Whitman’s King’s Castle Land Was a Magical Place for Massachusetts Kids
Once upon a time, there was a magical kingdom of fun just a short drive down Route 18 from New Bedford.
For decades, King’s Castle Land welcomed families within its enchanted fences in Whitman, Massachusetts.
The mom-and-pop amusement park was just a stone’s throw from the site of the original Toll House, where the chocolate chip cookie was invented in 1930.
Sixteen years after the cookie was invented, in 1946, Joe King opened a restaurant right down the street he dubbed King's Castle. He placed a couple of amusement rides in the back to draw in customers.
It's hard to imagine King needed the help, though, since he advertised that you could "take home a boatload of seafood" for just $1.75, with plenty of clams, fish and scallops to feed the entire family.
Those few rides eventually turned into King’s Castle Land, with Clarence and Pauline Whitney purchasing the property in 1968 and expanding the DIY amusement park into a real destination point. They also moved their toy store, Hideaway Toys, from Brockton to the park site in 1971 in a stroke of marketing genius.
The park eventually expanded to encompass seven acres, with 14 different rides in the park, including a Tilt-a-Whirl, Scrambler, Flying Dragons, Dragon Coaster, bumper cars, train ride and more. Every kid wanted to take a ride in the monkey cage.
There was also a petting zoo, which featured mostly barnyard animals.
An arcade was added as video games became all the rage, but King's Castle Land was much more about imagination than it was electronics.
There were play areas like Fort Apache and Noah’s Ark, where kids could spend hours acting out their hero fantasies.
There were lots of nursery rhyme and fairy tale-related objects to climb on and inside, such as the old woman’s shoe (you know, the one she lived in with all her children) and the homes of the three little pigs.
Every story seemed to come to life at King's Castle Land, from the moment you bought your ticket at the booth and went inside its walls.
As you walked across the drawbridge to enter the park, you'd stop to press the button to activate the animatronic alligators before you’d encounter the story characters that populated the park such as Frankenstein, Yogi Bear, even Moby Dick.
Thirsty kids always got themselves a drink from the lion, which had a drinking fountain inside his mouth.
You would actually have to let out a roar inside his mouth to activate the fountain (actually, any sound would do).
There was a 22-foot-tall Paul Bunyan, and an equally large figure that appeared to be a cross between Edgar Bergen’s Mortimer Snerd ventriloquist dummy and MAD Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman.
No park figures were more popular than the giant dragons, however. They were the focal point of any park visit.
The dragons were also the stars of the quaint television commercials produced to promote King's Castle Land, which aired on WLVI-56 during the morning and afternoon cartoon shows.
Not only could you climb on the dragons, but one of them actually breathed real fire.
It was an especially magical place for the Whitney family, who actually lived on the park property.
Can you imagine how great that must have been for the Whitney children, growing up with a fairy tale forest as your own backyard?
King’s Castle Land delighted generations of children, but hard times befell the park in the early 1990s. First, the toy store closed in 1992. Then, the whole park closed in September 1994 as the Whitneys opted to retire, with the rides and attractions auctioned off.
The property was sold, with Stop & Shop now taking up much of the land where the park once stood.
A flooring and kitchen remodeling company now occupies what was once the main building of the park, the toy store, and you can see on the building’s facade the connection to its Castle Land past.
Those who loved King’s Castle Land could never quite let it go, though.
Clarence Whitney himself built a 12-foot-by-six-foot replica of the park in the basement of his Plymouth home, and there are Facebook groups dedicated to the park’s memory.
Whitney later built a 12-foot by 6-foot replica of the park in the basement of his Plymouth home. Pauline Whitney passed away in 2020, but it appears Clarence, now in his 90s, may still be with us.
To those who visited it, King’s Castle Land will forever live in our hearts, our own storybook land where fairy tales were real and fantasies came true.