Joe versus Mount Vernon

Meet the greatest threat to Mount Vernon since the British Navy.

While researching the history of Mount Vernon and the efforts to preserve its incredible viewshed for our previous episode “Saving Mount Vernon and Everything the Light Touches,” one man kept popping up in newspaper articles, as if he was demanding his own episode.

This is that episode, the second in a three-part series about different aspects of George Washington’s historic home.

Joe Goldstein owned the amusement park Marshall Hall Park, situated across the Potomac River from Mount Vernon. He always had big dreams, and one of them was to turn George Washington’s Mount Vernon into a stop on his massive proposed theme park—a Disneyland on the Potomac named “The Spirit of America.”

In the 1960s and 70s, Goldstein was called “the greatest threat to Mount Vernon since the British navy.” In this episode, we dig into his wild plot and how the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, his neighbors, the government, and all the elements of nature joined forces to stop him.

Listen now:

It’s the story of the fall of one of the oldest amusement parks in the nation, and the story of bizarre bribery, federal indictments, hydrofoil excursion boats, and negotiation by chainsaw.

Is it a bit of a departure from our regularly scheduled presidential history? Sure. But sit back, relax, and meet Joe Goldstein.

Joe Goldstein had a dream to bring hydrofoil boats to the Potomac, and by God he did it. Then he took them away shortly after when it turned out passengers didn’t enjoy sightseeing from a hydrofoil boat.

Marshall Hall Park’s “Coaster.”

Marshall Hall Park’s coaster after a windstorm in July 1977, via Reddit

Please note: The cover image above was generated using AI and is not an actual photograph of Joe Goldstein with a ridiculously oversized chainsaw. But it sort of works.

“Developer Vows A Potomac Disneyland” Newspapers.com. The Baltimore Sun, September 19, 1970. https://www.newspapers.com/article/the-baltimore-sun-joseph-goldstein-dev/137140172/.
“Roller Coaster Eyesore Latest Threat to Mount Vernon View” Newspapers.com. The San Francisco Examiner, April 24, 1971. https://www.newspapers.com/article/the-san-francisco-examiner-goldstein-cut/135635813/.
“Goldstein Kin Wins Bribe Case Dismissal” Newspapers.com. The Baltimore Sun, June 29, 1971. https://www.newspapers.com/article/the-baltimore-sun-goldstein-bribery-case/136008496/
“George Washington’s View Debated” Newspapers.com. Asbury Park Press, September 26, 1971. https://www.newspapers.com/article/asbury-park-press-goldstein-of-marshall/135633399/.
“Pollution Suit Names Marshall Hall Area” Newspapers.com. The Baltimore Sun, December 17, 1971. https://www.newspapers.com/article/the-baltimore-sun-goldstein-of-marshall/135634312/.
“Will Build Tower for Protection” Newspapers.com. The Daily News Leader, June 2, 1974. https://www.newspapers.com/article/the-daily-news-leader-goldstein-threaten/135636325/
“Law spares Potomac from Goldstein Threats” Newspapers.com. The Baltimore Sun, November 19, 1974. https://www.newspapers.com/article/the-baltimore-sun-goldstein-had-to-be-a/135636062/.
“Museum Dream Goes Up In Smoke” Newspapers.com. The Baltimore Sun, October 18, 1981. https://www.newspapers.com/article/the-baltimore-sun-marshall-hall-burns-do/135635586/.




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