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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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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.

In 1922 city officials announced that during the summer a tourist camp would be established at EAGLE POINT PARK. Work was being planned with the cooperation of the park commissioners, the Retail Merchants' Bureau of the Chamber of Commerce and the DUBUQUE AUTOMOBILE CLUB. Visitors would be able to use the park without the payment of any kind of fee. The intended site, in the southern end of the park near the LOG CABIN, would be equipped with running water, a system of sanitary drainage, and electric lights. (1)

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. The tract for GRANDVIEW PARK was purchased in 1926-1927. By 1933 it featured a municipally owned and supervised tourist camp with city water and adequate lighting, including boulevard lamps. (2)

In 1945 the first ordinance was written regulating the creation and operation of trailer and tourist camps. While based on a model ordinance written by the National Institute of Municipal Law Officers, the local ordinance was amended by the local planning and zoning commission. Among the aspects of the ordinance was language making it unlawful for anyone to operate a trailer or tourist camp without obtaining a license from the city manager's office. The ordinance also made it illegal to establish either in any class of residential district and outlined the length of stay in trailers, tourist camps or trailer camps. Automobile trailers were not to be used as a permanent place of residence or for indefinite periods of time unless the trailer was connected to the city water supply and sanitary sewer systems. Trailers were also to be constructed and located in compliance with all requirements of the building, plumbing, sanitary, health, zoning and electrical ordinances of the city.

If all the provisions were met, it was still unlawful to remain in any camp for more than ninety days unless occupants were involved in vital national defense and there was a shortage of housing. If they were involved in vital work, additional stays of sixty days could be arranged. (3)



1. "Tourist Camp in Eagle Point Park is Planned," The Telegraph-Herald, April 28, 1922, p. 1

2. "Eagle Point and Grandview Tourist Parks Attract Many Visitors From Other States," Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, August 6, 1933, p. 23

3. "Trailer Camp Regulation Sought Here," Telegraph-Herald, July 29, 1945, p. 1