1910s Travel & Nightlife|
In the old days, we spent our summer vacations at a single, pre-determined location, such as a cottage or resort hotel. We packed our trunks and boarded the train for a month or two of summer fun at the lake or seashore.
As automobiles became more common, the nature of pleasure travel began to change. For auto owners, the trip itself became an integral part of the vacation experience. When night came, auto travelers became autocampers who slept in their cars or pitched their tents in fields alongside the road. In the late 1910s, some towns began to establish free autocamps on public land to discourage travelers from parking on private property. Here and there, you could find an enterprising farmer who allowed motorists to park on his property for a small fee.
visiting friends & relatives
By far, the most popular type of vacation was a trip to visit friends and relatives in another city. Single ladies spent time with their married sisters, children visited their grandparents, and elderly couples spent winters with their grown children. Every week, small town newspapers contained several columns dedicated to who was visiting who. For city families, spending a few weeks on grandpa's farm was a special treat.
It was quite common for young people to spend the summer with cousins or college chums in other cities. In an era when most people remained in the same town for their entire lives, this was one of the few ways in which young adults could meet new people. Quite a few romances blossomed between house guests and town residents.
Taking a day trip to the seashore or to a nearby town was always fun. Now it was easier than ever, thanks to the automobile. Travelers packed a picnic lunch, because there were no restaurants along the open road.
A trolley brings visitors to Waverly Park
In the 1890s, electric companies charged trolley lines a flat fee for electric service. During the week, when ridership was high, trolley companies got their money's worth. On the weekends, however, empty trolleys meant lost profits.
In order to stimulate weekend ridership, trolley companies constructed parks at the end of their lines. Some were simple, with picnic grounds and maybe a pond. Others were quite elaborate, with rides, concessions, beer gardens, hotels and entertainment.
Pittsburgh's Kennywood and Oakland's Idora Park were two of the more successful trolley parks. In the late 1910s, there were approximately 1,000 trolley parks across the country.
Ocean View Park
Forest Park Highlands
Cedar Point midway, 1910
*Hershey Park opened in 1907 as a site for picnics and boating. In 1919, its days as a first-class amusement park were launched when a carousel was installed.
*In Chicago, Riverview Park was very popular. Originally known as Sharpshooter's Park, Riverview adopted its new name in 1904. In the 1910s, the park had several roller coasters, a carousel, a tunnel of love, a miniature railway and motorcycle races in the motordrome.
*In Ohio, Cedar Point first attracted visitors in the 1870s. By the 1900s, the park boasted two roller coasters, a 1,000-room bathhouse, several hotels, a water swing, a water toboggan and a midway with many games and additional rides.
1915 San Francisco World's Fair
The official name of this fair was the Panama Pacific International Exposition. It was designed to celebrate both the completion of the Panama Canal in 1914 and the 400th anniversary of Balboa's discovery of the Pacific Ocean. San Francisco was devastated by an earthquake in 1906, and the fact that she was able to host such a beautiful fair less than ten years later was truly remarkable.
1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition
When the decade began, there were three big parks at Coney Island: Dreamland, Luna Park and Steeplechase Park. There was something here for everyone. Dreamland was the beautiful, gleaming white park that appealed to the upper classes. Steeplechase Park had popular rides and attractions that were enjoyed by the average visitor. Luna Park combined the best of both worlds.
In 1911, Dreamland was destroyed by fire and was not rebuilt. The owners didn't waste a second....the Dreamland Circus Sideshow was built on the site while the embers were still smoldering.
1911 Dreamland fire
Atlantic City, 1914
by the sea
Asbury Park and Atlantic City offered ocean bathing, boardwalks, cotton candy, concessions and salt-water taffy.
Florida's tourism industry was born in the 1880s when the first railroads reached the state. This brought the wealthy elite, who built summer homes along the coast. Miami became a tourist mecca in 1896 after Henry Flagler's railroad was extended south to the city.
Across the bay, the island of Miami Beach (once a mosquito-infested mangrove swamp) was evolving into a pleasant tourist area. The first bathing pavilion and ferry dock were built there in the 1900s, and the first residential neighborhoods and a wooden bridge linking the island to the mainland were built in the 1910s.
Atlantic City History Links
Tired feet? Let an attendant push you in one of Atlantic City's famous wicker rolling chairs.
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Resorts & Hotels
In the mid 1800s, many church camps were formed when religious groups purchased land on which to hold their yearly week-long camp meetings. Attendees rented cottages or stayed in tents, and for many of them this was the closest thing they had to a real vacation. The camp sites were so popular that people began to visit them all throughout the summer.
Many resorts along the East Coast started out as church camps. In the 1910s, they still struggled to maintain a "family friendly" atmosphere. Swimming, fishing, boating, lobstering and flirting were allowed; alcohol and gambling were not. At Ocean Grove, New Jersey, services were held in the auditorium, which boasted the largest organ in the world.
"Motorists come in a hurry, eat and hurry along...."
--a summer resort owner, complaining about how the motor car was hurting his trade, 1913
Spending your vacation at a resort was a popular option. In the 1910s, many types of destinations fell into this category. A summer resort might be a hotel, a collection of smaller cabins, a farmer who made extra money by taking in summer boarders, or a privately-owned grove along the river ideal for camping.
Some resort hotels were huge, with accomodations for hundreds of guests. Others were no bigger than a large house. Meals often included chicken and vegetables raised on the resort property.
At the train station, guests were met by an employee from the local resort, who drove them out to the hotel in a carriage or auto. Resorts that were located on rivers transported their guests by boat.
Fun was found at the local level. During the day, guests enjoyed swimming, boating, fishing, picnics and going for drives. Many resorts had their own taverns, bowling alleys and dance pavilions for evening recreation. For an added treat, visitors might go into town to have some ice cream, see a movie or attend a band concert or dance.
summer homes & cottages
For city families, spending the summer in the country was a time-honored tradition going back to the early 1800s. Small towns and rural areas were full of cottages and cabins that families could rent for a week, a month or the entire season. If a town had rail access to the city and was located on a lake, its population could double during the summer. Families who rented the same cottage year after year became an integral part of the community. More affluent families rented larger homes or owned their own summer homes.
Mom and the kids (and maybe a servant or two) stayed all summer, and dad came out on the weekends. Because of this, most resort areas were no more than a short train ride away from home.
City hotels featured ballrooms, fancy lobbies, private bathrooms, fine dining, telephones and a bar where the men could gather for cigars and brandy.
In New York, the Knickerbocker Hotel boasted murals by Maxfield Parrish, one of the most popular artists of the era. In 1913, New York's Hotel McAlpin was the tallest hotel in the world.
The Beverly Hills Hotel opened in 1912, before the town of Beverly Hills even existed. The area grew very quickly when former hotel guests decided to build homes there. The new suburb was incorporated in 1914.
Generally, women did not sign hotel registers, as they were not considered "suitable reading" for the gentler sex. Clerks signed for women traveling alone.
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Condit Dance Hall
Revere Beach, Massachusetts
Most amusement parks, trolley parks and boardwalks had dance halls. During the summer, these buildings hosted bands nearly every night of the week. Small town resorts and picnic groves also had dance pavilions hosting weekly dances.
In the city, large hotels had fancy ballrooms on their top floors. Country clubs also had ballrooms, which were ideal for hosting debutante dances and charity balls. In town, fraternal organizations like the Odd Fellows rented or owned their own halls, which usually also included small ballrooms.
Click here to see more dance halls and ballrooms from the 1910s!