Tag Archives: Palestine Park

Postcards from Chautauqua: Saturday in the Park with Pansy

8 Aug

A Sunset service at Palestine Park

.

“Nevertheless, she suffered herself to be persuaded to go for a walk, provided Eurie would go to Palestine….Flossy explained to her that she had a consuming desire to wander along the banks of the Jordan and view those ancient cities, historic now.” (Four Girls at Chautauqua)

Sometimes, I really, really wish I could take the Way Back Machine and latch onto Pansy’s group as they enjoyed the apparently mesmerizing lectures by a flamboyant Middle Eastern-born tour guide named Augustus Oscar Van Lennep. Not content to introduce the lakeside miniature Holy Lands that are a relic of Chautauqua’s Sunday School Assembly days, this enterprising, creative fellow dolled up in “Oriental” costume to give his lectures. That’s our man below, lounging in Rajah-like style, while his indulgent friends retain their upright Victorian postures.

Courtesy of the Chautauqua Institution Archives.

.

Gus must have had an equally fun set of folks who joined him—witness his jolly crew of costumed believers at Palestine Park in 1875/6-ish. Can you imagine??? Oh, how much fun must that have been!

Courtesy of the Chautauqua Institution Archives.

.

Alas, today the Park is largely neglected and used more as a family playground than an instructional living map.

I’ve been studying a 1920’s Bible Atlas by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut (Chautauqua lecturer, founding father, and big-time booster) to gain a working knowledge of the Holy Lands. As Dr. Vincent believed, I think understanding the topography and layout, relative distances and terrain of Palestine environs is extremely helpful when reading Scripture. I mean, when you see how far Gideon and his 300 brave soldiers had to track the Philistines, you really do understand why he was so angered when the locals wouldn’t give them any foods to keep their strength up!

According the Pansy’s many charming references to the Palestine Park, students were treated to not only the basic layout, but tiny townscapes and identifying plaques dotted the carefully crafted map. Bible verses connecting each significant stop provided context—and reasserted the importance of the location for the Christ-following traveler.

Today, in an effort to keep the residual charm of the place, small cast iron plaques are embedded along the landscape—they’re kept painted and somewhat landscaped. I understand there’s a “tour” each Sunday night and I hope to attend it someday.

I paced off various Bible place names made familiar by my Old Testament studies and was genuinely surprised to see how concentrated a radius these events encompassed. Here’s Jerusalem in relation to the Mount of Olives, only a stone’s throw from Bethany.

Mount Hermon in the distance provides the perfect “king of the hill” locale for the resort’s kiddie population. The impressive crevasse made me wonder if erosion hadn’t made the Jordan Valley a bit too deep?

“Here we are, on ‘Jordan’s stormy banks…I suppose there was never a more perfect geographical representation than this.” (Four Girls at Chautauqua)

Compared to the vintage postcards you’ll find in this blog’s archived Chautauqua posts (see the links at the conclusion of this post), I’d say the accuracy factor might be off a bit these days.

I found it charming that Jericho was in “ruins”—the flat-topped ancient buildings crumbled and scattered, like those of Hebron (though I’m not certain these ruins were intentional.)

Is someone is tending Jacob’s Well? Even on the dry day I visited, it was filled with water.

My favorite? The truly little town of Bethlehem.

I read the plaque as I exited the park, wistful at the thought of those tent-dwelling Sunday School teachers, nestling eagerly beside the “Mediterranean Sea” and along the shores of the Jordan, to understand more about the lands their spiritual ancestors walked.

What would they make of this rarely visited, gently poignant reminder of the Park’s original purpose? Today, no Bible markers or tablets grace the small stony stand-ins, no tiny replica buildings remain to represent scenes from the life of Jesus as they did in Pansy’s time. I turned my gaze to Chautauqua Lake, imagining the steamer pulling up to the nearby dock and unloading four lively 19th century girls, eager for fun, not knowing they would never be the same, thanks to their time in this beautiful place.

“Now, the actual fact is, that those three people wandered around that far-away land until the morning vanished … They went from Bethany to Bethel, and from Bethel to Shechem, and they even climbed Mount Hermon’s snowy peak and looked about on the lovely plain below. In every place there was Bible reading …” (Four Girls at Chautauqua)

Thanks for allowing me to share these mementos with you of my all-too-brief Chautauqua visit. My hope and prayer is to return soon to follow further in Isabella’s footsteps.

My fascination has led me to launch a tribute Chautauqua Literary & Science Circle reading plan—I’m pairing 19th century texts with contemporary works and next August, I hope to carry the Pansy Year banner in the Recognition Day parade. Interested readers can follow along with my literary journey at my blog, The Hall in the Grove.

Dusting off my sandals,
Karen

.


If you missed previous posts about Chautauqua Institution, you can read them by clicking on the links below:

Postcards from Chautauqua – Pansy-trod Pathways

Postcards from Chautauqua – On a Pilgrimage

Postcards from Chautauqua – Summer of 2017

A Tour of Chautauqua: Getting There

A Tour of Chautauqua: Strolling the Grounds

A Tour of Chautauqua: Where to Stay

A Tour of Chautauqua: Lectures and Classes

A Tour of Chautauqua: Having Fun

A Tour of Chautauqua: The Teachers’ Retreat

A Tour of Chautauqua: A Healthy Body

A Tour of Chautauqua: Palestine Park

100 Years Ago at Chautauqua

A Tour of Chautauqua: Palestine Park

16 Oct

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

Writer Jenny Berlin

Faith, romance, and a place to belong

The Hall in the Grove

Author of Classic Christian Fiction

Isabella Alden

Author of Classic Christian Fiction

Britt Reads Fiction

Reviews and giveaways for Christian fiction and sweet, clean fiction. Bringing readers information on great stories and connecting authors with their readers.

%d bloggers like this: