Had history taken a different path, Lotus Isle may not have been built. Its developers were just greedy and wanted to get the owners of Jantzen Beach to buy them out before they built the park. Their scheme backfired and Jantzen’s owners welcomed the competition. Lotus Isle was eventually built on a shoestring budget.
Red ink had plagued the builders, the Columbia Beach Development Corporation, from the beginning. One of the investors, Edwin Platt, had invested a sizable amount in the development. When the Development Corporation was ready to dump the idea, Platt offered to take the yet-to-be-built park off their hands.
Lotus Isle was the birthplace of the Dance Marathon circuit in the Northwest. Some of the organizers who got their start in Portland went on to fame and fortune in larger cities back east including Walter Tebbetts, who owned several Portland theatres including the very ornate Oriental Theatre; and Leo Seltzer, who went on to start Roller Derby in later years. There are newspaper accounts of Al Painter’s Walkathon Organization leaving a trail of debts from Oregon to Arkansas, Lousiana and Pennsylvania. Always looking for a hook or gimick, promoters would try anything to attract crowds and money. Painter is credited with first introducing vaudeville into the dance marathon performance.
One of the park’s later owners was said to have had gangland connections and a number of unfortunate happenings led to the park’s early downfall. An 11-year old boy drowned just before the opening season ended in 1930 and the next day, the President of Lotus Isle, Edwin F. Platt, committed suicide.
The Oregonian Newspaper from March 23, 1931 reported a plane crash at Lotus Isle when the pilot of a low-flying airplane that was experiencing turbulence crashed into the artificial mountain of the Scenic Railway at Lotus Isle. Three men escaped with minor bruises and lacerations. Buck Ambulance took the two passengers to St. Vincent’s Hospital. The pilot, Clarence Murray of Vancouver, Washington owned the biplane, and he crawled out from the wreckage with a scratch or two. After Tusko’s rampage, the buildings he destroyed were never rebuilt.
Lotus Isle never recovered and it closed after the 1932 season and its assets were sold in bankruptcy early the following year. A bonfire was set when the park closed to virtually destroy all memory of the park.
The 4-Row Herschell Spellman Carousel, which was made in 1914, is still operating at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. The Spirit of the Alpine Coaster lives in the Playland Giant Dipper in Vancouver BC. The 75 hp motor, the switch panel, and much of the machinery, including the chain came from the Alpine Coaster that was built in the late twenties at Lotus Isle here in Portland.