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Encyclopedia Dubuque

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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.




TOURIST CAMPS

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Grandview Tourist Camp. The nonprofit educational use of this image is allowed by U.S. copyright law. EBAY, 3/13/2011.
TOURIST CAMPS. At the beginning of the twentieth century, auto tourists had few places along the open road to rent a room. The majority of established hotels were located downtown. This was not an ideal situation for motorists who did not want to enter the hotel lobby after a day of dusty travel.

A growing number of motorists began carrying supplies to create makeshift camps along the roadside at convenient and attractive locations. This solution worked until the popularity of automobile tourism exploded after WORLD WAR I; the flood of travelers camping on private property upset landowners. Some community leaders and landowners saw the potential for profit and began to establish campsites, restaurants, and stores.

In an effort to attract auto tourists, many communities began constructing municipal tourist camps in city parks. Towns soon began competing for tourists and added extra conveniences including picnic tables, fireplaces, flush toilets, showers, sheltered eating and recreation areas, and electrical hookups. Communities advertised these comforts on signs leading into town.

The peak of free municipal camps was short-lived. Free camps attracted squatters and criminals. In an effort to discourage the criminal element, campsite owners began requiring users to pay a rental fee.