Introduction | Suggested Itinerary | General Park History | California Marketplace | Independence Hall | Ghost Town | Calico Square | Other Entertainments | Gone But Not Forgotten | 1955 Map | An Inspiration to Many
Some of the Knott family began the
procession west from Virginia as early as 1849. In 1868 Walter Knott’s grandfather loaded his belongings and family into a covered wagon and began the
trek from Texas to California. And years prior to moving to Buena Park, Walter Knott worked in the famous silver mining town of Calico, located between Los
Angeles and Las Vegas. Thus, the Western spirit ran deep in Walter Knott’s blood…
Eventually, in 1951 Walter and Cordelia bought and restored the 70-acre town of Calico, Following the town’s restoration, the
couple deeded the property to San Bernardino County for use as a county park.
Meanwhile, back in Buena Park, the success of the chicken dinners was immediate. By 1940 the restaurant was serving as many as
4,000 dinners on Sunday evenings. To give the thousands of waiting customers something to do and to pay homage to the pioneering spirit of his grandparents
and his love of the Old West, Walter developed Ghost Town, the first of Knott’s Berry Farm’s six themed areas.
Ghost Town celebrated its 60th Anniversary in the year 2000.
Gold Trails Hotel
The first structure at Knott’s Ghost Town was the Gold Trails Hotel which had originally been constructed in
Prescott, Arizona in 1868 – coincidentally, the same year Knott’s grandparents came West. Walter installed the first attraction in the hotel lobby: “The
Covered Wagon Show,” a cyclorama depicting the stirring tale of the Knott family’s journey West. “Those who were cowards never started, and those who were
weak were lost on the way, but the brave find a home in every land.” This painting and diorama was created by the artist, Paul Klieben. The hotel and
cyclorama formed the basis for Old West Ghost Town.
An Authentic Town
Soon, other building were brought in ñ a Boot Hill graveyard (Don’t Miss this! One of the graves thumps like a beating heart!), an
1870s red school house from Kansas, grist mill, a blacksmith’s workshop, etc. Adhering to authenticity, Walter brought in buildings from deserted ghost towns
and had “newer” buildings constructed in the similar style. Ghost Town was designed to educate as well as entertain. Ghost Town featured authentic Western
exhibits, historical entertainment and miscellaneous colorful display characters. If you are lucky, you might see Blacksmiths, Woodcarvers, or a
Spinner demonstrate authentic crafts. There is also a fascinating Western Museum that is open during the day and is filled with historic artifacts which trace
Americaís westward movement and ìOld Westî lifestyle.
Sad Eye’d Joe and other characters
Knott’s became famous for their “peek-ins” like a talking inmate named “Sad Eye Joe.” He’s a stuffed dummy who
you can actually converse with! When you visit him ñ look back and up at the Hotel window next door to see what’s going on upstairs. Another highlight of any
trip is getting your picture taken with the varmints, Handsome Brady and Whiskey Pete or “setting a spell” with Marilyn and Ceclia. These figures were created by
Claude Bell who did many of the original sculptures at Knott’s. He also worked with John Ehn who created sculptures at Trapper’s Lodge and is famous for the
dinosaurs at Cabazon on Highway 10 on the way to Palm Springs.
Try to visit this building during a time of day when the light shines through the glass to teh interior. you will be transfixed by the colored light.
Another one of the early original buildings in Ghost Town where you can see a live glass blower demonstrations.
Original Berry Stand and the Funnel Cake Kitchen
One of the most significant buildings on the park property is the original Berry stand. Yes, this is Walter
and Cordeliaís Original Roadside Berry Stand that used to be on Beach Boulevard. It is open for very limited hours now serving boysenberry punch. The Funnel
Cake Kitchen has also been a Knott’s classic for countless years. Boysenberry is the traditional topping of course!
Bird Cage Theater
The Bird Cage Theatre opened in Ghost Town in 1954. For over forty years it was the country’s only daily acting melodrama troupe and
melodramas can still be seen in the Christmas season. It was a replica of the Bird Cage in Tombstone, Arizona, the theatre served as the training ground for
Steve Martin and countless other actors and actresses.
This circle of wagons date back to the 1950s where they used to hold nightly campfires with singing cowboys.
Many of the elements for the original Covered Wagon Show now reside in the Gold Trails Hotel attic.
Pan For Gold
This original attraction has been significantly altered since their first appearance in the park. The pan for gold
was originally to the left of the main entrance when you first arrived (where GhostRider is now) and used to have an walk-through underground mining
attraction with dioramas in the same vicinity.
Hunter’s Paradise Shootiní Gallery
Hunter’s Paradise was the first “electronic” shooting gallery originally built in 1955.