Knott's Berry Farm
Knott's Berry Farm is both a theme park in Buena Park,
California, now owned by Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, and a line of
jams, jellies, preserves, and other specialty food, now part of The J.
M. Smucker Company based in Placentia, California.
Starting in 1920, farmer Walter Knott and his family
developed their Buena Park berry farm into a popular tourist attraction.
Originally selling berries, homemade berry preserves and pies from a
roadside stand, Knott built a restaurant, shops and stores onto the
property by the 1930s. These were then augmented with minor attractions
and curiosities until Knott gradually created Ghost Town, transforming
them from a way-point to a Western themed destination in 1940. World
class rides were then built and free entertainment drew crowds.
Disneyland in nearby Anahiem complemented the theme park, making Orange
County a tourist destination to Southern California visitors. As more
elaborate rides were included, and big name acts were featured in
Knott's John Wayne Theater, a fence was built and admission charged,
turning it into a commercial theme park.
The theme park continues to be competitive with
special events such as "Halloween Haunt" and with new thrill rides.
Berry Stand origin. The structure was preserved near
the crossing of stage coach road over El Camino Real until it was
dismantled for Silver BulletIn 1920, Walter Knott (1889–1981) and his
family 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
When people asked what kind they were, he called them
Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant
Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant, showing a long
line of people waiting to be seated.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 developed long lines of diners.
Knott's Berry Place
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
"Danger, keep out" and
"Only active volcano in Southern California moved in
from the mojave desert complete—and has been erupting faithfully ever
"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 themeing 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 tree stump shaped drinking
fountains. 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.
Ghost Town Gold Mine entranceFrom 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