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About Charles R. Wood

Charles Reeves Wood

Charles R. Wood was a paradox: an optimistic realist. He drove a hard bargain yet possessed a soft heart. He saw both the big picture and the smallest detail. His fondness for play was surpassed only by his capacity for hard work. For much of his career, Charley – known socially as a very dapper dresser — went to the office in work boots, ready to pitch in wherever he was needed. “He worked harder than anybody else,” said one devoted employee. “He led by example.”

Growing up in Lockport, near Buffalo, NY, Charley was blessed with loving, hardworking parents. Even as a child, he was ambitious, focused and alert to opportunity. In his early teens – and in the depths of the Great Depression — he purchased a stately home for his family, converted the carriage house into rental property and restored his own Model T. Charley preferred the real world to the academic world, and after a year at the University of Michigan, eagerly entered the workforce, as a mechanic for General Motors and Curtiss Wright Aircraft. During World War II, he supervised hundreds of airplane mechanics for the Royal Air Force in the Pacific, then for Douglas Aircraft in Egypt.

After the war – and always alert to opportunity — Charley visited Knotts Berry Farm in California, where clever attractions, like a manmade volcano, ignited his imagination. “I came home full of beans,” Charley remembered, “and I wanted to get into the amusement park business.”

Back in Lockport, he scoured the classified sections of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. While prospecting in Albany, he discovered the spectacular beauty of the Lake George region. “On the road from Albany to Lake George,” he remembered, “it was just so pretty. I could see nothing but opportunity.”

In the palpable energy of postwar America — with its flourishing economy, flood of young families and fascination with the automobile – Charley foresaw a growing demand for wholesome, family fun. In the late 1940s, he and his wife Margaret opened two establishments in the Lake George Region: first, Arrowhead Lodge on Schroon Lake, then Holiday House (now known as Wikiosco) on the Bolton Road in Lake George. Both were “American Plan” resorts, the forerunners of what is known today as “all-inclusive” resorts.

Storytown and the Great Escape

A half-century before good times were prescribed for good health, Charles Reeves Wood was advocating, and facilitating, the fine art of having fun. Described by the Washington Post as the “father of the American theme park,” Charley opened his imaginative Storytown USA in 1954, a year before Walt Disney launched Disneyworld. For the next five decades, he delighted in designing, building, embellishing, buying, selling – and raising the bar – for theme parks nationwide.

The Philanthropist

Then the irrepressible Charley truly had the time of his life, sharing his good fortune with the region that had embraced his dreams. His extraordinary donations to the arts, healthcare and children — and his signature charitable venture, the Charles R. Wood Foundation — continue to fuel Charley’s legacy of hope, compassion and healthy, wholesome fun.

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  Glens Falls, New York:     In consideration of operational challenges that local non-profits may face …More

Charles R. Wood Foundation announces 2020 Grant Application Deadlines

Glens Falls, New York:      The Charles R. Wood Foundation is currently accepting grant applications from …More

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Charles R. Wood Foundation
c/o Foundation Source.
55 Walls Drive, Suite 302
Fairfield, CT 06824
phone: 800-839-1821
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