brought to the property in the 1940s and 1950s.
Old Trails Hotel
Little by little, Walt began building a ghost town in 1940, using buildings relocated from real old west towns such as Prescott, Arizona. Painted signs of Old Trails Hotel had a humorous scrawl of the letter 'G', as if to hastily change the name to Gold Trails Hotel. It was the first of many and re-built to house a salute to the hardship endured by early settlers.
The Wagon Train Panorama – a free, three-minute show. Originally the entrance was through the open end of a Conestoga Wagon The canvas covering of the wagon entrance did not last long and was converted to a wooden extension of the hotel which effectively 'built-in' the wagon. The enclosed Conestoga Wagon showcased several artifacts relating to the pioneers who endured the hardship of traveling to California in covered wagons. Pioneers were welcomed to sign a '49er's guest book, while waiting for the free three-minute presentation in tribute to those hardy 1849 pioneers. The Covered Wagon Show featured a static diorama of a covered wagon train crossing Death Valley and ended with the voice of a little girl saying "Mommy, I want a drink of water!"
Along the south side of Main Street where the line of waiting diners wrapped around the building, he filled themed "shops" with relics set into a scene of whimsy. Starting at the corner of Gold Mine Road and Main Street, "Deadwood Dick's" grave marker showed that he died with his boots on, near Soldado José wood carving of a Mexican Soldier. The playback in the Assayer's Office pits the owner attempting to discover, and jump, the claim location against the prospector yet to stake his claim. Hop Wing Lee the proprietor of the Chinese Laundry irons endlessly, singing western tunes in Mandarin. The Barber shaves One Eye Ike and contemplates his wanted poster hanging nearby. A piano player was hired to play outside the Silver Dollar Saloon where real cups of boysenberry drink could be purchased with snacks. The Sheriff's Office hosted a crooked poker game. To interest folks and entice them to the back of the line, Gold Dust Goldie's Hotel featured a live gentleman interested in a few details about your group about to visit Sad Eye Joe back in the Town Jail – to surprise them with personal comments. Goldie's leg in fishnet stocking and high-button shoe, covered with petticoats hung out of an upstairs window of Goldie's Place would kick then return to thump the clapboarding, as if to advertise the brothel.
Reflecting humor in illiteracy, the establishment's name was intentionally misspelled "Pitchur Gallery". In 1940 Gus Thornrose set up shop behind the 'G'old trails hotel, with standees, a Western saloon bar-room scene, and even a stuffed bucking bronco posed in mid throw. Near the cuspidor (spittoon) was a sign which was captured in many souvenir photographs "Spit on ceiling, anyone can spit on the floor." Folks could select from a wide variety of costuming and stand for a pose, or choose to put their faces through holes of humorous standees such as lifting weights, prospector dancing with a Can-can girl or sit behind painted oxen hauling a covered wagon to be captured with vintage wooden large format bellows cameras onto glass photographic plates. Digital capture has since replaced the labor-intensive development process. "You'll never know how good you look, until ya gits yer pitchur took."
Along the north side of Main Street were benches on the boardwalk featuring photo opportunities with fiberglass figures of the grizzled prospectors Handsome Brady with Whiskey Jim (although the sign behind the bench called him Whisky Bill, a misprint) and the dancing girls Marilyn and Cecelia Hargrave, a very popular hand pump among the kids which recirculated water through a horse drinking trough, and Old Betsy the popular photo-opportunity of a small saddle-tank steam locomotive and borax train beside the Blacksmith's shop. A real live Blacksmith in a large leather apron would stoke the hearth with bellows. Then with a hammer, forge the red hot iron on an anvil to shape souvenir horseshoes. It still is a real working blacksmith, and much of the ironwork seen in the park was commissioned to be fabricated there. Guests can have implements made such as custom fireplace pokers and even branding irons.
Walter re-built a Windmill water pump originally from England and used here on a ranch beside the Livery Stable housing a collection of wagons, coaches, and horse-drawn hearses. Walter didn't think his collection of old buildings would get much bigger, so the stable was placed across "the end" of Main St. and the Dry Gulch Pack Train and stage coach ride planned for Stage Coach Road.
Bottle House and Music Hall
The Bottle House (1948) housed a 4'x4' hundred year old oil painting of a Chief and his wife and a collection of ancient ornate musical instruments, coin-operated amusements, gambling devices, along with elaborate and rare music boxes from France, Switzerland, and Germany. The Swiss birdcages featuring whistling mechanical automaton birds were among the inspirations of Walt Disney to create Audio-Animatronics.
Covered Wagon Camp
With the success of the free entertainment, another Western themed attraction was dug into a pit and terraced with concrete rockwork. Live performances of popular Country and Western bands and singers were featured, as guests gathered around a raging campfire, surrounded by a circle of Conestoga wagons, humorously painted with slogans such as "California, or bust" on the Prairie Schooner canvas. Part of that installation included Sutters a fast food burger, hot dog, pizza, chilli, fries and drinks stand, served in a folding cardboard box as a box lunch for enjoyment in the Covered Wagon Camp, setting a precedent and long-standing tradition of enjoying a meal purchased at Knott's to be enjoyed anywhere.
Knott's Berry Farm transitioned from a way-point into a destination as word spread.
Mark Smith Horse Show
A wild west style horse show was in an open air bleacher stadium, where Calico Mine Ride is now. It was similar to the Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.
The Butterfield Stagecoach Line left every few minutes from the Stage Depot in 1949. Well trained four-horse teams hauled historic equipment – 3 original Butterfield coaches, 1 Halloday coach, 1 Overland Southern coach and the Knott's Berry Farm coach that was built for the farm in 1954. Guests enjoyed a Stagecoach journey North to Whiskey Flat looping around the badlands filled with bad men.
In 1951 Walter Knott inherited his uncle's silver mill in Calico, an old silver mining town near Barstow, where he worked as a child, then proceeded to purchase the entire town and restored the Calico Hotel there. Many structures were re-created on the ruins of their foundation. Other structures were disassembled, removed, and reassembled near the railroad depot to create the new Calico Square.
When folks wanted entertainment during the day, Walter provided several more intimate shows, more frequently.
The Calico Saloon at the west end of Market Street was the featured building fronting Calico Square. A tiny stage was located above the West end of the balcony, later it was replaced by a wide formal stage, south behind the bar. It hosted a variety show inside with a piano player, a few vaudeville routines, and "Dakota Dan", "Calico Kate" and Marilyn and Cecilia Hargrave, sister dancing girls performing the Can-Can finale (and later immortalized as the fiberglass dancing girl figures on a bench outside the saloon.) A wide stairway led up to the interior and outside balconies. The inside balcony provided additional seating and tables, along with the best view of the show. A pair of baskets operated like a dumbwaiter to lift meal orders up to the hostess there.
Outside in Calico Square Harvey Walker played Doctor I. Will Skinem performed his Medicine Show and peddled "Boysenberry Elixir" from his wagon/stage near the popcorn cart, the same wagon stage featured Professor Mal-De-Mers, and a young Steve Martin on banjo between performances at the Bird Cage Theater. Cowboys confronted the Sheriff and his posse. They performed shootouts with flips and stunts, even a high fall. To wrap it up, fifteen minutes of comedy involved the Boot Hill Undertaker trying to remove the body from the Calico Square Wild West Show. The Knott's Berry Farm's Wild West Stunt show performances are scheduled at the Covered Wagon Camp nowadays, with impromptu shootouts in front of the Blacksmith, outhouse and Calico Saloon.
Between the saloon and the general mercantile was the Post Office which was for a time a real working U.S. post office and Wells Fargo Express walk-in attraction displays. The post office featured cutting-edge 1870's postal technology and the Express office depicted activities of a gunsmith. Contemporary postage stamps can be purchased there daily from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and mail deposited is dutifully forwarded to the U.S. Postal Service.
Ghost Town & Calico Railroad
In 1951 work began to grade and lay track for a grand circle rail route for recently acquired authentic 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge C-19 engines No. 340 Green River (renamed Gold Nugget #40) from the Denver & Rio Grande and No. 41 Red Cliff from the Rio Grande Southern, historic Consolidation class (2-8-0) locomotives from Colorado. They would haul a yellow combination baggage/coach No. 103 Calico with arrows embedded near the baggage door (now renamed to original Chama, arrows and numbers removed and painted in heritage period Pullman-green livery of D&RGW) and several more vintage wooden passenger coaches filled with delighted guests on round trip excursions when the route opened on January 12, 1952. The Durango parlor car, the Silverton observation sleeper and the B-20 Edna Business cars were held with the caboose on sidings during normal operation. Whether in the heavyweight steam train or the light duty Galloping Goose No. 3, the highlight most guests remember are the train robbers of the Knott's Scenic Route of the Ghost Town & Calico Railroad.
Calico Mine Train
Bud Hurlbut created this rumbling tour aboard six ore cars fitted along the sides with benches behind a fanciful representation of a small steam locomotive on a narrated journey touring the "Calico Mine". Admission could be purchased from the shack at the base of the trail up to the station. An underground lake, steam geyser, shaft elevator, Philip Deidesheimer's Square-set timbering construction techniques on the lift hill and several glimpses of the "Glory Hole" could be seen aboard this power assisted gravity coaster. A day-glow painted cavern featured several formations of stalactites hanging from the ceiling, and stalagmites building slowly from the floor, to dramatic organ music. Dead Man's Trestle was then crossed slowly before the train became a "runaway" through a blasting zone and cave-in for a thrilling climax of this enclosed, power assisted gravity roller-coaster.
Along the front was an overhang built to cover the Mule Train boarding area. The Mule Trail was relocated east across Beach Blvd, and then removed entirely when those shallow canyons were converted to the picnic grounds.
Bud Hurlbut (Wendell "Bud" Hurlbut 1918-Jan. 5, 2011)    of Hurlbut Amusement Company constructed Calico Mine Train which opened in 1960 on Walter Knott's property at a cost of $1.5 Million as a concession, and paid Walt a portion of ticket sales. When Walt visited Bud during construction he asked "Do you know what you are doing?" and even though he had invested every cent and more Bud replied "Yes." He told the story later and added "…and I never lied to him again.". Bud lived in an apartment with a cot and refrigerator, hidden inside near the train storage tracks and repair shop; a short commute to an endless task. It incorporated many innovative designs, such as being the first attraction to incorporate a hidden switchback queue. When Walt Disney came to ride he was astonished enough to exclaim "You old S.O.B!" because the trail was obscured, it appeared to have a shorter wait than actual, which is now the industry standard.
Bud was also the operator of the Knott's Lagoon attractions – the merry-go-round, the row-boat and peddle-boat rental, the Cordelia K. Steamboat side-wheel steam boat, and continued to construct superior amusement park steam locomotives and trains, like the Miniature Train circling Knott's Lagoon. He would continue to create world class attractions, such as the Antique Auto Ride and Timber Mountain Log Ride at Knott's and other theme parks. The Calico Mine Train remains a popular attraction.
Judge Roy Bean's Saloon
A faithful re-creation of "The Jersey Lilly" Judge Roy Bean's Saloon in Langtry, Texas opened with casks on each end of the bar disguising Boysenberry Drink fountains. Coin-operated vintage gambling machines were converted to amusements where every pull was a winner and rewarded one souvenir token.
Couples could "Get Hitched" in a comedic mock matrimonial ceremony, conducted by "The Judge" barkeep and justice of the peace. The bent horseshoe nail 'wedding rings' were selected to fit the bride and groom from a pailfull. A painting of Lillie Langtry was purported to adorn the wall, which upon further examination turned out to be the unsinkable Molly Brown. This building was later moved west to Calico Square for construction of the Native Dancer performance stage of Indian Trails.
Beach Boulevard intersected the property, but that did not halt development. A tunnel was built under the road for two way traffic, later converted to Eastbound motor traffic and pedestrian underpass. Developments on the East replaced the last orchards with Jungle Island, Knott's Lagoon, the temporary home of the Mule Train, and, eventually, Independence Hall, the Picnic Grounds, the main parking lot which replaced Knotts Lagoon, Soak City and the final relocation of the Church of Reflections.
Jungle Island, home of the Woodamels could be reached by presenting a "C" ticket from the Super Bonanza Book or purchasing a ticket from the booth at one end of a covered bridge for admission across a shallow moat to a forested hill where children found adventure and played hide-and-seek games all day. Woodamles were "creatures" made from strange shapes of wood with glowing googly eyes and nearby speakers to give them voice. Kids could ride a pair of Woodamles at the water's edge like a teeter-totter, which activated splashing effects. Another woodamle nearby was ridden like a rocking horse to spray a stream of water out over the moat. There were paths up the terraced hill which led to more woodamles and activities. The "Catawampus" woodamle survives beside the windmill in Ghost Town, but Jungle Island and the adjoining Burro Trail were incorporated into the private picnic grounds in the 1990s.
North of Jungle Island, Knott's lagoon covered more than an acre with an artificial lake, encircled by a miniature railroad with a carousel at its edge, by the ticket and boat house. Bud Hurlbut operated the amusements, and built most of them. The lake featured rental rowboats and paddle-boats and the Cordelia K. – a side-wheel riverboat excursion named for Walt's wife. Corn kernels could be purchased by the handful from gum-ball machines mounted on poles near the water's edge, and a popular activity for local residents was feeding the ducks who lived there year-round. Knott's Lagoon was bulldozed and paved over to become the main parking lot when Camp Snoopy was built on the former North parking lot. Some ducks moved to other parks and lakes, but many ducks still live and gather in the Jungle Island Moat north of Independence Hall, and many local residents still stop by regularly to feed the ducks and coots.
Frequent activities at what Knott called a "summer-long county fair" included – naturally – boysenberry pie eating contests. When Disneyland was built in nearby Anaheim, the two attractions were not seen as direct competitors, due to the different nature of each. Walt Disney visited Knott's Berry Farm on several occasions, and hosted the Knotts at his own park (including inviting the Knotts to Disneyland's opening day). The two Walters had a cordial relationship, and worked together on a number of community causes.
As Knott's Berry Farm continued to grow in the 1950s, new displays were added.
A featured attraction of 1954 which existed at both Knott's Berry Farm and the recently acquired Calico, California was a walk through amusement purporting to demonstrate aberrations of gravity. Tickets were sold at a window at the head of the queue which ended in a group waiting area. A tour guide would then collect the tickets as guests were seated on benches facing a fence built in forced perspective behind a level concrete slab in the shape of a cuneiform cross. A tall and short guest were selected as volunteers to demonstrate a mysterious property of the property – when they swapped places, they were perceived to change size. Guests were then led down a canyon to witness water flowing uphill. Then into the first room of a highly slanted shack containing a pool table where every shot sinks to the highest corner pocket, a shelf where a soft drink bottle was seen to roll uphill, and a broom was seen to stand unsupported at a slant. In the next room, guests were selected to stand "off the wall" and women were challenged to rise "Lady Like" from a seat. Then moving outside, water was hand-pumped to a hanging pail but always flowed to one side and missed. To explain the water, a sliding panel was moved revealing a water faucet hanging in mid air from a wire, with a steady stream of water pouring out. Then the group moved into the bedroom to witness a scene with the shack's owners, 'Shaky Sadie' in a rocker and 'Slanty Sam' in bed. The lights dimmed revealing spooks of luminous paint. From an outhouse at the exit words were heard complaining about the sudden queue for the potty from inside, stating they may have to wait awhile – then the door would fling open revealing the surprise of a seated human skeleton with newspaper as if reading.
Walter's son Russell's personal collection of fluorescent rocks that glowed under ultraviolet light;
El Camino Real – The Kings Highway
In 1956, a miniature El Camino Real was completed, running North from the end of Stage Road at the railroad depot, underneath a pedestrian underpass of the Stagecoach trail then alongside it, up to the far edge of the park at La Palma Avenue. Along the way were twenty-one adobe enclosures each displaying a miniature model accurately portraying life and activities of the next Spanish mission in California to the north, with descriptive text beside the viewing window.
The Candy Parlor anchored the South end of Gold Mine Road, rose garden featuring an antique four-face pedestal clock, past the Steak House with its Bakery, Garden Room and Rock and Book Shop across from Gold mine. Across Main Street, the Hangman's Tree stood ominously beside the adobe Fire Station providing little shade to the ore grindstone pulling burro circling the arrastra, and one could view the Covered Wagon Show Wagon Train Panorama in the 'G'Old Trails Hotel.
Across Market Street and to the East guests were entertained while circled around the bonfire in the Covered Wagon Camp. The path split as "The Trail to the Chapel" and "Trail to Indian Post and Art Glow" which went North across the Cable Car tracks, between the Seal Pool and Old MacDonald's Farm, under the Stagecoach path to the Merry-Go-Round, Children's Model T Ride – glorified coin-operated kiddie-rides set into pavement near miniaturized city street facades, and Antique Auto Ride – a car ride built by Bud Hurlbut electrically powered and guided by a center rail, which was later renamed Tijuana Taxi.
Calico Square expanded South as well. In 1958, Mott's Miniatures opened at the West end of Museum Lane in Jeffries Barn with the Boxing Museum. Next door to the East, the Western Trails Museum, then the School House and at the junction of School road – a reproduction of The Bird Cage Theater the famous Tombstone, Arizona landmark.
Knott's Bird Cage Theatre featured Live Old Time Melodramas with fanciful subtitles such as Riverboat Revenge and Wreck of the Bluebell Express or Don't Switch the Engine, it has a Tender Behind wherein the audience was encouraged to participate by cheering the hero, "Aw" for the heroine and to boo and hiss at the villain., which was the starting place for many small-time actors, as well as that of Steve Martin. Between shows, the actors would pose for photographs as walk-around atmosphere characters of Ghost Town.
Across Museum Lane to the North, Antique Pianos, the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Supply House Miniature Train store and the Gun Shop.
California Street Cable R.R. Cable Cars
In the early to mid-1960s, the park was visited more by "locals" than tourists. Children fortunate enough to have grown up in the area may still recall taking a battery-electric powered San Francisco Cable Car to the South end of the parking lot to drive a Model-T at Henry's Auto Livery on the Northwest corner of Beach Blvd. and Crescent Ave.
Between the blown-up Miner's Bank and the Grist Mill with its water-wheel grindstone bagging corn meal or wheat flour was a collection of mining equipment, shafts, and shacks playing fanciful recordings of their activity. A few steps beyond, in Boot Hill Cemetery, headstones and grave markers gave macabre humor to the fate of the deceased – Hiram McTavish even invited bystanders to good luck by feeling the heartbeat by standing on his mound.
Organ Grinder – Stepping out onto Market Street kids of all ages would surround the circle of yellow paint on the ground under the pepper trees near the adobe arches and wait for the organ grinder to arrive. Turning the crank on the brightly painted music box, his trained monkey "Shorty" would hop around the edge of the circle, snatching your pennies and tipping his hat by way of thanks.
North past the Church of Reflections and Our Little Chapel by the Lake, was the Indian Trading Post on an island in the lake, Inspiration House, Art Glow and Flamingo Pond, towards the area which would soon become home to Fiesta Village, one would cross the Cable Car tracks and walk past Old MacDonald's Farm to get to the Seal Pool.
Old MacDonald's Farm, an elaborate petting zoo was an animal attraction that lasted longer than the Burro Train and Seal Pool, replaced in 1978 with Montezooma's Revenge and a restaurant. In Old MacDonald's Party Garden there were a handful of themed areas where parents could host their children’s birthday party for a nominal rental fee. The coveted spot was the birdcage, an actual metal framework built up on stilts.
North, across the Cable Car tracks, was Old MacDonald's Farm – a petting zoo with: goats, bunnies, and chickens, even a pair of hundred year old Galapagos tortoise, and for a short while, a baby elephant. A goat could climb the wall to a cage high atop the corner and becon folks into the enclave, for 25 cents. Parents cautioned their children to keep a tight hold on their shirt tails and bags of candy, for nothing was safe from the curious nibblings of the wandering goats. A nickel cranked in nearby converted gumball machines would buy a handful of alfalfa pellets to feed them. Henrietta – the piano-playing chicken could be found within a wooden coop surrounded by glass. Pushing a nickel in the coin slide would illuminate a red lamp atop her toy piano and signal her to peck out a song; when she’d hit enough keys, a sprinkling of corn would be released into her food tray. The petting zoo was also home to a unique riding attraction – a one horse powered carousel swing. The Knott’s had ingeniously converted a hot walker into a kiddie ride. Pairs or trios of children would sit on wooden seats suspended from the end of eight poles radiating from a central axis where a mule patiently waited under the canvas shade. The handler, wearing overalls with a bandanna around the neck, would sit on the rig behind the mule and start the swings circling by walking the mule.
Seal Pool. Park goers were delighted by the sights and sounds (and smells) of the Seal Pool. Perhaps nothing was more exciting than holding the rapt attention of the seals as guests dangled one of a half dozen sardines, sold nearby in small paper bags – 15¢ or two for a quarter.
All visitors to Buena Park are encouraged to enjoy complementary admission to this patriotic attraction – re-created brick-for-brick on the east property in 1966. Independence Hall continues to feature an audio presentation, with speakers located at appropriate tables, which recalls the debate which led to the United States Declaration of Independence, and is frequented by "Adventures in Education" student groups. Displays have included a replica of the Liberty Bell and a replica of the original Star Spangled Banner Flag which flew over Fort McHenry through a British attack during the War of 1812, which influenced Francis Scott Key to pen the poem that became the National Anthem of the United States. This replica of Philadelphia's Independence Hall was so accurately re-created that it was used in the 2004 film National Treasure, and the blueprints of the replica were requested to reference during the restoration of the original Independence Hall in Philadelphia, PA.
By 1967 the property, with access from all directions, became very attractive to locals and visitors from near and far.
In 1968, 25 cents admission was charged for the first time, after the Knott family rerouted the Cable Car and circled the property in a tall fence. The fence enclosed three themed areas:
- Calico Ghost Town as originally built. Handstamp viewing lamps were added behind the new entrance gate starting north of the volcano. Exit turnstiles and the re-entry gates were added across Gold Mine Road, allowing ready access to the Steakhouse, dining and shops.
- Fiesta Village portraying Spanish California, a re-theme of the North property starting at the Church of Reflection.
- Gypsy Camp A new expansion in the former West parking lot, with Thieves Den a large amusement machine arcade (which is still present, but diminished by the world's largest Johnny Rocket's) an outdoor stage with the world's largest water curtain, 'caves' with a magic shop, air bazooka game, and featuring the immense John Wayne Theater, later the water curtain would be moved into the theater, and the entrance thru the John Wayne Museum would be incorporated into the Cordy's Corner shop when the Roaring 20's conversion built an elevated railway themed ramp spiraling up around Wheeler Dealer Bumper Cars up to a wide outdoor balcony along the back wall of the theater.
After the fence was installed, construction and development began energetically at a rapid pace.
Timber Mountain Log Ride
After a year of design and fabrication, Bud Hurlbut opened the sawmill themed Log Flume in 1969 – under the original name of Calico Log Ride. The first official public riders were John Wayne and his son Ethan. Arguably the best log ride in the world, it features vintage logging equipment including a small steam train on display within interior pine scented woodland forest scenes detailed with taxidermy forest animals, a dark interior drop, and a twin flume split passenger loading station. A lumberjacks logrolling competition show was featured for several years on the pond between the final plunge and the station.
1970's and beyond
Roaring Twenties re-themed Gypsy Camp in the 1970s with the addition of a nostalgic traditional amusement area, Wheeler Dealer Bumper Cars, Knott's Bear-y Tales. Then with the northward expansion of a 1920s-era Knott's Airfield themed area featuring the Studio-K Dance Hall, Sky Cabin/Parachute Sky Jump and Motorcycle Chase steeple chase roller coaster above the electric guided rail Gasoline Alley car ride. The expansion was keystoned by the innovative new roller coaster Corkscrew.
Sky Tower with the illuminated "K" in logo script at the top was built to support two attractions, the Parachute Sky Jump (now closed) and the Sky Cabin. Parachute Sky Jump boarded one or two standing riders anticipating the thrill of the drop into baskets beneath a faux parachute canopy. From the top, eight arms supported the vertical cable tracks of wire rope which lifted the baskets. The Sky Cabin ringed the support pole with a single floor of seats that are enclosed behind windows. The Sky Cabin ring revolves slowly as it rises to the top and back offering a pleasantly changing vista. Sky Cabin is very sensitive to weather and passenger motion, such as walking, which is prohibited during the trip. During winds 25 mph+ or rain it is closed. When built, Sky Tower was the tallest structure in Orange County (a distinction briefly held by WindSeeker.)
Motorcycle Chase – A modernized steepelchase rollercoaster built in 1976 featured single motorbike themed vehicles racing side-by-side, each on one of four parallel tracks, launched together. One or two riders straddled each "Indian motorcycle" attraction vehicle. The tubular steel monorail track closely followed dips and bumps in "the road" and tilted to lean riders about the curves. Gasoline Alley, an electric steel-guiderail car ride below, was built together and intimately intertwined, which enhanced ride-to-ride interaction thrill value. Rider safety concerns of the high center of gravity coupled with the method of rider restraints caused it to be re-themed Wacky Soap Box Racers with vehicles now attached in four car trains, each car seated two riders, strapped in low (nearly straddling the track), surrounded by the close fitting car sides, and the dips and bumps of the track were straightened flat in 1980. Motorcycle Chase/Wacky Soap Box Racers was removed 1996 for a dueling loop coaster Windjammer Surf Racers and now a vertical, launch coaster takes its place :Xcelerator.
December 3, 1981 Walter Knott died, survived by his children who would continue to operate Knott's as a family business for another fourteen years.
In the 1980s, Knott's built the Barn Dance featured Bobbi & Clyde as the house band. It was during the height of the "Urban Cowboy" era. The "Barn Dance" was featured in Knott's TV Commercials.
Wild Water Wilderness
During the 1980s, Knott's met the competition in Southern California theme parks by theming a new land, and building two massive attractions:
- Kingdom of the Dinosaurs (1987) (primeval re-theme of Knott's Bear-y Tales)
- Bigfoot Rapids (1988), a whitewater river rapids ride as the centerpiece of the new themed area Wild Water Wilderness.
Mystery Lodge (1994) Inspired by General Motors "Spirit Lodge" pavilion, a live show augmented with Peppers Ghost and other special effects, which was among the most popular exhibits at Expo 86 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada which was produced by award-winning experience designer Bob Rogers (designer) and the design team BRC Imagination Arts, and created with the assistance of the Kwagulth Native reserve in Alert Bay, British Columbia. Mystery Lodge recreates a quiet summer night in the village of Alert Bay, British Columbia then guests "move inside" the longhouse and listen to the storyteller weave a tale of the importance of family from the smoke of the bonfire.
- "Knott's original berry stand, Buena Park, circa 1926". Orange County Archives. Retrieved March 18, 2011.
- Adams, Judith A. (1991). The American Amusement Park Industry: A History of Technology and Thrills. Boston: Twayne Publishers. pp. 125–127. ISBN 978-0-8057-9821-0.
- Jennings, Jay (2009). Knott's Berry Farm: The Early Years. San Francisco: Arcadia Publishing. p. 128. ISBN 978-0-7385-6921-5.
- "Postcard: Knott's Berry Farm Dining Room Buena Park, CA 11". image-archeology.com. Retrieved March 18, 2011.
- "Postcard: One of the Dining Rooms, Knott's Berry Farm, Buena Park, Cal". image-archeology.com. Retrieved March 18, 2011.
- "Postcard: Beautiful Rock Gardens at Knott's Berry Place Buena Park Calif 27". image-archeology.com. Retrieved March 18, 2011.
- "Postcard: Down by the old mill stream, Knott's Berry Place, Buena Park, CA". image-archeology.com. Retrieved March 18, 2011.
- "Postcard: Replica of George Washington Fireplace at Knott's Berry Place Buena Park California 8". image-archeology.com. Retrieved March 18, 2011.
- "Postcard: Petrified Log, 15 Millions Years Old at Knott's Berry Place, Buena Park, Calif". image-archeology.com. Retrieved March 18, 2011.
- "1951 Knott's Berry Farm, home movie of Elmer Gerlock Film Project". Retrieved August 27, 2011.
- "Postcard: Redwood Tree Cross Section Knott's Berry Farm". image-archeology.com. Retrieved March 18, 2011.
- "Postcard: Old Ox Cart at Knott's Berry Place, Buena Park, Calif". image-archeology.com. Retrieved March 18, 2011.
- "Postcard: Old Logging Wheels, typical of those used in log camps before the steam engine put them in the discard. at Knott's Berry-Place_Buena Park, Calif. 12". image-archeology.com. Retrieved March 18, 2011.
- "Postcard: Knott's Berry Farm, Buena Park, Calif. 42". image-archeology.com. Retrieved March 18, 2011.
- "Knott's Berry Farm – Company History". Fundinguniverse.com. Retrieved May 25, 2010.
- "Volcano, Knott's Berry Farm, Buena Park"
- "Gold Mine". flickr.com. Retrieved March 17, 2011.
- "Prospectors Rest at the old Arastra at Ghost Town Knott's Berry Farm Buena Park, California". image-archeology.com. Retrieved March 17, 2011.
- "Gold Mine and the Pan-for-Gold activity". flickr.com. Retrieved March 17, 2011.
- "Old Trails Hotel and Entrance to Wagon Train Panorama"
- "Chinese Laundry, Knott's Berry Farm" Hop Wing Lee.
- "082358 05 02" Goldie's Place leg in window.
- Knott's Berry Farm: The Good Old Days interview with Dave Bourne of The Wagonmasters
- "Bottle House"
- Mouse Tales: A Behind-The-Ears Look at Disneyland 978-0964060562
- "082458 03 03" Wagon Camp, Conestoga Circle.
- "Covered Wagon Camp"
- "O.C. History Roundup: Bud Hurlbut (1918–2011)". Chris Jepsen. January 6, 2011. Retrieved March 17, 2011.
- "Knott's Berry Farm icon dies". Orange County Register. January 6, 2011. Archived from the original on February 26, 2011. Retrieved March 17, 2011.
- "WENDELL "BUD" HURLBUT obituary". Orange County Register. January 8, 2011. Retrieved March 17, 2011.
- "Knott's Preserved" Catawampus, species extinct
- "Fire Station and Burro"
- "Children's Model T Ride"
- "Merry-Go-Round Auto Ride"
- Riverboat Revenge!
- "Ghost Town Ardith's Map"
- "Trolley at Knott's Berry Farm, 1960" electrified California Street Cable Car No. 49 beside Cable Car Kitchen
- "Organ Grinder's Trained Monkey"
- "082458 07 07" Flamingo Pond.
- "Baby Elephant advertising Old MacDonald's Farm"
- "Knott's Berry Farm | Orange County Memories". Octhen.com. April 7, 2005. Retrieved May 25, 2010.
- "30 Knotts Berry Farm021 on Flickr – Photo Sharing!". Flickr.com. August 20, 2009. Retrieved May 25, 2010.
- "Seal Pool"
- "082458 10 10" Seal Pool 1958
- "History page" Knott's Berry Farm official website.
- Kooiman, Helen, Walter Knott: Keeper of the Flame, pp. 171–84, Plycon Press, Fullerton, CA, 1973.
- Salts, Christiane Victoria, Cordelia Knott: Pioneering Business Woman, pp. 75–78, The Literature Connection Books, Buena Park, CA, 2009.
- "Motorcycle Chase, Knott's Berry Farm, 1976" photograph of steeplechase-style rollercoaster lift hill
- "Motorcycle Chase, Knott's Berry Farm, 1976" photograph of steeplechase-style rollercoaster with car ride combination.