The Tourist Camp, part 2.

From a slow and steady start, Minnehaha’s tourist camp blossomed into a popular destination.  After only a few years, more than 4,000 cars a season came through the camp.  In the 1850s through 1880s, Minnesota had been proud of her ability to draw in southern tourists escaping the sultry heat of summer.  In the automobile age, tourists came from much closer.  Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin provided 43% of all Auto Tourist Camp tourists in 1925.  Add in Minnesota herself and the Dakotas to find that 63% of the Tourist Camp users were regional folks.

a log cabin in the Auto Tourist Camp
The postcard craze of the early 20th century preserved some images that might otherwise be lost.  This image of a log cabin in Minnehaha Park’s Auto Tourist Camp may have given people the idea that this cabin was available for rental in the camp.

Before long, electric outlets were available for cars pulling campers, and a whole lot of cabins were built to be rented by campers who wanted something more comfortable than a tent.  These cabins were arranged in a semi-circle, as seen on this map.

map of the auto tourist camp.
This map was published by the Park Board in 1931. Within the red circle is the Log Cabin.

The Log Cabin, of which there was just the one, overlooked the Mississippi River and Lock & Dam #1.  It had a fine view of the High Dam, and a promenade in front just along the property line delineating where the Park Board sold the river banks to the U. S. Government.

tourist-camp005sm
With its wide screened porch overlooking the river, this must have been one of the nicest gathering places in the Camp.

Tourists camped here from much further away that the regional majority suggested.  In 1925, surprising numbers of people visited here from Kansas, Washington, and Oklahoma.  Visitors came from the Panama Canal Zone, Hawaii, and yes, the deep South.  There were even a handful of hikers and 2 boys on bikes from Winnipeg.

To provide entertainment to all these people, at some point the Park Board gave dances.

a small hand bill.
This small leaflet invited the campers to come to a “Dance Entertainment” at the Log Cabin in the camp.

It’s still unknown just when this “Dance Entertainment” was held.  The possible years are: 1923, 1928, 1934, 1940, 1945, or 1951.


 

3 thoughts on “The Tourist Camp, part 2.”

  1. So what exactly *was* the log cabin used for if tourists couldn’t rent it for a stay? It seems far too elaborate a structure to be just a viewing station for the river and lock. Was the rear ‘cabin’ section a gift shop/snack stand/museum? The ‘dance entertainment’ notice would indicate it was a rather large and open space, but using it infrequently for dances seems wasteful.

    1. Well, right; good question. I haven’t finished reading everything there is to read and am hoping that the answer may float up from the past. My guess today is that it was a gathering place for the tenters to get out of the rain when things were wet. Maybe it was an office to check into the camp.

      I doubt it was a museum. At this point in history, there was a failed attempt to create a museum in Minnehaha Park, but this wasn’t it. Also, this one surviving piece of ephemera doesn’t tell us anything about how often they held dances. It could have been much more often. Also, watching Lock & Dam #1 is a surprisingly satisfactory experience.

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