Monday, July 9, 2012

Tourist Traps and Other Summer Pitfalls

By Rachel Dworkin, Archivist

July is Summer Appreciation Month and nothing says summer quite like tourism.  Since the invention of disposable income and a reliable means of transportation, people have been hitting the road to escape their humdrum lives heading anywhere and everywhere, including our own little slice of the universe. 
Chemung County’s first tourist trap was a product of the railroads.  In 1860, Dr. Edwin Eldridge, a big investor the Erie Railroad, bought up about 300 acres of swamp land beside the tracks.  He spent 10 years and a whole lot of money turning it into the tourist destination for the Southern Tier.  It had everything - beautiful lakes, manicured gardens, a casino and, most importantly, a dedicated train stop. 

During the 1890s, a local trolley company decided to replicate the effect and opened a park at Rorick’s Glen on the south bank of the Chemung River.  Rorick’s Glen offered walking trails, rides, restaurants, swimming and plays by the Manhattan Opera Company.  A dedicated trolley line ran out along Water Street from the heart of downtown to the entrance to a foot bridge across the river near what is now Demarest Parkway. 

Eldridge Park is still in existence and is, in fact, making a resurgence with new rides and landscaping.  Rorick’s Glen, sadly, lives on only in the photographs, theatre programs, postcards, tickets and newspaper articles in our collection.

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