Opened in 1902, Canobie Lake Park was patterned after other amusement areas of the time. The parks were built by railroads and trolley lines as recreational destinations to increase ridership on the trains and trolleys, especially on Sundays and holidays. Canobie was an instant success. It became a mecca for thousands of people seeking refreshment and entertainment. After many successful years, times changed and ridership on the trolleys began to drop. The new mode of transportation was the automobile. The operators lost on their investments and when all electric lines discontinued in southern New Hampshire, the park closed on St. Patrick's Day in 1929.
The railway company fell into receivership and attempts at a private sale failed. The park's once well-kept grass had grown high. Some buildings showed signs of decay but most were in excellent condition.
On a dreary day in 1931, when the park was fog-bound and swept by a cold rain, the auction of Canobie Lake Park was held. The more than 150 men who attended, sought shelter from the rain in the dining hall. Some were prominent businessmen from the Lawrence, Mass. and Salem, N.H. areas. Canobie's days as an amusement park were over. The auctioneers presented a plan to sell Canobie. The plan was to demolish the park and cut up the land into lots with streets and avenues running through the area. This was the depression era and there seemed to be little interest to acquire the property. Efforts by the auctioneers to increase the bid were unsuccessful.
Patrick J. Holland, a well known contractor from Lawrence, Mass. attended the auction. Pat wanted to see Canobie, as he put it, "returned to normalcy." He didn't think the days of the amusement park were over. He offered a bid of $17,000. The park sold at auction to Pat for $17,000 plus $466.64 in taxes. Pat was considered to be one of the most successful road builders of his time. He could have very easily turned the park into the house lots proposed but instead, he wanted to operate the park as an amusement center. Pat with his skills and equipment, put hundreds of men to work developing Canobie into one of the most beautiful amusement parks in New England. Pat made the park into a wonderland of nature with beautiful trees and shrubs and erected new amusements and buildings. Pat brought modern electricity to the park. The trolley tracks were removed. Canobie was no longer a trolley park.
Pat's plan was to transform the trolley park into a park accessible by automobile. The main entrance was built on North Policy Street and opened into a parking lot for 5,000 automobiles.
After being closed for 3 years, the grand re-opening of Canobie was Memorial Day 1932. Pat placed an old streetcar in the picnic grove as a tribute to the creators of Canobie, and his wife Rina dedicated a poem she wrote simply titled "Canobie". In the poem she asks people to come back to Canobie. The poem was also set to music.
"Canobie" By Mrs. P.J. Holland
"Come again to Canobie, and enjoy its beauty. Take a stroll upon the shore of the lake so loved in the days of yore. Romance and dance still hold full sway. Come and while your happy hours away. There's a joy for every whim. Not a thing can ever dim the splendor of Canobie".
During the 1930's, Pat had the ballroom and roller-skating rink built and the Greyhound roller coaster assembled piece by piece as well as the merry-go-round.
During the depression and war years, Canobie became the place for thousands of people to go to forget their troubles. Employees, customers and visitors enjoyed the affordable entertainment and amusements at Canobie.
Maurice J. Holland - November 17, 1919 to February 12, 1978
On February 23, 1943, Pat Holland died at the age of 53. It ended a career marked with many successes from the roads he built, to saving Canobie Lake Park from demolition. Mrs. Holland (Rina) was well respected and known for her business acumen. She, Maurice and his wife Mary kept the park just as beautiful for over 15 more years. Rina would spend her days in the small wood building called the office in the center of the park. Maurice would continue bringing entertainment and new rides to the park. The late 1940's brought the miniature train ride and during 1953-1954, kiddie rides were purchased and a kiddie land was developed.
During these years, newspapers referred to Canobie as a lovely wooded amusement center, an institution and one of the most naturally beautiful parks of its kind.
Rina wanted to retire and Maurice and Mary had a large family which made it difficult for them to continue operating the park. The park was a big part of their lives. It was home, literally. The Hollands had a house on the grounds of the park behind the swimming pool area surrounded by the forest of pines. The Hollands wanted to find a family who would agree to carry on as they did by keeping Canobie an amusement park. It was very important to Rina, Maurice and Mary to keep the park's tradition. In 1958, the Hollands sold Canobie Lake Park for $450,000.
Patrick J. Holland - Aug. 15, 1889 to Feb. 23, 1943
Patrick J. Holland was born in Dunmanway, County Cork, Ireland. He was the youngest of 13 children. At the age of fourteen, he crossed the Atlantic to work for his brother, Philip, who was a contractor in Lawrence, Mass. Pat worked hard and had the skills of his vocation. Later, Pat married Rina and they moved to Colorado where Pat took a job with the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. After Pat suffered severe leg injuries in a railroad accident, they moved back to Masachusetts. Pat went on to become Directing Head of the Continental Construction Company and built miles of concrete roads in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. To this day, these roads remain a monument of Pat's ability as a contractor. Many cement sidewalks that either Pat or Philip built in Lawrence still remain. When they finished a sidewalk, they would anchor a cast in bronze or brass of raised letters that read - P.J. Holland, Contractor. Pat was always concerned about his employees' welfare. If Pat had to let an employee go, he would first give him a severence pay. Pat was a World War I Veteran and his favorite song was Danny Boy.
Catherina R. Kelleher Holland - March 27, 1889 to April 1, 1965
Catherina (Rina), was a Lawrence native whose parents were Irish immigrants. Her family owned Kelleher's Bakery in Lawrence. She was a tall, attractive, dignified woman who loved a good story and had a great sense of humor. Rina graduated from Long Island Hospital School of Nursing, became a Registered Nurse and worked in Boston, Brockton and Pueblo, Colorado. She wrote poetry, played the piano and loved having the family around the piano singing Irish ballads. She was a charitable woman and always welcomed company to her home. She believed in keeping records and documents for their historical significance. Family was always a priority for her. Rina's philosophy was to leave things better than she found them.
Maurice was born in Denver, Colorado. He spent his early years out west. The family then moved to Brockton and back to Lawrence. During his adolescence, Maurice had a bout with infantile paralysis (polio). This left him with an inability to maneuver all the joints in his hand. Maurice thought himself fortunate that this was his only paralysis from that dreaded disease. Although, he could manage to pull the trigger of a gun, he was refused military service during World War II. Maurice majored in English in college and minored in German and learned to speak German fluently. His interests were in broadcast and journalism. Maurice graduated from St. Anselm's and Spring Hill College. He could speak to anyone about anything. No matter a person's background, Maurice could establish a rapport with him. He loved interviewing people, had a terrific memory and an infectious laugh. He was known for his generosity. He loved music, sports and politics. Maurice thought the big bands or "swing" era was an important period in music history and kept journals and photos which he planned to publish someday.Mary K. Sullivan Holland - March 19, 1923 to Jan. 8, 1960
Mary was a native of Salem, N.H. She graduated from the Lawrence Academy of Beauty Culture and became a beautician. She was the daughter of a well known family in Salem, Patrick F. and Jessie B. (Ross) Sullivan. Mary was the second oldest of five children. Like so many couples in those days Mary and Maurice met at Canobie. She would frequently travel to New York City to bring the deposit to the agency that booked the bands for the ballroom. She loved music and sports. People who knew Mary would say that she was just as beautiful inside as she was outside. Mary and Maurice had 5 children.
Pictured below are Patrick J. and Catherina R. Holland. Also, pictured are Maurice J. and Mary K. Holland with Janet Blair.