Vintage Knott’s Berry Farm Postcards

Since summer is my favorite time to visit Knott’s Berry Farm, I thought it would be a great time to share my vintage Knott’s Berry Farm postcard collection! In looking at these images, most of which are over 50 years old now, it’s amazing to see just how little has actually changed.

Let’s start with a shot of the couple that started it all, Walter and Cordelia Knott, photographed standing next to their original berry stand.

An elderly couple, Walter and Cordelia Knott, stand near a Model T and in front of a small wooden berry stand.

The Knotts started their farm in 1920, and when the Great Depression arrived, Cordelia decided to try and make some extra cash by selling fried chicken, which evolved into a massive restaurant.

Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant, a yellow adobe building with red tile roof.

By 1940 people were waiting hours for a table at the Chicken Dinner Restaurant, and Walter decided to build an old west ghost town to entertain people while they waited.

Guests walk down an old western street. Yellow text reads "Knott's Berry Farm & Ghost Town Buena Park, California"

Main Street. Old west buildings and a tall tree with a noose.

Men in old western attire stand along what is called School House Road, with old west buildings in the background.

The Calico Saloon, a grey two story building with red trim. A stage coach pulled by two white horses stands out front.

Men and women in old western attire stand outside the general store.

Judge Roy Bean's, a small single story building with a sign reading "Judge Roy Bean Justice of the Peace Law West of the Pecos" A group of men and women in old western attire stand out front.

An Indian maiden kneels near a pool.

A look down one of the roads of Ghost Town with old western wooden buildings.

The Calico Saloon, a grey two story building with red trim. Guests stand outside and on the balcony.

Inside the Calico Saloon, can-can girls sit on the bar.

Cowboys stand in front of a wooden building reading "Wells Fargo & Co's Express"

Two cowboys talk to two well dressed ladies near an old borax train.

Women in old western attire weep at the graves of Boot Hill.

Guests stand near a two story wooden building reading "Rooms" across the top.

Ghost Town contained multiple western buildings, most of which you couldn’t walk into, but served as “peek ins” – vignettes with mannequins.

A black and white image of mannequins at a table playing cards.

The mannequins resided within the Ghost Town buildings until the 75th anniversary of Ghost Town, when Knott’s first introduced Ghost Town Alive, which offered Guests the opportunity to finally enter the buildings that had been closed for so many decades.

In 1941 The Little Chapel by the Lake was built using adobe bricks, and contained The Transfiguration, a massive painting of Jesus, where as the the lights came down it would appear as if Jesus’ closed eyes opened. Recently I found this footage of it on YouTube!

The Little Chapel by the Lake, a small adobe brick church with red tile roof.

The Transfiguration proved so popular that Knott’s had small, glow in the dark versions as souvenirs. The Little Chapel by the Lake lasted until 2004 when it was removed to make way for the twisting roller coaster, Silver Bullet.

A gold mine was constructed in 1947, giving people a chance to pan for real gold in a sluice box just like the days of the old miner ’49ers.

An old miner with a grey beard stands with a pair of donkeys in front of a mine entrance.

Man made rock formations surround a sluice box where men in wester attire help guests pan for gold.

The attraction was moved from its original location decades later, but recently Knott’s relocated it closer to its original location near the front of the park where you can still pan for real flecks of gold.

In 1949 the Wagon Camp was added, a place to entertain people with live music, and you had the option of sitting inside a covered wagon. Today, the Wagon Camp is home to the Wild West Stunt Show, but during some seasons live bands perform.

The Wagon Camp. Covered wagons with openings offer seating, along with regular benches for a stage where people dance.

In the same year, Knott purchased several authentic 1800s stagecoaches, and had one specially built for the park, and they proved to be a fun experience for Guests. The stagecoaches are still rolling along today.

A stagecoach pulled by four brown horses.

Like the real history of the west, the train eventually made its way to Ghost Town. In 1951 Knott purchased a real, narrow gauge steam train, and it welcomed Knott’s Berry Farm Guests the following year.

The Ghost Town train chugs past guests standing nearby.

The Ghost Town train chugs past cacti.

The train still takes Guests around the park, complete with bumbling bandits trying to “rob” Guests.

While Knott didn’t mind constructing new buildings to look old, he loved having the real deal and in 1952 Knott purchased another authentic piece of western history, a real one room school house from Kansas, which was moved to the park with all of its contents.

The Ghost Town School, a small red school house with a little bell tower on top.

Knott chose to add the bell tower to give it a more iconic look. Today, the Little Red Schoolhouse still stands, and students of all ages can sit in the small wooden desks.

Gone, but not forgotten by many who experienced it is the Haunted Shack, which arrived in 1954. Here the laws of physics seem to not apply!

Inside the Haunted Shack. Guests stand on small ledges of all sorts of weird angles, a girl sits on a chair that is mounted to the wall.

An odd departure from the wild west theming was the addition of a seal pool, which was adjacent to a petting zoo called Old MacDonalds Farm.

The seal pool, with a small rock formation in the center of a pool where seals frolic. A red bar sits in the background.

In 1955 the Farm acquired the old First Baptist Church of Downey, a typical little white steeple church, and called it in The Church of Reflections.

The Church of Reflections, a small classic white church with steeple, sits near a like and has a perfect reflection in the water.

The Church of Reflections still stands, however it has been relocated across the street, and last year it was announced it would be moved yet again, however it still remains near Knott’s Soak City waterpark.

As the new decade of the 60s approached, Knott’s Berry Farm was beginning to face some competition from the newly opened Disneyland a few miles away. So they decided to construct a brand new ride. The Calico Mine Train opened in November of 1960, and was an instant hit with Guests, paying for itself in less than two years.

The Mine Train. A mountain stands with a small mine train that Guests board to see the mine within.

The Calico Mine Train was the child of Bud Hurlbut, who helped Knott transition the Farm into a true theme park, and the ride has become a classic.

While Ghost Town occupied most of the land on one side of the street, Knott’s sought to expand across the street, and introduced a small steamboat, the Cordelia K (named of course after Walter’s wife) in 1963, which sailed through a small lagoon.

The Cordelia K, a small paddle wheel style riverboat.

Also across the street, Jungle Land was born in 1964, the idea of Forrest Murrow, who created fanciful “Wood-imals” which were bizarre to say the least.

Jungle Island. A covered bridge is over a body of water, weird wood creatures are on the shore.

Jungle Island and the Cordelia K have almost been forgotten, and today the area where they once stood is home to the Farm’s main parking lot, Soak City, and several outdoor venue spaces available for rent, as well as Walter Knott’s full scale replica of Independence Hall. The Cordelia K lives on as an Easter egg within the ride Voyage to the Iron Reef, along with several other relics of Knott’s Berry Farm’s past.

For decades Knott’s Berry Farm remained free to enter, charging individual tickets for certain shows and rides. However, sometimes free comes with a high cost, which by the mid-60s meant sometimes disrespectful teenagers and vandalism. It wasn’t until 1968 when Bud Hurlbut’s secretary and her daughter were harassed by teenagers, a story that supposedly made Knott turn white, did he build a fence surrounding the park, and begin charging admission. By then, Knott’s Berry Farm began to expand rapidly, and eventually became what we know today.

I hope you enjoyed this little walk through the past!

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