WASHINGTON — It’s the end of an era for Ellicott City. Or, more specifically, one shopping center off Route 40.
The Enchanted Forest theme park opened in August 1955, just a month after Disneyland welcomed its first guests 2,600 miles to the west in Anaheim, California.
It was the first children’s theme park in Maryland and the first on the East Coast. Admission was just $1 for adults and 50 cents for kids.
Thousands of children were delighted by the story book-themed attractions — Humpty Dumpty, Cinderella’s pumpkin coach, Mother Goose — until the park land was sold in 1988 and the Enchanted Forest strip mall was built up around it.
More than 15 years passed before Martha Clark, owner of the nearby Clark’s Elioak Farm, saw an article in The Baltimore Sun about the pumpkin coach being auctioned off and decided to take history into her own hands.
The farm, which was a dairy operation when Clark was growing up there, had opened a petting zoo and pumpkin patch just two years before, in 2002.
Clark thought it would be preferable for the coach to be accessible to the public again, rather than sitting in a backyard somewhere.
“A number of people also read that article, we all called up the people who bought it, and said ‘Oh we’ve got the best place in the world for your pumpkin coach’ and, in the end, I ended up getting it,” Clark says.
“After our season ended I contacted the shopping center management company… and asked them if I could have some more pieces and they said ‘Yes, you can,’ which was very, very generous of them.”
Over the last 11 years, about 100 more Enchanted Forest pieces have been moved to the farm using cranes, tractor-trailers, backhoes and Bobcats.
At least one piece, the 30,000-pound shoe from the poem about the old women and her horde of hungry children, had to be cut in half and reassembled on site.
Either later this month or in June, Clark says, the last big pieces still left beside the shopping center, a dragon-guarded castle and a book-shaped Enchanted Forest sign, will join the rest of the structures that have been removed from the park.
Old King Cole, however, will remain atop the shopping center’s sign, so passersby might never forget how the strip mall got its name.
Clark’s Elioak Farm will host an Enchanted Forest 60th birthday celebration on August 15 and 16.
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