"WISH YOU WERE HERE"
Americans began to expand their vacation destinations by the 1890’s. The railroad made it possible for millions of people to visit two famous World Fairs, the Columbian Exposition in 1893 and the St. Louis Fair in 1904. The Columbian Expo, also called the Chicago World’s Fair, was a celebration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ landing in North America in 1492. In six months 26 million visitors explored the 600 acre fairground, which boasted 200 plus display buildings, and marvelous new technological wonders including electricity, and the first-ever Ferris Wheel. Eleven years later the St. Louis Fair covered 1,272 acres and proudly displayed a vast Palace of Agriculture, the actual Liberty Bell from Philadelphia and a life-size replica of a Viking ship sent from Norway.
Those who were fortunate enough to have made the journey were anxious to let those who remained at home know what they were missing. These were memorable occasions. The first US souvenir postcard was used to advertise the Chicago World's Fair. Up until 1898 only the US Postal Service could produce postcards, but the Private Mailing Act passed in that year made it legal for private printers to produce picture postcards. By 1908 the postcard craze was at its peak, especially popular with
residents of northern and rural United States, who were the most enthusiastic about sending postcards back home. Whether the destination was a national event or a local beauty spot, Americans all loved to send postcards back home saying "Wish You Were Here".
VACATION DESTINATION EXPANSION
In New England a much smaller railway enterprise was important in creating another popular tourist destination. Sylvester Marsh, in 1852, came up with the idea of a "mountain-climbing cog railway”. His idea was considered insane and scoffed at as "The railway to the moon." Marsh persevered and in 1868 the cog railway opened and has been in continuous operation ever since except during the two world wars. It was this mountain-climbing railway that led to another New England tourist destination, the 1902 opening of Mt. Washington Hotel.
In the Merrimack Valley it was the trolley which made it possible for ordinary people, millworkers, shopkeepers, and farmers to expand their vacation destinations. In 1897 the opening of the Exeter, Hampton, and Amesbury Street Railway connected mill towns and rural communities with the beaches of coastal New Hampshire. Many day-trippers took advantage of this opportunity. The Hampton Casino was opened in 1897 which increased the popularity of the Hampton Beach destination. Summer visitors rode the trolley to Hampton Beach until 1926 by which time most people were using the automobile to reach their vacation destinations.
Public transportation improvements to the train and trolley system got folks on the move, but the advent of the automobile expanded forever the travel destinations for Americans in the first quarter of the twentieth century. The song "Come away with me Lucille, in my Merry Oldsmobile", written in 1905, expresses this new found freedom. The first mass market car, The Oldsmobile, sold five thousand models in 1905. Henry Ford, in 1914, produced the Model T Ford, which sold for $490.00. By the late twenties 23 million Americans owned automobiles and their vacation destination could be anywhere.
NORTH ANDOVER: SUMMER DESTINATION
North Andover from its earliest days was known as an unusually beautiful location with a healthy climate. For 250 years most people came to the area for economic reasons, first agriculture and later the mills and factories. By the middle of the nineteenth century North Andover became a popular spot for well-to-do families who could afford an estate in the country. The shores of Lake Cochichewick and the gentle town hilltops with beautiful vistas attracted wealthy manufacturers who built mansions for their summer retreats. One of the most unique of these was Belle Vue Place built by Benjamin Armstrong Farnham on a lofty hilltop in 1857. Josiah Crosby, in 1869, built Elm Vale near the Old Center and later converted his spacious residence into North Andover's first full-scale Summer Boarding House.
By the end of the nineteenth century North Andover had become a favorite summer destination for wealthy and fashionable families. Houston House, today still located at 580 Osgood Street, was known as "Mrs. Houston's” and catered to ‘First Class Summer Boarders” from the "best families of Boston, Salem, and New York". North Andover's summer visitors found many attractive diversions. They enjoyed walks, drives, picnics, swimming at the pond, lawn parties and afternoon tea.
As the number of auto driving tourists grew, specialized tours of the town were developed and several tea houses opened in the area to service the hungry travelers. By the 1920’s the traffic through town was so heavy that a new wider road was necessary. The road would have followed up Andover Street to Osgood Street all of the way out to Haverhill. When Mrs. Coolidge learned of these plans, she donated land at the back of her property and Chickering Road was open for beach traffic in 1930, thus skirting several historic properties along Osgood Street—including the Parson Barnard House.
Tuesday-Friday 1-3 pm (no tours given between 12-1; gift shop is open)