Just Resting in the Shade at Chautauqua, Ohio (1915)

Just Resting in the Shade at Chautauqua, Ohio (1915)
Vintage postcard (c. 1915) depicting Miami Valley Chautauqua attendees resting in the shade in Chautauqua, Ohio.

The description on the front of the card:
Just Resting in the Shade at Chautauqua, Ohio

Postmark Date: April 8, 1915

Era: Divided Back Era
Condition: Used

The image is of the Miami Valley Chautauqua in Chautauqua, Ohio. Chautauqua was an American adult education movement that was popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The assemblies brought entertainment and culture to rural communities with speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers, and specialists, as its popularity spread across the country.

The Miami Valley Chautauqua was one of the many independent Chautauquas that were built just outside of established towns with good rail service. The first Chautauqua in the area was an 11-day camp meeting at the old Franklin Fairgrounds in the summer of 1896, ran by Reverand Harper of Germantown, Ohio, and 16 local businessmen. According to the MyChautauqua.org, the original idea of the movement was “to teach the fundamentals of Christianity in a non-sectarian way.” People came from Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky, dressed in their Sunday best and the first season tickets sold for $1.50 for adults and single-day tickets for a quarter ($40.55 and $6.76 in 2016 dollars, respectively). In 1901, the Miami Valley Chautauqua Company bought 41 acres of Landing Vanderveer’s wooded land. The trees were cleared and replanted in a park. An auditorium, hotel, tent town, and a bridge crossing the Miami River were built and the nearby railroad provided easy travel to Dayton. The company bought 41 more acres a year later and built cottages. The tent city flourished over the next few years and more cottages were built. A post office started services in 1909.

Two years before this postcard was sent, the 1913 flood destroyed the grounds and high waters swept away the bridge. The flooded river reached the level of the Grand-View Hotel. The following year, the Chautauqua assemblies restarted and a temporary wooden bridge was built below the dam.

Chautauquas served their educational and entertainment purposes for their time, but much of the needs of rural America were eventually met through radio, movies, and automobiles. This one was no different and the costs of repairing the flood damage, buying land for water and sewage lines, and expanding put a strain on what had become the Miami Valley Chautauqua Association. After a few attempts to reorganize, the Cottages Welfare Society was formed in 1940. By 1946, there were 143 cottages, 45 of which were occupied year-round.

The women who attended helped raise funds in the mid-1950s to renovate the hotel and remodel the stables into a community building. National swim meets were held at the pool and nearby universities utilized the land.

They experienced another flood in 1959 causing debts that led to the sale of the land and buildings to the Michigan Baptist Fellowship Foundation, a group with similar goals as the original Chautauqua company. Within five months, there were five fires including ones that destroyed the auditorium, dining hall coffee shop, and hotel. All were attributed to arson.

In September 1987, Miami Township took over the responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of the roads in the area. The association kept two buildings: the Community Center and the WTU building that is currently used for Boy Scout meetings.

Chautauqua continues to thrive as an unincorporated community of around 200 homes.

Back of the postcard with a 1915 Cincinnati, Ohio postmark, machine cancel, and green one-cent stamp. There is a black handwritten message addressed to a Miss Hazel Dessey in Los Angeles, California.

Publisher: Unknown

Rights Info: Public Domain

Source: Miami Valley Chautauqua Association

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *