A Tour of Chautauqua: Palestine Park

At Chautauqua, opportunities for learning weren’t confined to classrooms and lecture halls. Dr. John Vincent, a Methodist minister and co-founder of the Chautauqua Institute, was a great proponent of learning in the out-of-doors. He embraced the forest setting and set out to make Chautauqua the standard for open air summer schools throughout the country and the world.

Chautauqua Model of Palestine One notable example of Dr. Vincent’s vision of a fresh-air classroom was Palestine Park. He came up with the concept of making a miniature model of the Holy Land so students could get a visual sense of the settings they learned about in their Bible classes.

Sign describing Palestine Park
Text of the sign posted at the entrance to Palestine Park. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Palestine Park was constructed near the pier on the shore of Lake Chautauqua. The lake itself represented the Mediterranean Sea. Nearby were representations of the cities of the Philistines, Joppa and Caesarea, Tyre and Sidon.

The Mountain Region showed the famous places of Israelite history from Beersheba to Dan. The sacred mountains Olivet and Zion, Ebal and Gerizem were built. And there were also the River Jordan, the Sea of Galilee, and the Dead Sea.

Guide Book to Palestine ParkSmall plaques identified each place of interest and included Bible verses that mentioned the site. In 1920 Dr. Jesse Lyman Hurlbut published a guide to Chautauqua’s Palestine Park. Click on this cover image to read Dr. Hurlbut’s guide.


Old postcard of Chautauquans enjoying Palestine Park.

The model of Palestine was one of the most popular sites at Chautauqua. Theology students regularly walked the area of Palestine Park, notebooks in hands. And Sunday school teachers held classes there, sometimes on the hills around Nazareth to illustrate a lesson on the boyhood of Jesus.

A Lecture on the Model of Palestine 1895
A Lecture on the Model of Palestine, 1895

Isabella Alden was very familiar with Palestine Park, and described it in Four Girls at Chautauqua. In the book, Eurie Mitchell and Flossy Shipley decide to walk to Palestine together one evening:

“Come,” Eurie said, “you have been to meetings enough, and you haven’t taken a single walk with me since we have been here, and think of the promises we made to entertain each other.”

Flossy laughed cheerfully.

“We have been entertained, without any effort on our part,” she said. Nevertheless she suffered herself to be persuaded to go for a walk, provided Eurie would go to Palestine.

“What nonsense!” Eurie said, disdainfully, when Flossy had explained to her that she had a consuming desire to wander along the banks of the Jordan, and view those ancient cities, historic now. “However, I would just as soon walk in that direction as any other.”

There was one other person who, it transpired, would as soon take a walk as do anything else just then. He joined the girls as they turned toward the Palestine road. That was Mr. Evan Roberts.

“Are you going to visit the Holy Land this morning, and may I be of your party?” he asked.

“Yes,” Flossy answered, whether to the first question, or to both in one, she did not say. Then she introduced Eurie, and the three walked on together, discussing the morning and the meetings with zest.

“Here we are, on ‘Jordan’s stormy banks,’” Mr. Roberts said, at last, halting beside the grassy bank. “I suppose there was never a more perfect geographical representation than this.”

“Do you really think it has any practical value?” Eurie asked, skeptically. Mr. Roberts looked at her curiously.

“Hasn’t it to you?” he said. “Now, to me, it is just brimful of interest and value; that is, as much value as geographical knowledge ever is. I take two views of it. If I never have an actual sight of the sacred land, by studying this miniature of it, I have as full a knowledge as it is possible to get without the actual view, and if I at some future day am permitted to travel there, why—well, you know, of course, how pleasant it is to be thoroughly posted in regard to the places of interest that you are about to visit; every European traveler understands that.”

“But do you suppose it is really an accurate outline?” Eurie said, again, quoting opinions that she had read until she fancied they were her own.

Again Mr. Roberts favored her with that peculiar look from under heavy eyebrows—a look half satirical, half amused.

“Some of the most skilled surveyors and traveled scholars have so reported,” he said, carelessly. “And when you add to that the fact that they are Christian men, who have no special reason for getting up a wholesale deception for us, and are supposed to be tolerably reliable on all other subjects, I see no reason to doubt the statement.”

On the whole, Eurie had the satisfaction of realizing that she had appeared like a simpleton.

Flossy, meantime, was wandering delightedly along the banks, stopping here and there to read the words on the little white tablets that marked the places of special interest.

“Do you see,” she said, turning eagerly, “that these are Bible references on each tablet? Wouldn’t it be interesting to know what they selected as the scene to especially mark this place?”

Mr. Roberta swung a camp-chair from his arm, planted it firmly in the ground, and drew a Bible from his pocket.

“Miss Mitchell,” he said, “suppose you sit down here in this road, leading from Jerusalem to Bethany, and tell us what is going on just now in Bethany, while Miss Shipley and I supply you with chapter and verse.”

“I am not very familiar with the text-book,” Eurie said. “If you are really in the village yourselves you might possibly inquire of the inhabitants before I could find the account.” But she took the chair and the Bible.

“Look at Matthew xxi. 17, Eurie,” Flossy said, stooping over the tablet, and Eurie read:

“‘And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.’”

“That was Jesus, wasn’t it? Then he went this way, this very road, Eurie, where you are sitting!” It was certainly very fascinating.

“And stopped at the house on which you have your hand, perhaps,” Mr. Roberts said, smiling at her eager face.

“That might have been Simon’s house, for instance.”

“Did he live in Bethany? I don’t know anything about these things.”

“Eurie, look if you can find anything about him. The next reference is Matthew xxvi.”

And again Eurie read:

“‘Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper.’”

“The very place!” Flossy said, again. “Oh, I want so much to know what happened then!”

Eurie, Flossy, and Mr. Roberts spent the better part of the day at Palestine Park, following the plaques from one location to the next and reading verses out of Mr. Roberts’s Bible.

Model of Palestine with Miller Park and Bell Tower in the background

Palestine Park was among the great attractions at Chautauqua and, as Isabella mentioned in her book, it received accolades from Biblical scholars of the time because of its accuracy and geographical precision.

But Palestine Park did have one major flaw, which was alluded to in the sign that marked the entrance to the model. In order to use Chautauqua Lake to represent the Mediterranean Sea, the geography of the Holy Land had to be flipped; north had to be south, and east was made the west.

Jesse Lyman Hurlbut, D.D.

Jesse Lyman Hurlbut, who regularly used the park as part of his theology lectures and children’s Sunday school classes, explained:

“Chautauqua has always been under a despotic though paternal government and its visitors easily accommodate themselves to its decrees. But the sun persists in its independence, rises over Chautauqua’s Mediterranean Sea where it should set, and continues its sunset over the mountains of Gilean, where it should rise. Dr. Vincent and Lewis Miller [the founders of the Chautauqua Institute] could bring to pass some remarkable, even seemingly impossible achievements, but they were not able to outdo Joshua and not only make the sun stand still, but set it moving in a direction opposite to its natural course.”

Over the years, Palestine Park was repaired, rebuilt and expanded to add a model of Jerusalem and its surrounding hills, as well as Bethlehem, Jericho, and other places of interest until, ultimately, it almost doubled in size.


Palestine Park as it looked in 1908


Palestine Park in 1914

Click on the map below to see where Palestine Park was located on the Chautauqua Institution grounds. You’ll find it on the shore of Lake Chautauqua near the steamboat landing at The Point.

Map of Chautauqua 1874

Next on our Tour of Chautauqua: A Healthy Body

A Tour of Chautauqua: Lectures and Classes

(Note: You can click on any of the images in this post to view a larger version.)

The Chautauqua Assembly had a modest beginning in 1874. It was originally conceived as a summer training program for Bible teachers; but from the start, the Chautauqua Assembly differed greatly from accepted Bible training of the time. At Chautauqua, Sunday school teachers gathered not in convention halls to hear reports and listen to speeches. Instead, they spent two or more weeks in the out-of-doors studying the Bible, attending classes, and collaborating together to create Sunday school lesson plans for use in churches across the country. From that modest beginning, the Chautauqua Institution grew and its mission expanded, as did its fame.

Report of a summer class on Robert’s Rules of Order, 1901

By 1885, when the twelfth annual Chautauqua Assembly was held, over seventy-five thousand people gathered—some for a day, some for a week and several thousand for the entire eight-week term of the Summer Assembly. While many still came to be trained and inspired as Sunday school teachers, others came to hear lectures and attend classes on the Bible, ancient history, science, and philosophy. They participated in experiments in chemistry, and studied the stars through telescopes. They learned languages of the world, including Hebrew, Latin or Greek; and received instruction in music and vocals.

Report of a Harvard Professor’s Lecture; 1901.

A remarkable element of the Chautauqua Summer Assembly was the level of course instruction. The best lecturers and teachers in the world came to Chautauqua. Renowned clergymen, famous statesmen, and college presidents lectured at the Assembly, as did Nobel Peace Prize winners and military heroes. Students with grade-school educations sat beside college graduates at lectures given by professors from Yale, Harvard, Cornell, Wellesley, Johns Hopkins and other prominent universities from the U.S. and Canada.

Chautauqua’s democratic culture extended beyond the classroom. The Reverend Jessie Lyman Hurlbut told of a woman who once said:

“Chautauqua cured me of being a snob, for I found that my waitress was a senior in a college, the chambermaid had specialized in Greek, the porter taught languages in a high school, and the bell-boy, to whom I had been giving nickel tips, was the son of a wealthy family in my own State who wanted a job to prove his prowess.”

1901 announcement of classes offered by a Princeton professor.

But not everyone was as open minded. Reverend Hurlbut also recalled chatting with a highly respected clergyman from England as they sat together at a hotel table. When he explained to the clergyman that their waiter was a college-student, working to earn money to continue his college coursework, the clergyman was offended. “I don’t like it, and it would not be allowed in my country. I don’t enjoy being waited on by a man who considers himself my social equal!”

Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt


The names of guest lecturers read like a Who’s Who of the time: G. K. Chesterton, H. G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw. Theodore Roosevelt attended four different years and when William Jennings Bryan took the podium, Chautauquans packed the Amphitheater to its utmost corners to hear him speak.

Lectures and classes were designed to educate and stimulate, to encourage Chautauquans to think globally and broaden their views. Students were urged to discuss lecture contents and ask questions so they had a full understanding of the issue or topic at hand.

06Chautauqua College
The Chautauqua College building.

The Chautauqua Summer Assembly was part of a wider Chautauqua system of education that included as many as eight different departments. Each department offered classes and lectures throughout the summer months of July and August.In July 1884 an individual could purchase a one-day admission to the Summer Assembly for 25¢. That admission cost gave them access to all lectures, classes and meetings except those conducted by the School of Languages and the Teachers Retreat. In August the cost of a one-day admission rose to 40¢.

Chautauqua Ticket, 1919

If you planned to stay longer, you could purchase admission for a week in July for $1.00, or $2.00 for a week in August. Or you could stay the entire summer term for $4.00.

Courses offered by the School of Business, 1901

Some special classes required a separate ticket. For example, 15 lessons in penmanship (including stationery) cost $2.50; a course in bookkeeping cost $3.00; 10 lessons in elocution cost $4.00; and 4 weeks of instruction in Hebrew cost $10.00.

Newsboys of the Chautauqua Assembly Herald

With so many available classes and so many activities to attend, Chautauquans had to schedule their days with precision. They mapped out their daily classes, lectures and activities by reading The Chautauqua Assembly Herald. This newspaper, published on-site every day but Sunday, listed the weeks’s offerings. It also gave an account of the speakers, meetings, and activities from the previous day. Eager Chautauquans took advantage of as many offerings as they could, often running from one event to another from 8:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m.

Click on this link to view the July 29 and July 30, 1901 editions of  The Chautauqua Assembly Herald. On page 4 of each edition you’ll find a list of the week’s programs, meetings, lectures and classes.

11 Chautauqua Chimes 1924The Chautauqua Institution kept things running in a timely manner. Five minutes before the hour a bell rang, giving notice that the next event or class would begin promptly at the top of the hour. The sound of the bell usually resulted in a throng of people streaming out the door of one class in order to get to the next class on time. Bells marked the hour until 10:00 p.m. when the last night bell rang signaling quiet.

In Four Girls at Chautauqua, Flossy Shipley overheard a man say, as he ran past her, “Confound it all! Talk about getting away from these meetings! It’s no use; it can’t be done. A fellow might just as well stay here and run every time the bell rings. I heard more preaching today on this excursion than I did yesterday; and a good deal more astonishing preaching, too.”

An afternoon class in German, circa 1895.

With each passing year, the number of people attending the Summer Assembly increased, as did the number of schools and courses offered. For instance, in 1901 the School of Languages added Arabic and Assyrian to their offerings of French, German, Spanish, Latin, Hebrew and Greek. Students took classes in mathematics, oratory and expression, mineralogy and geology.

Art Lessons

There were classes in clay modeling and china painting, as well as classes in music and singing. Small cottages were erected in a far-away corner of the grounds where music students could practice their scales and exercises without disturbing their neighbors. One instructor wrote, “I am told that forty-eight pianos may be heard there all sending out music at once, and each a different tune.”

Cooking Class.

The School of Domestic Science attracted great attention. One instructor, Mrs. Emma Ewing, erected a model kitchen and taught ladies from all walks of life to make bread, prepare meals, and serve tables with refinement.

A class in Library Science, 1904

The Summer Assembly offered career training, as well. Students learned shorthand and typing, grammar and composition, library sciences and bookkeeping.

15 School for Library Training
Announcement of the School of Library Training, 1901.


Standing room only at an open air lecture. About 1896.

In the early years of the summer Assemblies, classes were held in tents but as Chautauqua grew, buildings were erected to accommodate students.

The majority of the lectures were held in the Amphitheater. Erected in 1897, it could hold 5,500 to 5,600 people; but some lectures proved so popular that the Amphitheater overflowed.

Chautauqua crowds listen to a speaker in an open area.

Other lectures were held in the park, or anywhere else that could accommodate large numbers of attendees. The subjects were widely diverse, covering a broad array of topics:

  • The Last Days of the Confederacy
  • Going Fishing with Peter
  • The Women of Turkey
  • The Physiological Effects of Alcohol
  • Ideals of Modern Education
  • Christian Life in the Modern World
  • Shakespeare as a Moral Teacher
  • America’s Leadership in World Politics
  • The Knights of King Arthur
  • Does Death End All?
  • A Study of the Lynch Law
  • The Juvenile Court
  • The Drama and the Present Day Theater
  • Beyond the Grave
  • The Artisan and the Artist
  • The Ideal of Culture
  • French Literary Celebrities
  • The One-Hundred Worst Books
  • A Dozen Masterpieces of Painting
  • Mountain Peaks in Russian History
  • Growth and Influence of Labor Organizations

 Click on this link to read the text of a lecture presented July 26, 1901 by Dr. P. S. Henson of Chicago on the topic of grumbling. (Yes, grumbling!) You’ll find it on page 3 of The Chautauqua Assembly Herald.

Isabella Alden was arguably the best chronicler of the Chautauqua Summer Assembly experience. The characters she created in her books represented the diverse people who attended the Assembly and their different social and economic walks of life. She also captured the varied topics and inspirational nature of the many classes and lectures the Summer Assembly offered.

Next Stop of our Tour of Chautauqua: Palestine Park


A Tour of Chautauqua: Having Fun

Fun along Chautauqua Lake in 1909
Fun along Chautauqua Lake in 1909

In her books about the Chautauqua Institution, Isabella Alden often described her characters walking with—or against—great crowds of people going from one lecture or class to another.

Serenity at Chautauqua Lake.
A Bunch of Beauties at Chautauqua Lake, 1906
A Bunch of Beauties at Chautauqua Lake, 1906

A visitor to Chautauqua could stay busy from breakfast to bed-time if he or she took advantage of the many learning opportunities offered throughout the day.

But the Chautauqua experience included leisure activities, as well. Chautauqua’s very location enticed visitors to walk the beautiful grounds or enjoy the lake’s offerings.

Chautauqua On the Point


Visitors could join friends in the park, take a swim in the lake, rent a canoe or sailboat, or explore the paths and walkways on their own.



The Bathing Beach. Undated hand-colored photograph
Canoing at Chautauqua, 1910.
Canoing at an inlet-early 1900s
At an inlet in Chautauqua Lake. Postcard from early 1900s.
Sailing past Miller Memorial Tower. Undated postcard.
One of the walking paths at Chautauqua leading from the Amphitheatre.
Rustic Bridge undated
The view from atop the rustic bridge. Undated photograph.

For those who wanted a little more structure to their leisure time, Chautauqua offered organized activities, as well. The Men’s Club opened its doors in 1892. The Women’s Club opened soon after, and the “club model” progressed, with new clubs formed for almost every possible interest.

The Chautauqua Men’s Club near the pier, as it looked in 1909

There was a Golf club, an Athletic Club, a Croquet Club, a Sports Club, a Quoit Club, and Modern Language Clubs in French, German, and Spanish. The Music Club met in their own studio on College Hill. The Press Club was formed by men and women who wrote books and articles for magazines and newspapers.

A baseball game with the lake in the background, circa 1910. Isabella Alden wrote about a baseball game in Four Mothers at Chautauqua.

There was a Lawyers’ Club, a Masonic Club, a College Fraternity Club, and Octogenarians’ Club, which only admitted members aged eighty years and older.

Lawn bowling at Chautauqua. Undated, hand-colored photograph.

The Bird and Tree Club helped catalog the flora, fauna and bird life of Chautauqua and the surrounding area.

A branch of The King’s Daughters and Sons met regularly at Chautauqua, and in 1972 the organization moved its headquarters to the Chautauqua Institution. This organization was founded on the principal of Christian service to others. You can learn more about The International Order of The King’s Daughters and Sons by visiting their website at www.iokds.org.

Postcard Back


Sports Club-Shuffle Board front
A game of shuffle board at the Sports Club, circa 1920s.
Kindergarten class on a straw ride in 1896.

Young people also found plenty of fun things to do at Chautauqua. For the little ones there was a kindergarten at Kellogg Hall, which included a playground and sandbox. The Children’s Paradise was a completely equipped playground on the north end of the grounds.

Older girls aged eight to fifteen had their own club geared specifically to interests of girls who were not quite young women. Members of the Chautauqua Boys’ Club wore distinctive blue sweaters bearing the club’s C.B.C. monogram.

Original 1896 headquarters of the Chautauqua Boys Club.

There were many more clubs and organizations that found a home at Chautauqua, but two activities never made an appearance: Card playing and social dancing were taboo—not because they were condemned activities, but because they were “unsuitable to Chautauqua conditions and even hostile to its life.” Chautauqua was an interdenominational assembly; so it was natural that some attendees found no fault with card playing or dancing, while others believed they were incompatible with Christian life. The Chautauqua founders decided that allowing either activity would simply be distracting and divisive, so they maintained a tradition that neither pursuit had a place at Chautauqua.

Next stop on our Tour of Chautauqua: Lessons and Classes

A Tour of Chautauqua: Strolling the Grounds

Chautauqua Bay 1908.
Chautauqua Bay 1908. You can see the tower of the Hotel Athenaeum peeking above the treetops.

The Chautauqua Institution was constantly evolving and improving. From its humble beginnings as a camp-meeting for the purpose of educating Methodist Sunday School teachers, it grew into an esteemed and respected institution of general education for anyone willing to take on the curriculum and abide by Chautauqua’s basic principles. Over the course of several decades, buildings were erected and dismantled; surrounding acres were acquired; and landscapes changed.

The Promenade, with Chautauqua cottages on the left and the lake visible through the trees on the right.

Isabella Alden wrote about Chautauqua’s transformations in Four Mother’s at Chautauqua. When Flossy, Eurie, Marian and Ruth stepped off the steamer onto Chautauqua’s dock in 1913, they gazed about in wide-eyed wonder.

“It isn’t the same place at all!” was Mrs. Roberts’s final exclamation. “Marian, don’t you remember the mud we waded through on that first night? We must have gone up that very hill, only, where is the road? Look at those paved streets! The idea! What is the name on that large building over there?”

“That’s the arcade,” volunteered a brisk young man who was looking out for possible boarders. “The jewelry store is there, and the art store; and all sorts of fancy-work classes meet there.”

Sherwood Memorial Studios and Arcade
Arcade and Sherwood Hall circa 1920

“Fancy-work classes!” repeated the dazed little woman. “Who imagined such frivolities at Chautauqua!”

Mrs. Dennis laughed. “You will have to accustom yourself to more startling changes than those,” she said. “Aren’t we all going to a hotel for the night? Imagine a hotel of any sort at Chautauqua! I confess I had some fears lest it should not be large enough for our party, but those houses in the distance reassure me. Do you remember the dining-halls and the man who told us which ever one we went to we should wish that we had taken the other?”

“I wonder where they were located?” said Mrs. Burnham. “One was on a hill, I remember; the hill must be here still, but I don’t seem to recognize even hills.”

Miller Park, 1906. In the background are the Miller Bell Tower and the steamboat landing.
Miller Park, 1906. In the background are the Miller Bell Tower and the steamboat landing.
Standing room only at the old Amphitheater. July 1895

Many things had changed since the girls’ first visit. By 1921 there were six to eight hundred all-year residents on the Chautauqua grounds; the summer session lengthened from twelve days to fifty; and Chautauqua’s summer population swelled to the thousands. But whether resident, worker or visitor, everyone who entered Chautauqua’s grounds had one thing in common: they had a ticket.

Before the Assembly opened each summer, every family had to obtain tickets. The only exceptions to the rule were children under the age of 9 and bedridden invalids. Even those who leased property on the grounds had to have tickets to enter and exit the grounds. Ticket prices were nominal, as illustrated in this table of charges from 1908:

Ticket Prices in 1908

On Sundays the gates were closed. No one was allowed to enter or exit on Sunday with one notable exception: Sunday passes were issued to any members of churches not represented at Chautauqua who wished to attend services in nearby Jamestown. Otherwise, Sunday passes could only be obtained in emergencies.

Once you were inside the gates, you had free access to the grounds and most classes or lectures. A map like this one from 1874 helped visitors navigate the streets and get to lectures on time. Click on the image for a larger view.

Map of Chautauqua 1874
Map of Chautauqua, 1874

Isabella Alden incorporated many of the Chautauqua Institution buildings and locations in her novels. Her descriptions were so vivid, it isn’t hard to imagine how the buildings looked in their natural, woodland settings. Here are some of the buildings and settings Isabella wove into her stories; many of them are marked on the 1874 map.

Chautauqua Amphitheater empty undatedAmphitheater. Located at the intersection of Clark and Waugh avenues, this remodeled venue seated almost 6,000 people. The choir gallery had seats for 500. In 1907 the Massey Memorial Organ was installed. Under the choir-loft and on either side of the organ were the Department of Music classrooms and offices.

Arts and Crafts Building in 1936

Arts and Crafts Building. On Vincent Avenue, this 1903 complex housed the Arts and Crafts School as well as shops. Henry Turner Bailey, who directed the Arts and Crafts School, was famous for delivering entertaining lecturing at the same time he drew pictures on the blackboard with both hands at once.

Miller Bell Tower and Pier, 1915

Bell Tower. Located at the Point beside the pier, the Miller Bell Tower was dedicated in 1911. The bells rang five minutes before the lecture hours and at certain times throughout the day. After the final bell each night, silence was supposed to reign across the grounds. It was near the Miller Bell Tower that Ruth first encountered Hazel crying near the shore in Four Mothers at Chautauqua.

Chautauqua The Colonnade 1909
The Colonnade Building circa 1909

Colonnade. Facing Miller Park from the intersection of Pratt and Morris avenues, the Colonnade was the business center of Chautuaqua. It housed the post office, a barber shop, a hair salon, a tea room, and various stores, including grocery, dry-goods, shoe, hardware and drug stores. Visitors approaching the Colonnade building from the right passed through a vine-covered pergola.

Chautauqua Vine Clad Pergola
The Vine Clad Pergola with The Colonnade in the background, 1909
The Golden Gate. Behind the gate you can see the steps leading up to the Hall of Philosophy, which was also known as “The Hall in the Grove”.

Golden Gate. The Golden Gate at St. Paul’s Grove was used once a year as part of the C.L.S.C. Recognition procession. No one was allowed to pass through the Gate except those who had completed a C.L.S.C. course of study. We’ll share more about the Golden Gate in future posts about the C.L.S.C.

The Hall of Christ from a 1909 postcard.

Hall of Christ. This monumental stone and brick building sat at the corner of Wythe and South avenues. Created by Bishop Vincent, it was used as a chapel for meditation and prayer; and as a place of quiet, spiritual fellowship.


Chautauqua Hall of Philosophy 1908 edited
The Hall of Philosophy. The long flight of steps led down toward The Golden Gate.

The Hall of Philosophy. Known as “The Hall in the Grove” to Isabella Alden fans, this structure, modeled after a Greek temple, was located in St. Paul’s Grove. It was a regular meeting place of the C.L.S.C. conferences and gatherings.

When Caroline Raynor first arrived at Chautauqua in the book, The Hall in the Grove, young Robert Fenton took her to see his favorite building.

“Now which way do you want to go?”

“Whichever way you are pleased to take me. I have not seen anything save what I couldn’t help looking at when we arrived.”

“Then I’m just going to take you to the Hall. The rest rush to the Auditorium first and rave over that. It is splendid, I suppose; large, you know, and makes one think of crowds and grand things. But I can’t imagine people enough here to fill it—not to begin! With the Hall, now, it is different; just a nice audience would fill that, and it is so white, and so—Oh, well! I can’t explain, only it’s nice, and you will like it. Some people don’t care about it much; but I know you will.”

“Thank you,” said Caroline, and her heart was smiling as well as her eyes. She understood the boy; imagined something of what he would have said if he could have expressed his feelings, and she understood and appreciated the delicately-sincere compliment.

“This is a lovely avenue that leads to your favorite building,” she said, as she turned back to look at the straight wide road they had traversed, lying clear-cut amid the shadows of the overhanging trees.

The Hall of Philosophy, viewed from the side.

“Isn’t it!” declared Robert, with ever-increasing enthusiasm. “This is another thing I like so much—this avenue. I’ll tell you, Caroline, when it must be just grand, and that is in full moonlight. Ha! There it is!”

It is impossible to describe to you the delight that was in the boy’s tones as the gleaming pillars of the Hall of Philosophy rose up before him; something in the purity and strength, and quaintness, seemed to have gotten possession of him. Whether it was a shadowy link between him and some ancient scholar or worshipper I cannot say, but certain it is that Robert Fenton, boy though he was, treading the Chautauquan avenues for the first time, felt his young heart thrill with a hope and a determination, neither of which he understood, every time he saw those gleaming pillars.

In the Hall’s concrete floor are inserted tablets in honor of the C.L.S.C. classes that contributed toward construction of the building. This diagram shows where each tablet was inlaid. You can see the tablet for Isabella Alden’s class of 1887 near the lower left corner. Click on the image to view a larger version.





Kellogg Memorial Hall, 1895.

Kellogg Hall, at Pratt-Ramble-Scott-Wythe avenues, was erected in 1889. The Kindergarten Department, Ceramics Department and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union had headquarters here.



Palestine Park, 1908.

Palestine Park. Located on the shore of Lake Chautauqua near Miller Park, this model of old Palestine was constructed as a teaching tool to illustrate lessons from the Bible. Watch for more on Palestine Park in a future Tour of Chautauqua blog post.


The Post Office as it looked in the 1920s.

Post Office. The Post Office was located on the same plaza as The Colonnade. It was in the post office that Burnham Roberts encountered the charming Hazel Harris in Four Mothers at Chautauqua.


The Post Office in 1913.

This photo from 1913 shows the busy Post Office. The number of people strolling through the plaza hints that it may have been a convenient thoroughfare for going from building to building on the grounds.



Chautauqua Post Office and Colonnade
The Plaza showing the Post Office on the right and the front of The Colonnade Building on the left. The ladies walking on the flower-bordered path will approach The Colonnade through the Vine-Clad Pergola.

There are many other places to explore at Chautauqua.

Next stop on our Tour of Chautauqua: Having fun.


A Tour of Chautauqua – Where to Stay

Chautauqua tent life in 1910

In the early days of Chautauqua, there were no hotels or boarding houses where visitors could stay. Instead, visitors rented tents or small cottages erected on the grounds. Some cottagers with room to spare rented out rooms to paying guests, but Chautauqua rules prohibited anyone from providing meals for pay.

If you were not lucky enough to have a kitchen of your own in which to prepare your meals, you had to eat in the dining-hall, which was a long, open-air building furnished with rough, unpainted tables and benches.

A Chautauqua cottage in 1908

Visitors often complained that the roof leaked and the backless benches were uncomfortable, but the dining hall was the only place visitors could have meals unless they prepared food themselves.

In Four Girls at Chautauqua, Isabella Alden used the no-board-for-profit rule to show the difference in personalities between practical Marion and wealthy Ruth as they ate in the dining hall:

Chautauqua Old Dining Hall
The old dining hall.

It was a merry dinner, after all, eaten with steel forks and without napkins, and with plated spoons—if you were so fortunate as to secure one. The rush of people was very great, and, with their inconvenient accommodations, the process of serving was slow.

Marion, her eyes being opened, went to studying the people about her. She found that courteous good-humor was the rule, and selfishness and ungraciousness the exception. Inconveniences were put up with and merrily laughed over by people who, from their dress and manners, could be accustomed to only the best.

Ruth did not recover her equanimity. She was rasped on every side. Those two-tined steel forks were a positive sting to her. She shuddered as the steel touched her lips. She had no spoon at all, and she looked on in utter disgust while Eurie merrily stirred her tea with her fork. When the waiter came at last, with hearty apologies for keeping them waiting for their spoons, and the old gentleman said cordially, “All in good time. We shall not starve even if we get no spoons,” she curled her lip disdainfully, and murmured that she had always been accustomed to the conveniences of life, and found it somewhat difficult to do without them.

In 1876, the meal restriction was removed and anyone could provide rooms and meals for a fee, as long as a specified percentage of the amount charged was given to the Institution. Within a year, boarding houses had sprung up as if by magic, while a vast number of individual cottages sported signs offering “Rooms and Board.”

Chautauqua cottages along Miller Park in early 1920s. To the right, just out of view, is Chautauqua Lake.

In Four Mothers at Chautauqua, Mrs. Bradford and her daughters rented a cottage for the summer, despite the fact they could ill afford it. Mrs. Bradford was always on the look-out for ways to economize and found one way to make her pennies go further at Chautauqua:


Before Mrs. Bradford’s table economies reached what Josephine called the “starvation point” a method of relief was discovered. It was learned that among the numerous boarding houses scattered over the grounds, certain of them furnished fairly good meals for twenty-five cents. They were named lunches, to be sure, but on occasion they would serve excellently well for dinners. Pencil and paper together with a vigorous exercise of Josephine’s computation powers proved that seventy-five cents would afford three of them better dinners than that sum would produce in the kitchenette.

The Longfellow in 1907

The Longfellow Cottage was a large boarding house. Centrally located on Roberts Avenue, it was only one block away from The Amphitheatre, the C.L.S.C. Building, the Children’s Temple,the Administration Building, The Colonnade and the Post Office (which will be featured in the next leg of our tour).

The Palace Hotel was the first hotel on the Chautauqua grounds, but it was far from luxurious. It was little more than a three-story, wood-framed tent, with canvas partitions to divide the guest “rooms.”

The Palace Hotel

In 1881 the Palace Hotel was replaced by The Athenaeum, a proper hotel that featured elegant accommodations and beautiful views of the lake.

Chautauqua Athenaeum Hotel edited
An undated postcard from The Hotel Athenaeum

As the Athenaeum attracted more guests, the cottages and boarding houses grew in number, size and comfort in order to compete for their share of paying boarders.

The Hotel Athenaeum as it looked in 1908. The hotel is still in use today.
An 1897 magazine advertisement for The Hotel Athenaeum

When the Four Mothers returned to Chautauqua with their children and grandchildren, they stayed at a hotel that sounded very much like The Athenaeum. Isabella Alden set many scenes on the hotel’s upper and lower verandas and her characters made great use of the lush lawns that led from the hotel down to the lake.


This image of The Hotel Athenaeum and its verandas is dated 1911, just two years before Four Mothers at Chautauqua was published.

Chautauqua Athenaeum Hotel 1911

Visitors to Chautauqua used a Handbook of Information to locate places to stay. These sample pages from the 1908 Handbook list hotels and boarding houses on the grounds, their addresses, and the owners of the establishments. The Longfellow boarding house (pictured earlier in this post) is listed on the top of the second page.

1908 handbook appendix d highlighted

The St. Elmo was another hotel on the Chautauqua Institution grounds that was listed in the 1908 Handbook. Here’s how The St. Elmo looked in 1920, as it stood at the corner of Ames and Pratt Avenues.

Chautauqua Hotel St Elmo edited
St. Elmo Hotel in the 1920s

With all the boarding and hotel options, tent living still thrived. Chautauqua’s founders, John Heyl Vincent and Lewis Miller, maintained residences that were hybrids of cottage and tent.

Bishop Vincent’s Tent Cottage










Lewis Miller’s cottage. He accommodated overnight guests in a tent he erected on the lawn.

As Chautauqua grew and offered more and more styles of accommodations, many visitors still chose a simple summer of tent life in God’s great outdoors.

Chautauqua Institution by William Flanders edited

Next  on our Tour of Chautauqua:  Touring the Grounds


A Tour of Chautauqua – Getting There

When Eurie, Marion, Ruth and Flossy embarked on their journey to Chautauqua in August, 1875 they traveled by railroad to Mayville. From there they took a steamer to Chautauqua. The map below shows the towns that lined Chautauqua Lake in 1906 (several years after the girls first journeyed there). You can see Mayville on the far left side of the map (click on the map to see a larger version).

Chautauqua Lake Map 1906 edited large

In Mayville, the girls boarded a steamer named, The Colonel Phillips, and boated along the southern shore of the lake to Chautauqua. As luck would have it, they arrived at Chautauqua under less than perfect conditions: it was raining and well past dark when they reached their destination.

From the deck of The Colonel Philips, their first glimpse of the institute was probably the Chautauqua Institution dock, which stood at the tip of a point that jutted out into the lake. Incoming steamboats used the dock to  let passengers on and off. The vintage postcard below shows the steamer, City of Cincinnati, docking at Chautauqua after dark, in much the same way as The Colonel Phillips would have docked (click on any of the images below to see a larger version).

Chautauqua Lake Dock at night edited

In 191Chautauqua Miller Bell Tower v2 edited1 the Miller Bell Tower was erected alongside the dock. It was built to commemorate the life and contributions of Chautauqua co-founder Lewis Miller. When the girls returned in 1913 (as described in Isabella Alden’s book, Four Mothers at Chautauqua), they would have seen the beautiful new bell tower as they approached the dock; and they would pass it as they stepped off the boat and entered the Institute grounds.

The hand-colored postcard below shows the tower and dock looking northeast toward the direction from which the girls’ steamer would have arrived from Mayville. The postcard also shows South Lake Drive, which ran along the shore from the bell tower to the south end of the Institute grounds. From the vantage point presented in this picture, the Chautauqua Auditorium was just out of view to the left.

Chautauqua Lake 1943 edited

During the girls’ first visit to Chautauqua, The Auditorium was an open-air arena with “rows and rows and rows of heads, men and women, and even children. A tent larger than they had imagined could be built and packed with people.”  Here’s how Isabella Alden described it in Four Girls at Chautauqua:

Lake Chautauqua outdoor auditorium. Photo courtesy of http://chautauqua.palmerdividehistory.org

For the benefit of such poor benighted beings as have never seen Chautauqua, let me explain that the auditorium was the great temple where the congregation assembled for united service. Such a grand temple as it was! The pillars thereof were great solemn trees, with their green leaves arching overhead in festoons of beauty. I don’t know how many seats there were, nor how many could be accommodated at the auditorium. Eurie set out to walk up and down the long aisles one day and count the seats, but she found that which so arrested her attention before she was half-way down the central aisle that she forgot all about it, and there was never any time afterward for that work. I mean to tell you about that day when I get to it. The grandstand was down here in front of all these seats, spacious and convenient, the pillars thereof festooned with flags from many nations. The large piano occupied a central point; the speaker’s desk at its feet, in the central of the stand; the reporters’ tables and chairs just below.

The Auditorium was used for the first four years, then the Amphitheatre—a more permanent, open-air structure—was erected that could hold many more people. The Amphitheatre’s crowning glory was its magnificent pipe organ. The seats behind the Amphitheatre stage were typically occupied by speakers, performers, choirs and orchestras.

Chautauqua Amphitheater edited

The photo below from about 1895 shows The Amphitheatre in service, with every possible seat taken. The view looks across The Amphitheatre, with the stage and speakers on the right. You can just make out the shape of the huge organ pipes.

Chautauqua Amphitheater full house 1895

After the girls attended their first lecture in the Chautauqua Auditorium, they decided to stay on the grounds, rather than at a nearby hotel. They appealed to the Institute President to help them find a suitable place to stay. As he showed them the available tents to rent, Ruth couldn’t hide her dismay.

Chautauqua camping 1908_Ladies
Ladies camping in a typical Chautauqua tent in 1908.

“Why, the bed isn’t made up! Pray, are we to sleep on the slats?”

“Oh, no. But you have to hire all those things, you know. Have you seen our bulletin? There are parties on the ground prepared to fit up everything that you need, and to do it very reasonably. Of course, we cannot know what degree of expense those requiring tents care to incur, so we leave that matter for them to decide for themselves. You can have as many or as few comforts as you choose, and pay accordingly.”

“And are all four of us expected to occupy this one room?” There was an expression of decided disgust on Miss Erskine’s face.

Tent Life 1875 Hurlburt Beard and Worden
Chautauqua Speakers in front of their tent in 1875. J. L. Hurlbut, J. A. Worden, Frank Beard (famous for his “chalk talk”), and J. L. Hughes.

“Why, you see,” explained the amused President, “this tent is designed for four; two good-sized bedsteads set up in it; and the necessity seems to be upon us to crowd as much as we can conveniently. There will be no danger of impure air, you know, for you have all out-doors to breathe.”

“And you really don’t have toilette stands or toilette accommodations! What a way to live!”

Another voice chimed in now, which was the very embodiment of refined horror. “And you don’t have pianos nor sofas, and the room isn’t lighted with gas! I’m sure I don’t see how we can live! It is not what we have been accustomed to.” This was Marion, with the most dancing eyes in the world, and the President completed the scene by laughing outright. Suddenly Ruth discovered that she was acting the part of a simpleton, and with flushed face she turned from them, and walked to a vacant seat, in the opposite direction from where they were standing.

Chautauqua Tents and Cottages, 1910

“We will take this one,” she said, haughtily, without vouchsafing it a look. “I presume it is as good as any of them, and, since we are fairly into this absurd scrape we must make the best of it.”

“Or the worst of it,” Marion said, still laughing. “You are bent on doing that, I think, Ruthie.”

By a violent effort and rare good sense Ruth controlled herself sufficiently to laugh, and the embarrassment vanished. There were splendid points about this girl’s character, not the least among them being the ability to laugh at a joke that had been turned toward herself.

The girls survived their first night in the tent. The next day, they split up, each going in different directions; and Flossy soon found herself lost and alone on the grounds.

Meantime Flossy was being educated. The morning work had touched her from a different standpoint. She had not heard Dr. Walden; instead she had wandered into a bit of holy ground. She began by losing her way. It is one of the easiest things to do at Chautauqua. The avenues cross and recross in an altogether bewildering manner to one not accustomed to newly laid-out cities; and just when one imagines himself at the goal for which he started, lo! There is woods, and nothing else anywhere. Another attempt patiently followed for an hour has the exasperating effect of bringing him to the very point from which he started. Such an experience had Flossy, when by reason of her loitering propensities she became detached from her party, and tried to find her own way to the stand. A whole hour of wandering, then a turn into perfect chaos. She had no more idea where she was than if she had been in the by-ways of London. Clearly she must inquire the way.

While trying to find her way, Flossy may have walked down Clark Street, which is pictured below in 1907, looking south from Miller Avenue (named after Lewis Miller). The Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle (C.L.S.C.) building is on the left.

Chautauqua Clark Street 1907 edited

Here’s a closer view of the C.L.S.C. building, as it looked in 1908:

Chautauqua CLSC Building 1908 edited

And below is a photo of Vincent Avenue, named for Methodist Bishop John Heyl Vincent, one of the founders of the Chautauqua Institute. The photo was taken in 1930, long after the girls’ first visit.

Chautauqua Vincent Avenue 1930

Little did Flossy, Ruth, Eurie and Marion know that those first days in Chautauqua were the prelude to life changing experiences for each of them!

Next  on our Tour of Chautauqua:  Where to Stay