It’s safe to say that few places on earth celebrate fame more than the state of California.
When Isabella and her husband Ross moved to Palo Alto, California in 1901, she joined a community of talented authors, artists, musicians, and actors already in residence.
The California State Library had a system for documenting famous and notable residents through a series of biographical index cards.
Some of the cards date as far back as 1781. Each card detailed the names, birthplaces and accomplishments of artists, soldiers, statesmen, “and other notables.” In most cases, the cards were completed by the person in their own handwriting.
Here’s a biographical card completed by silent film star Douglas Fairbanks in 1916:
Interestingly, Fairbank’s education—first at a military school, then as an engineering major at Denver’s School of Mines—could not have been more contrary to his ultimate career as one of early Hollywood’s most beloved actors.
Author John Steinbeck was only 33 years old when he completed his card:
His most famous novels, Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath, had not yet been published.
In 1906 the State of California asked Isabella to complete a biographical card.
In her own handwriting Isabella wrote out her personal information on the front of the card:
Name in full: Isabella Macdonald Alden
Born at Rochester, N.Y., on Nov. 3, 1841.
Father, Isaac Macdonald
Mother (maiden name in full), Myra Spafford.
If married to whom? Rev. G. R. Alden
Place, Gloversville, N.Y.
Date, May 30, 1866
Where educated, Seneca Collegiate Institute – Ovid, N.Y.
Years spent in California, five
Residences in State, Palo Alto, Calif.
Present Address, 455 University Ave., Palo Alto, Calif.
(A state employee noted on the card Pansy’s date of death, August 5, 1930.)
The back of the card is also written in Isabella’s hand.
Published works and periodicals for which you have written:
I enclose with this card a printed list of my books. I was for 25 years editor of a juvenile monthly magazine – named The Pansy; and for the same length of time I was the Editorial staff of the Westminster S. S. Teachers. I am now on the Editorial staff of the Herald & Presbyter, Cincinnati, with which paper I have been associated for 33 years.
I have for the past twelve years had a department in the Christian Endeavor World — As to Clubs, etc. I have been honored by being elected to a number of local literary clubs, and to membership in the Women’s Press Association.
When Isabella completed this card in 1906 her novel Ester Ried’s Namesake was published. In the following years she would go on to publish Ruth Erskine’s Son, The Browns at Mount Hermon, FourMothersatChautauqua, and five more novels.
This sample of Isabella’s handwriting reveals a few things about her. For example, the distinctive way she forms her capital letters—especially C, M and H—indicates she was taught to write script in a style that was popular around 1850. In particular, she forms her capital letters with a finishing loop that could easily be mistaken for a lower case “a” or “o.”
In this handwriting example from the 1850 United States Federal Census, you can see the census taker had a similar slant to his writing and formed his capital letters in the same way Isabella did.
Her card also shows she was very proud of her work as editor of The Pansy and other Christian publications. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to find a copy of the list of published works she referenced on her card; it would be interesting to see if there were any titles she listed that aren’t among Pansy’s known published works we’ve compiled!
Sometimes people who filled out the cards also submitted photographs, pertinent letters, and copies of published books. While there’s no record that Isabella submitted such items, it’s clear the State of California has an extensive and rich collection that would be interesting and fun for any researcher or fan to explore.
You can click on any of the images in this post to see a larger version.
Karen Noske joins us again to share photos and descriptions of the Chautauqua landmarks she explored this summer, with Isabella Alden’s novels in mind. Welcome back, Karen!
My next objective was the Hall of Christ, as there was an archival lecture to be given momentarily on one of the most influential early religious leaders at Chautauqua, the renowned Shailer Mathews.
I imagined how Isabella might have felt, sitting in this arena, listening to contemporary reflections on the man whose influence changed the course of the Institute in so many ways.
“The Hall of the Christ, is first of all, to stand in the center of Chautauqua to represent Christ as the center of all learning and all true living; the Key to the true and eternal wisdom…a Hall where Jesus Christ is enthroned; where only his story is allowed; told in print and picture and sculpture and the human voice. Isn’t it grand!”
(Four Mothers at Chautauqua)
The workmanlike interior of the unprepossessing Hall of Christ makes me wonder if there haven’t been many changes to it over the years.
The general atmosphere is one of beneficent neglect and exhaustion. A magnificent organ dominates the stage—sadly, it was eclipsed by the speaker’s screen and I only got this tantalizing glimpse of it.
Engrossing as the lecture was, I was glad to make my way out towards my next objective—the centerpiece of Chautauqua for Isabella and, as it turned out, for me.
The Hall in the Grove
Directly adjacent to the Hall of Christ is the cherished “Hall in the Grove.” I recognized it immediately by its prominence and its beauty:
“If you have up to this time been even a careless reader of this volume, you have doubtless discovered that the center of Chautauqua life was the ‘Hall in the Grove.’ A beautiful grove, with trees old enough and grand enough to be worthy of their baptismal name—”St Paul’s Grove.” White-pillared, simple, plain, yet suggestive of such a brilliant past and hinting of such a glorified future … this bit of green and white, with a glimmer of lake between.”
(The Hall in the Grove, page 286)
A talk by the very popular Bill Moyers (of CBS News fame) was just finishing up, so I crept in around the edges and starting following the elaborate and beautiful mosaics that frame the lecture hall’s floor.
“All was quiet there. The sunset meeting which had been held in that white, still place was closed sometime since, and their feet, as they stepped on the floor, resounded throughout the vacant Hall.”
(The Hall in the Grove, page 240)
I was delighted to find the shield of Pansy’s Class of 1887 in a place of genuine honor—nestled around the corners of the lectern.
The lectern platform itself is still a modest affair, virtually unchanged since Pansy’s class approached to celebrate their graduation. Let’s join Paul Adams from The Hall in the Grove here:
“Arrived at the white, quiet building, he entered it with soft tread, and, under an impulse which he did not in the least understand, uncovered his head. He stepped softly onto the platform, drew the armchair, which was the seat of honor, forward a trifle, and settled himself in it. Then he brought up before him in review the many and varied and wonderful experiences which the weeks had brought him in connection with that spot … Then he got down from the professor’s chair and … after a silent last look at the Hall, he walked home with Joe, they two speaking words together that were better than marble columns or millions of money, for they represented manhood.”
(The Hall in the Grove, page 382)
In The Hall in the Grove, Isabella shares a peek into her heart:
“…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 worshiper I cannot say … but treading the Chautauquan avenues for the first time … his young heart thrill[ed] with a hope and a determination, neither of which he understood, every time he saw those gleaming pillars.”
(The Hall in the Grove, page 198)
When Caroline Raynor (another character in The Hall in the Grove) objects to the Hall being made in the style of a Temple of Minerva, she is vigorously corrected by her soon-to-be suitor, Robert:
“I like it exceedingly. Let the beautiful white temple be rescued from its heathen desecration and dedicated to the service of the good and true God our Father, and his Son Jesus Christ.”
I passed an ancient oak near one of entrances that was garmented in ivy and wondered … if I parted the ivy, would I find a lichen-crusted carving in the tree reading “Vine, 22, 1887”? (Eighty–Seven, page 12.)
I surely saw what Dr. Winter Kelland did when …
“he and Vine walked … around under the hill, and up the hill, and come out beside the white-pillared hall and stopped under one of the tallest trees, and looked about them, and were silent. Dr. Kelland took off his hat and looked up reverently to the very top of the tall tree, beyond the top, into the blue of heaven.”
(Eighty-Seven, page 318)
As I walked reluctantly away from the Hall, I looked up and felt sure I was seeing the same trees, the same sky, the same view Pansy enjoyed in Four Girls at Chautauqua:
“None of all … who spent the day within the shadow of that sweet and leafy place have surely forgotten how the quaint and quiet beauty of the place and its surrounding fell upon them; they know just how the birds sang among those tall old trees; they know just how still and blue and clear the lake looked as they caught glimpses of it through the quivering green of myriad leaves …”
(Four Girls at Chautauqua, page 180)
Next time, Karen makes a little visit to the Chautauqua Post Office before trekking to the “Holy Land.”
If you missed previous posts about Chautauqua Institution, you can read them by clicking on the links below:
There were many beloved traditions at Chautauqua Institution, and Isabella Alden often described them in her books.
“Do you know the Chautauqua salute?”
Burnham Roberts asked the question of Hazel Harris in Four Mothers at Chautauqua.
“Then you understand what a strange effect is produced by the simultaneous flutter of countless white handkerchiefs. Can you imagine what it would be to see at least five thousand of them held aloft motionless for a single solemn minute, the only sound in the great assembly coming from the great organ softly tolling out a requiem? That is the way they paid tribute to the Bishop’s co-laborer, and to other great souls who put their shoulders to the wheel in the early days of the enterprise. I never saw a more impressive sight in my life.”
And in The Hall in the Grove, Carolyn Raynor was enchanted upon seeing the Chautauqua salute for the first time:
Well she might exclaim. To one like her who had never seen it before, the sight was simply glorious; and to one who has never seen it at all, the effect is indescribable; yet the cause was simple enough. A flutter of what looked like millions and millions of white handkerchiefs!
“The Chautauqua salute,” said Mr. Masters composedly, his eyes shining their satisfaction. “Isn’t it a singular scene?”
“A summer snow-storm down among the flowers and the grasses and the full-leaved forest trees,” said Caroline.
In The Story of Chautauqua, Jesse Lyman Hurlbut told how the salute came to be.
On the 1877 program was a speaker named Mr. S. L. Greene from Ontario, Canada. Mr. Green was deaf and mute. Reverend Hurlbut described how Mr. Greene addressed the great audience in pantomime in the Auditorium under the trees:
He spoke in the sign-language, telling several stories from the gospels; and so striking were his silent symbols that everyone could see the picture. We were especially struck with his vivid representation of Christ stilling the tempest.
When Mr. Greene finished, the audience of “at least two thousand” burst into enthusiastic applause; but Dr. Vincent stopped them.
“The speaker is unable to hear your applause. Let us wave our handkerchiefs instead of clapping our hands.”
In an instant the grove was transformed into a garden of white lilies dancing under the leaves of the trees. Then and there the Chautauqua salute of waving handkerchiefs was adopted as a token of special honor, used only when called for by Dr. Vincent in person.
And Dr. Vincent insisted that the salute—which was a distinct and rare honor—“should be of the whitest, purest, intensest kind.” He likened the salute to lilies, and soon the gesture came to be known as The Blooming of the Lilies.
In later years, as Chautauqua Institution grew, the size of the Amphitheatre audience grew as well. By 1884, it wasn’t unusual to have six thousand people gathered in the Amphitheatre to give the Chautauqua salute to some distinguished individual:
“Six thousand lily-white handkerchiefs waving a salute of honor, vigorously expressing the joy of the Chautauqua hearer, is a sight long to be remembered by those who participate therein,” wrote Reverend Hurlbut.
A crowd of ten thousand greeted Theodore Roosevelt with the Chautauqua salute when he arrived on August 19, 1899 to “preach the gospel of intelligent work” in the vast Amphitheater.
Poet May M. Bisbee was so enthralled seeing the Chautauqua Salute for the first time, she wrote a lovely poem about the experience. Click on the image to see a larger version you can read and print.
In the middle of the 19th Century a new craze began to take hold on American college campuses. The new fad was a revolutionary form of physical exercise called gymnastics.
German in origin, gymnastics spread in popularity and were ultimately integrated into college sports programs. By the end of the century, gymnastics training—as well as the concept of regular exercise for overall health and well-being—made the leap into public consciousness and became a popular concept in the lives of everyday Americans.
The founders of Chautauqua Institution saw the rise of public interest in physical education and knew the concept had a place at Chautauqua. Bishop John Vincent strongly believed that a healthy body was essential to a healthy mind and soul.
Chautauqua had always offered plenty of exercise for visitors who wanted to be active. There were athletic clubs for men, women and children. Classes were offered in hiking and riding bikes; wrestling and fencing; swimming, diving, hurdle-jumping and golf.
Even their courses on gardening and horticulture emphasized the mental and physical benefits of growing orchard and garden crops.
With the nation’s growing interest in fitness and outdoor sports came an increased demand for trained teachers of athletics. Chautauqua Institution answered the call by establishing the Chautauqua School of Physical Education. The school focused on preparing teachers for placement at schools, universities, Young Men’s Christian Associations, and athletic clubs; and they were the first to give certificates to teachers in physical education.
As usual, Chautauqua Institution offered the best instruction that could be furnished in several lines of athletics.
And, as always, Chautauqua assembled the country’s premier instructors for each area of specialty. Here, for instance, is a roster of the faculty during the summer of 1903:
Between 1886 (when the school was founded) and 1904 the school trained an estimated 1,200 to 1,500 physical education teachers from across the United States. In addition to the Normal Course, the school offered classes “suited to the needs of men, women, misses, boys and children.”
In other words, summer visitors to Chautauqua had ample opportunity to learn track and field, gymnastics, and virtually every other athletic technique from the country’s best instructors, assembled in one place.
A unique aspect of the physical education training offered at Chautauqua was the melding of three different physical education systems.
The German gymnastics system was based on strenuous exercise performed on equipment such as pommel horses, parallel bars, climbing walls and rope mechanisms.
The Swedish gymnastics system focused on calisthenics, stretching and breathing.
And the Delsartean system integrated lighted physical exercise with artistic movement and relaxation techniques. The system was named for Francois Delsarte, who devoted his life to studying the laws of human motion, gesture and expression.
Together these three systems formed the school of physical culture. As students learned to master the different techniques, they often exhibited their skills in the Chautauqua Amphitheater.
The Physical Culture exhibitions were extremely popular as a form of entertainment for summer Chautauquans. At the time, most people had never before seen athletes displaying skills with light devices such as dumb-bells, rings, poles, and Indian Clubs. As a source of entertainment, these displays were something of a phenomenon.
But athletes didn’t demonstrate strength and skill alone. The Delsartean system stressed beauty of movement. Under Delsartean teaching it wasn’t enough for students to simply lift a dumb-bell in front of an audience; they learned to lift dumb-bells in prescribed forms that created pleasing compositions, all accompanied to appropriate music.
Perhaps the most popular portion of the program was the display of mastery of Indian Clubs. Indian Clubs looked something like modern-day bowling pins. They were often hollow with removable tops so sand or other substances could be inserted to give them weight. By swinging the clubs according to Delsartean rhythms and movements, men, women and children got an effective upper body workout.
Isabella Alden wrote about a public performance of Indian Clubs in her short story “Agatha’s Unknown Way.” She described the exhibition as “fancy club-swinging.”
Demonstrations like the one Isabella described were extremely popular and drew large audiences, which is exactly what happened in “Agatha’s Unknown Way.”
In the story, the solo performer was a woman, which would have been very unusual at the time, and she certainly would have drawn a crowd. She also probably stimulated audience members to try exercising with Indian Clubs themselves.
It would have been easy enough to learn how. By the turn of the century over 20 different best-selling books had been published on Delsartean techniques. People bought the instruction books and used them to practice the system of movement and exercise in the privacy of their own homes.
Other exercise-at-home books sold well, too, such as this Ladies’ Home Calisthenics book published in 1890.
In this book, push-ups, weight lifting, and club swinging exercises were modified for women in consideration of the restrictions on their movements caused by their corsets.
Women were expected to wear their corsets at all times, even while exercising; but at least one corset manufacturer, spotting the new exercise trend, advertised that women wearing their corset could “perform in comfort any exercise of physical culture.”
. . . . . . . . . .
The physical culture movement wasn’t just about lifting weights and swinging clubs. The Delsartean system had at its core a principle of movement based on art, relaxation, balance and the natural flow of breath. Over time, the Delsartean system expanded to address areas of “self-expression.” For example, some public speaking classes at Chautauqua adopted the breathing and relaxation techniques designed by Delsarte, as did courses on deportment and “self-expression.”
In Four Mothers at Chautauqua Isabella Alden wrote about a Chautauqua class on relaxation that was founded on Delsarte’s principles. Grumpy Mrs. Bradford learned about the relaxation techniques after her daughter Isabel showed her a brochure about the class.
“‘Exercise that rests.’ I wonder what kind it can be? I’m sure I have exercise enough, but I must say I don’t feel especially rested. Why in the world do you want me to go and look on at those idiots twisting their bodies into all sorts of shapes? Look at this one trying to reach her toes without tipping over! I must say I have no patience with women who make fools of themselves taking such exercises. It is bad enough for silly girls to waste their time and money in that way.”
However, she had turned from her doorway and was allowing the eager Isabel to pilot her down the avenue toward the “School of Expression.” She continued to read, as she walked, and to make comments. “‘It is not the work we do, but the energy we waste when not working that exhausts us.’ Humph, much she knows about it! I never waste any energy.”
Yet perhaps there was never a woman who wasted more than did Mrs. Bradford. The trouble with her, as with many another, was that she did not know herself.
She read on: “‘Learn to relax, to let go—physically and mentally—to untie the fuss and worry knots.’ Yes, I wonder how? It’s easy enough to talk!” But the tone was less scornful; there was even a touch of wistfulness in it.
Isabel caught at the wistful tone and answered it.
“You wait, Mother, she will tell you how. She says she has been doing it a good many years, and has rested more tired women than she can count.”
And it was a fact that as soon as the teacher began to talk, to explain, to answer with ready comprehension and sympathy the volley of questions poured at her, to move that supple body of hers that seemed to have no more weight in it than a cork, and did her instant bidding with an unfailing ease and grace, Mrs. Bradford discovered what every member of the large class had done: that here was one body that was a willing servant, instead of a tyrant demanding from the jaded spirit impossibilities.
“You want to learn how to get a good healthy ‘tired,’ that will make rest a joy, and work that follows it a pleasure;” she said brightly, as if that was a very ordinary lesson easily mastered.
Mrs. Bradford, from listening with an air of endurance as one who had been smuggled in against her will, grew interested, grew absorbed in the genial flow of talk that was not a lecture nor a lesson, and yet was distinctly both. When she came to herself, and found herself standing with the others trying to reach her toes without tipping over—the precise effort that she had so sharply criticized—she did not know whether to be ashamed, and indignant at somebody, or to laugh. But fun got the upper hand, and she joined in the hearty laugh that was going the rounds at the expense of them all. After that, she forgot that it was a class, and a lesson, and that she was a middle-aged woman with dignity to sustain. For a full half hour she did that excellent thing for such women as she: forgot Mrs. Bradford entirely.
Mrs. Bradford laughed outright, a merry laugh such as she had not in years relaxed sufficiently to give. The comic side of this strange morning was getting possession of her.
Next stop of our tour of Chautauqua: The Teacher’s Retreat
* * * * *
Click here to read more about Four Mothers at Chautauqua.
You can read “Agatha’s Unknown Way” forfree! Click on the book cover to read Isabella Alden’s short story now.
You can learn more about the Delsartean system of Physical Culture by following these links:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There was a Lawyers’ Club, a Masonic Club, a College Fraternity Club, and Octogenarians’ Club, which only admitted members aged eighty years and older.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
“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.”
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:
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.
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.
Amphitheater. 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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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 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. 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.
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.
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.
There are many other places to explore at Chautauqua.
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.
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:
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.”
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 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.”
In 1881 the Palace Hotel was replaced by The Athenaeum, a proper hotel that featured elegant accommodations and beautiful views of the lake.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Next on our Tour of Chautauqua: Touring the Grounds
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).
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).
In 1911 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 atChautauqua), 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
Here’s a closer view of the C.L.S.C. building, as it looked in 1908:
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.
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!
January 17 is National Wear A Hat Day. In honor of the occasion, here are sketches of lovely ladies wearing hats that were popular at the turn of the 20th Century. Now yellowed with age, these black and white drawings were often used in advertisements and on trade cards.
Isabella Alden’s first book was published in 1865 and she continued to publish fiction through the 1920s. Her stories spanned many decades and she saw fashion styles come and go throughout her long life. These stylish hats might have been worn by Isabella’s heroines in her books, Making Fate, Overruled, As In A Mirror, Four Mothers at Chautauqua and Ruth Erskine’s Son, which were all published between 1895 and 1905.