Vacation Related Records in the National Register of Historic Places

Today’s post is by John LeGloahec, Archivist in the Electronic Records Division at the National Archives in College Park, MD.

President Harding / Berryman cartoon
Vacation Distractions (National Archives Identifier 6011655)

Traditionally, August is the month that many people will take some time off.  Vacations are allegedly restorative, I have just returned from a week’s vacation, and it is good to be back though.  Like President Harding, depicted above in the Clifford Berryman cartoon, there was lots to do on vacation.  There are approximately 875 properties related to “Vacation” in the National Register, including many in St. Augustine, Florida, where President Harding went on his vacation.  Perhaps the President stayed at the Hotel Ponce de Leon (National Archives Identifier 77844041), “completed in May of 1887, and since that time has been a landmark in St. Augustine, The East Coast complement of Henry Bradley Plant’s Tampa Bay Hotel, it was built in Spanish Renaissance style and is characterized by massive proportions, vibrant color and an abundance of applied surface ornament. Constructed of concrete which was cast-in-place and had a heavy concentration of locally quarried coquina, the surface of the building presents the appearance of a porous tabby mixture. These concrete bearing walls are grey-brown in color offering a neutral background for the salmon brick sills, lintels and quoins and the darker red of the clay tile roof. All roofing is red clay tile including the conical domes of the towers and the central dome over the lobby.”

“The development of railway transportation and resort facilities on the East Coast of Florida by Henry Flagler in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was a catalyst for the subsequent economic, social and cultural development of the State. The construction of the Hotel Ponce de Leon in 1887 was a key element in the successful implementation of Flagler’s overall program. Flagler’s interest in St. Augustine and Florida began in the winter of 1885 when he first visited that city with his second wife. He recognized the potential of the area as a winter resort and commenced almost immediately to launch a luxury hotel venture of his own . . . The hotel’s decorator was Louis Comfort Tiffany of New York, who had recently reorganized his company to specialize in glass for architects and builders. The magnificence of the windows he designed for the Ponce had an impact in stimulating demand for the creations which would make his name synonymous with excellence in glass . . . Upon completion of the Ponce de Leon in 1887, Flagler insured that his plans for its success would be accomplished by improving the railroad between Jacksonville and St. Augustine and mailing out thousands of copies of Florida, the American Riviera, thus making certain that the world knew what was about to transpire in the nation’s oldest city. During the next few years, the Ponce was visited by presidents, congressmen and many wealthy and influential Northerners.”

Everglades swamp Florida
PRIVATE VACATION HOUSING (National Archives Identifier 544567)

Perhaps your Florida vacation is a little more modest, like this “shack” on the Everglades, seen above. Access to these accommodations and the entirety of the Everglades starts with the locks “on the south bank of the North New River Canal approximately 54 miles north and east of the Canal’s origin at Lake Okeechobee . . . The Everglades drainage program which was begun in 1905 has probably had a greater historical and continued impact on South Florida than any other single factor. One of the canals, the North New River Canal was, in the early years, a major transportation artery between Ft. Lauderdale and Lake Okeechobee. In order to make the canal useful for transportation, locks had to be constructed. Lock No. 1 at the south end of the canal was the first to be built on the canal as well as in South Florida. It remains the best preserved of all of the surviving locks in the canal system in South Florida. After many years of abortive public and private efforts at draining the Everglades, the State of Florida in 190§ established the Everglades Drainage District and authorized taxation of local landowners for the cost of drainage. Drainage was to be accomplished by lowering the waters of Lake Okeechobee and reducing the water level in the Everglades through the use of canals.”

Bus on desert road
VACATION LIVING ON THE SHORES OF HAVASU LAKE (National Archives Identifier 548937)

Maybe you are hearing the siren call of the American Southwest and a vacation on Lake Havasu and a trip to the Grand Canyon via the Grand Canyon Railway (National Archives Identifier 75609824), which “runs on the historic right of way as built by the Santa Fe and Grand Canyon Railroad, and the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway between 1898 and 1901. This is the only railroad to enter and service a national park in the United States. It did so from 1901 and continues to provide passenger service to this day. As such, it is an integral part of the Park Service’s campaign to reduce automobile traffic and pollution at the south rim. This railroad is directly responsible for the development of the Grand Canyon as a destination for Americans and visitors from around the world nineteen years prior to it becoming a National Park. This railroad is directly responsible for the development of the Grand Canyon infrastructure on the south rim to include unique water reclamation and delivery systems, electrical power, and steam service. Without this railroad the Historic District at the south rim would not exist as we know it.”

“The history of this railroad dates back to 1893 when Buckey O’Neill, sheriff of Yavapai County (which included all of today’s Yavapai and Coconino counties), Mayor of Prescott, and mining investor, made overtures to Lombard, Goode and Company of New York to finance and build a railroad from Williams to what is now Anita for the purpose of extracting what was then believed to be the richest copper ore in the country. Limited construction by the Santa Fe & Grand Canyon Railroad began in 1898 and in earnest in 1899. They laid track to Anita Junction (Anita) and to Anita Camp (the mines) and another eight miles toward the Grand Canyon. Operations began in 1900. Although the principal reason was for hauling copper ore, the railroad also carried passengers to the end of track and then to the Grand Canyon via stagecoach. In July 1901 the company failed due to a lack of ore. The very rich ore was located in geologic features known as breccia pipes and proved very limited in quantity. They declared bankruptcy and sold out to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway for $150,000. Had the company not failed and completed the line to the Canyon, Grand Canyon Village would have been known as Lombard, Arizona.  The AT&SFR lost no time in completing the additional eleven miles of track to the Grand Canyon in order to take advantage of the tourist trade. Thus began the real history of the Grand Canyon National Park as the Santa Fe literally built the park infrastructure from the ground up. The railroad built over six hundred structures, including all of the hotels, restaurants, power houses, water service and reclamation facilities, laundry, housing, mule facilities, and tourist accommodations in what is now the Historic District before and after the Grand Canyon came under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.”

Amy Carter fishing Grand Tetons
Amy Carter catches a fish while vacationing in the Grand Tetons. (National Archives Identifier 181000)

If you prefer your elevated vacationing up as opposed to down, you can head to Grand Teton National Park (National Archives Identifier 73730003) for some fishing, like First Daughter Amy Carter did in 1978.  “Grand Teton National Park and the area around it has a history dating to the earliest years of Euro-American exploration of the northern Rockies. From the Park’s and Jackson Hole’s roots in the fur trade through the early twentieth century, the region’s history could best be described as part of the western, frontier experience. More specifically, because of the area’s natural isolation it was not as heavily settled or as intensively used as many other parts of the West or Wyoming. Even though the Jackson Hole region was known to the American public by the l840s, thanks to the stories of the fur traders and mountain men. Its location discouraged many from seeking it out until well into the twentieth century. The early nineteenth century, given many labels by American historians, is known to Western historians as the fur trade era, or by the 1840s, the period of Manifest Destiny. Jackson Hole and the lands of modern Grand Teton National Park witnessed much activity during those years (1807-1850). Beginning with John Colter and continuing on with such notables as Donald MacKenzie of the British North West Company, the fur trade period brought a number of Euro-Americans to the Snake River country. Even these early travellers appreciated the difficulty of travel to the area. Not surprisingly, when some of the mountain men retired from trapping and began to use their knowledge of the mountains to guide emigrant parties to Oregon or later, California, they took the travellers across southern Wyoming via South Pass, a much better route for wagon travel. As a result. It was not until nearly twenty years after the Civil War that the first permanent settlers arrived in the Jackson Hole area. Before those settlers, other groups of explorers had crossed and re-crossed Jackson Hole dozens of times.”

“Much of what happened during the early twentieth century to change Jackson Hole can be attributed, either directly or indirectly, to actions of the federal government. By the 1890s, and especially after 1900, many Americans began to rethink their views, and indeed their value system, regarding the nation’s natural resources. Briefly, this led to public calls on Congress to enact legislation to protect, or at least, control the development of those lands and resources that remained in federal hands. Two new agencies were created by Congress during this era, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation Service). Both these had direct and lasting impacts on the Jackson Hole region. In 1906 the Bureau of Reclamation first dammed Jackson Lake, flooding a larger area of the Hole. The Forest Service, by then more than a decade old and soon to become part of the Department of Agriculture, had controlled nearly all the non-patented land In and around Jackson Hole since 1897. Operating through Presidential proclamation, the Forest Service had not only those lands of Teton Timber Reserve (National Forest), but millions of acres across the West. With this reservation came a number of controls on the private use of these lands. The Forest Service continued to play a vital role in the local economy and eventually the debates over the creation of Grand Teton National Park. Another federal undertaking, the management of wildlife, had an early and lasting Impact on Jackson Hole as Congress set aside a National Elk Refuge as winter grazing for herds in the area. As those federal agencies worked to develop policies to control the development and use of the West’s great resources, other people, only few in number at first, started efforts to preserve the more spectacular western areas so that future generations could view and enjoy the natural wonders. In 1906, cognizant of the fact that there were cultural and scientific treasures that needed protection as well, Congress passed the Antiquities Act that allowed the president to set aside national monuments for areas such as the Indian ruins of the Southwest or the dinosaur fossil quarry north of Jensen, Utah. With the growing number of national monuments and calls for more national parks and monuments, Congress created the National Park Service in 1916 to manage those areas. In addition to managing the parks and monuments already under its control, the early National Park Service also sought new areas worthy of protection. One of the areas that caught the attention of Stephen T. Mather and Horace Albright, two leading individuals of the early years of the Service, was Jackson Hole and the nearby Teton Mountains. Their interest was preceded by more than two decades of local calls for the establishment of a national park there, or at least an extension of Yellowstone National Park south to Include that area. However, little more than talk came of the ideas until after creation of the National Park Service. For thirteen years after that point Mather, Albright, local residents, and politicians debated the concept. In 1929 Grand Teton National Park, encompassing only the mountains, not the majority of Jackson Hole or lands to the east or south, was established by Congressional action.”

Family picnic Montana
Camping and Picnicking – Montana (National Archives Identifier 7013388)

It’s not that far a drive from the mountains of Wyoming to Montana, where you can do your fishing via the Bozeman National Fish Hatchery (National Archives Identifier 71976020) “was one of five such installations established by the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife for the advancement of the science of fish husbandry. Money was provided by Congress as early as 1891 to investigate establishing a fish rearing station in the Rocky Mountain region. In July 1893, 77 acres at the mouth of Bridger Canyon were purchased from William J. Davies for $3,500. Two springs, Bridger Creek and a “warm spring” (77 F.) gave the hatchery the necessary water supply to raise and study native fish species. Construction began in 1895. $35,000 was expended on the structures including the hatchery building (which had a capacity of three million fish), the house for the superintendent of the hatcheries and U.S. Fish Commissioner, Dr. James A. Henshall, a bath house, and carriage sheds . . . The station functioned from 1897 until 1966 as a production hatchery providing eggs and fish for fishery management programs throughout Montana. 1902 employees included the Superintendent (salary $1,500), a fish culturalist, and two laborers. Rainbow trout from this hatchery represent the beginning of the planted stock in Yellowstone National Park and Firehole. Species produced at the station included brook, brown, rainbow and cutthroat trout, and grayling. The station has produced as many as 60,000 lbs. of trout annually, for use in Montana programs. The original hatchery building was enlarged in 1933 to handle expanded operations and was completely replaced in 1966.”

George HW Bush, George W Bush golfing
President Bush Golfing with his son, George W. Bush, in Kennebunkport, Maine (National Archives Identifier 6728191)

The month of August is also the traditional time when our Presidents find some down time, as was the case with one current president and a future president hit the links not far from the family homestead in Kennebunkport, Maine.  One of the unofficial mottos for the Pine Tree State is “Vacationland” so you could always head to the state and visit the Kennebunkport Historic District (National Archives Identifier 88687759), which “retained its character as a Federal Period seagoing town. Much of the evidence of Kennebunkport’s once thriving docks and shipyards no longer exists. However, the community’s 19th century success remains apparent through the many handsome homes and buildings which constitute the historic district. Although styles range from the Colonial Period into the 20th century, the predominant architectural theme is the Federal with more than a third of the structures in the district in this mode . . . While Kennebunkport’s greatest period of development took place in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, its history, has its roots in the 17th century. The area now known as Kennebunkport was first incorporated as a town named Cape Porpoise in the year 1653 by the Massachusetts Commissioners. The inhabitants were driven off by the early Indian wars and when they returned in 1719 they resettled along the river under the name of Arundel. In 1820 when Maine became a state, that name was changed to its present one. The first permanent settlement in Kennebunkport was established in the south-eastern part of the town around a natural harbor by William Scadlock and Morgan Howell, about 1630. The site is reported to have been named Cape Porpoise by Captain John Smith because he encountered many porpoises off the cape.”

“Kennebunkport’s major reputation today is as a summer resort. Beginning in the 1870’s people from Boston and Sanford, Maine, attracted by the natural beauty of the area began to build summer cottages, some of considerable size, along the shore both at Cape Porpoise (now a village within Kennebunkport) and at Cape Arundel. By the turn of the century a large summer colony had emerged which still exists and provides an important economic base for the town as does a thriving transient tourist business.”

vacation cartoon "staycation"
“SPEND THAT VACATION AT HOME!!” (National Archives Identifier 535650)

Of course, there is always the option of the “staycation” if your travel plans don’t come together.  Enjoy the end of summer!

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring records from the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and National Historic Landmarks Program Records, 2013 – 2017 (National Archives ID 20812721), a series within Record Group 79: Records of the National Park Service.

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