From 1954 to 1979, the magical Land of Makebelieve captivated visitors young and old. The delightful, child-sized park was created by Arto Monaco. Arto was born in Au Sable Forks, NY in 1913, grew up in Upper Jay, and came home to the Adirondacks following distinguished service in World War II. He died in 2003 at the age of 90.
Land of Makebelieve was Monaco's masterpiece, a labor of love that he built and maintained by hand with help from dozens of local workers and craftspeople. Each year, they welcomed thousands of visitors from all over the world, as well as neighbors from the Adirondacks and the Au Sable Valley. Prior to developing his own park, Monaco had been commissioned to design nearby Santa's Workshop, which opened in 1949 as one of the nation's very first "theme parks". Through that experience, Arto realized he wanted a park of his own.
To create The Land of Makebelieve, Monaco drew on his background as a toy maker, a Hollywood set designer and animator, and an ingenious developer of "training aids" for Army recrutes. Everything in the park was sized for children - charming, touchable, and perfect. For kids, being there was like being inside a fairytale or your own special movie.
The park included fanciful rides: a miniature train, tiny cars and pirate ships, a coronation coach near the castle and a stagecoach in Cactus Flats, the Park's western town. There were picnic tables and benches for parents, incredible buildings for kids to explore and winding paths where families could wander.
Millions of photographs were taken and countless precious memories were made at Land of Makebelieve. Visit the other pages under this heading to explore our collection of photographs.