Historical Grimsby, Ontario and Chautauqua
One of the most charming parts of historical Grimsby, Ontario is the Grimsby Beach Park, at one time a thriving summer resort, home to an amusement park and entertainment center, all of which developed from the Chautauqua movement.
Chautauqua was an international movement that started in the United States but quickly grew into a larger series of roving and permanent events to educate, provide culture, music, political expression and entertainment to rural populations. Grimsby Park was one such place, where the first Canadian Chautauqua was held as early as the early 1880’s and ended officially in 1909 in Grimsby.
If you are a 50+, baby boomer or senior today and your ancestors came from the Hamilton and Niagara region, then chances are your parents, grandparents or great-grandparents may have experienced Chautauqua for themselves in Grimsby. Or perhaps you’ll identify with Chautauqua if you saw the popular 1959 movie The Trouble With Girls starring Elvis Presley as Walter Hale, the charming manager of a travelling Chautauqua in 1927 Iowa.
The first recorded Chautauqua was held in New York on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in 1874 by a Methodist minister, John Vincent. It started as a training camp for Sunday school teachers in a summer school format. The educational nature of the outdoor summer camp was copied and spread to many other ‘daughter’ Chautauquas and began in earnest to spread throughout the US and Canada. Within a decade, what was once just a simple training camp for Sunday school teachers blossomed into a movement across North America to provide culture, education and entertainment to the rural masses.
Before 1917 the main focus of the event was to provide a Lecture series to people in the vicinity of the event. These events often took many different forms, from a roaming tent Chautauqua to permanently constructed structures specifically for the event. As the events grew in notoriety and size, different aspects were added to the events. These included music entertainment, free religious expression and cultural plays. The movement was expected to provide a way for the rural populations to enjoy and participate in the society’s great accomplishments.
The Grimsby Chautauqua had its earliest beginnings in the Methodist Church, much like in the US. In 1875 a camp ground plan was outlined for Grimsby showing land that was purchased from John Bowslaugh, of approximately 12.5 acres. In the public records held at the Grimsby Public Library, Grimsby Historical Society Archives and the Grimsby Public Library records show a lively event burgeoning in the area with a 16 page programme being developed for the 1885 Chautauqua.
The earliest records of this event are sparse, but it’s clear that the popularity of the Grimsby Beach area blossomed into an area known for entertainment, culture and a great beach scene by the 1900s. A large pier was built into Lake Ontario to welcome large steamers from Toronto, and many more buildings were added to propel the area into a summer resort much more than the originally intended Chautauqua. In 1916 the park was sold to Canada Steamship Lines and continued to operate for a time, finally closing in 1949 for good.
This land is now being redeveloped as a mixed use area for all Grimsby residents including natural trails, new beaches and an overall re-invigoration of an area that has been used for recreation in the Grimsby environs for over 100 years. If you’re considering downsizing or moving to the historical and pictureque Grimsby area, but want the amenities and easy lifestyle you’d expect in a highly urban setting would prefer to live in a new, luxurious easy-living condominium complex, then check out Waterview Condominiums. Their Phase Two construction in Grimsby is now open; these condominium apartments are perfect for young or older singles, couples, retired people, and senior citizens – wheelchair accessible and close to walking trails, and all that Grimsby and the Hamilton/Niagara region have to offer.
Tel: 1-855-500-1215 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Address: 544 North Service Road Grimsby,ON (Corner of N. Service Rd & Oakes Access)