Posts tagged “roadside attractions

Wild West Gunslingers – in Florida

Posted on June 7, 2012

Tombstone, Arizona, the subject of Kevin Britz’s essay in American Tourism: Constructing a National Tradition, was hardly the only place that staged Wild West gunfights for tourist audiences. In addition to other “real” western “ghost towns,” specially contrived ghost-town tourist traps opened all across the United States in the 1960s at the height of the TV-western craze. At least three of the most notable examples were about as far from the West as you could get in the U.S.: Florida! Osprey (between Sarasota and Venice), Panama City Beach, and Silver Springs enthralled tourists with daily gun battles on sandy streets against a backdrop of mock storefronts and saloons. The following images, drawn from the State Archives of Florida, depict these long lost attractions. As…

The Scenic Submarine

Posted on June 2, 2012

Silver Springs once had direct, nearby competitors, one of which distinguished itself with its “Scenic Submarine,” “America’s Most Unusual Boat Ride.”  Until 1974, Rainbow Springs competed for the same tourists as its more famous counterpart thirty miles east in the same county in north-central Florida, as detailed in Tim Hollis’s Glass Bottom Boats and Mermaid Tails: Florida’s Tourist Springs. Originally called Blue Spring, Rainbow Springs got its name in the 1930s as part of an effort to attract tourists. The destination grew into the postwar years as the attraction added glass-bottomed boats and even submarine rides and staged underwater tableaux in much the same fashion as Silver Springs, historian Tom Berson’s “stop” on the “itinerary” of American Tourism: Constructing a National Tradition, due out…

Follow the Signs

Posted on May 31, 2012

Billboards dot the roadside along most American highways today, making it difficult to imagine a time when highway signs not only drew close attention but even created a sensation. The following aerial views of two American tourist traps show the importance of highways in delivering visitors. While Wall Drug began as a small-town pharmacy with a Main Street storefront, South of the Border sprouted as a stop along U.S. Highway 301. Although both attractions built their reputations through shrewd advertising along hundreds of miles of roads, as detailed by historians Troy Henderson and Meeghan Kane in American Tourism: Constructing a National Tradition, the route of Interstate highways helped assure their continuation even as countless other roadside attractions closed after being marooned when the freeways whisked…

Wall, South Dakota’s Great White Way

Posted on May 5, 2012

Wall, South Dakota. Population: 766. Not the first place you would expect to find the “Great White Way.” As the Rapid City Journal reported recently, the block of Main Street in front of the famed Wall Drug (once a simple drug store but now a block-long, tourist-oriented strip mall) is nearing the completion of a project that involved repaving the roadway in concrete and the addition of a row of old streetlamp standards that seems lifted from turn-of-the-century Broadway in New York City. Wall Drug, which singlehandedly put Wall on the tourist map in the 1930s when its owners decided to reorient their drug store toward tourists passing through town, long ago became a western-themed attraction in itself. Its image has been anything but…