Posts tagged “tourism

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…

Mackinac’s West Bluff, Then and Now

Posted on June 7, 2012

When it opened 125 years ago, Grand Hotel raised the profile of Mackinac Island. Already noted as a place of refined respite from the sooty industrial cities of the Great Lakes region, this small, scenic island in Lake Huron soon drew industrialists from around the Midwest. They built fine “cottages” (really large mansions) on the high bluffs adjacent to the hotel to be near the social whirl it afforded. The cottages on West Bluff in the old photo above are finely maintained as summer homes to this day (see below).

Recovering Boston’s History in the App Age

Posted on June 6, 2012

The NPS Boston mobile app recently debuted on iPad, iPhone, and Android, placing the experience of the Boston National Historical Park and Boston African American National Historic Site in your hands. As the Boston Herald reported on May 24th, the app creates a virtual park ranger to guide tourists from the new National Park Service visitors center through the Freedom Trail and Black Heritage Trail in the Hub, as Boston’s downtown is known. With the opening of the new visitors center, Faneuil Hall (built 1742) and adjacent Quincy Market (built 1824-26) have been marshaled once more into the service of conveying early American history, much as developer James Rouse drew upon colonial and Revolutionary American historical associations when crafting Faneuil Hall Marketplace, an upscale, locally oriented shopping experience,…

Venice in America

Posted on June 4, 2012

Visitors to Venice Beach, California, today are more likely to think of early-’80s roller skaters from Xanadu than Venice, Italy. Three quarters of a century before, however, Abbot Kinney’s vision brought a piece of Italy to the Pacific coast in Los Angeles. Replete with gondoliers and Renaissance-style architecture, Kinney’s Venice, as American Tourism contributor J. Philip Gruen demonstrates, was a short-lived cultural experiment that nevertheless set the tone for one of L.A.’s quirkiest neighborhoods. Apart from the Venice Canal Historic District, little of the Venetian influence tempers the sun-drenched stretch of trinket shops and vendor stands. A close inspection turns up the occasional nod to the city on the Adriatic. Bits of the Colonnade have been salvaged, and St. Mark’s Hotel’s neighboring Italian Renaissance…

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…

Neon Nostalgia

Posted on May 28, 2012

Fremont Street in Las Vegas. Best known these days for its four-block, LED-canopied pedestrian mall (Fremont Street Experience), the Nevada city’s pre-Strip focal point for casino gambling has also become something of a memory machine. For well over a decade, the Neon Museum has been building its collection of significant but unwanted signage. Las Vegans did not invent neon signs. That honor goes to an early 20th-century French inventor, Georges Claude, who pioneered the electrification of neon in glass tubes. But nowhere has neon been more central in forging an image than in Sin City, which wowed midcentury visitors with garish, larger-than-life signs that towered above the low-slung architecture of the casinos and motels they advertised. As Las Vegas entrepreneurs added ever more elaborate…