Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

They Picked Cotton and Yankee Tourists

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

They Picked Cotton and Yankee Tourists

Article excerpt

Byline: Mary Jo McTammany, Special to the Times-Union

In the 1880s, it was not unusual for the population of Green Cove Springs to triple to almost 3,000 for six months out of the year. From December to May, the town hosted hoards of tourists fleeing harsh northern winters and crowds of locals always greeted the first arriving riverboats.

The larger hotels were only open during the winter season. Key management staffs arrived first in late November from similar positions at summertime watering holes in Massachusetts and New York. Patrons for the most popular resorts like the Clarendon, Oakland and Magnolia Springs reserved accommodations in advance, lured by fancy brochures and newspaper advertising.

The Clarendon held the concession for the famous sulphur springs. Guests had free use of the bathing pools. The healthful elixir was piped directly to their rooms.

The St. Clair Hotel on the St. Johns boasted 50 elegantly furnished sleeping rooms and breathtaking views of the river. The Oakland claimed 36 finely appointed sleeping chambers and was renowned for continental cuisine served in a 100-guest capacity dining hall.

Most magnificent of all was the Magnolia Springs resort on the river near Governors Creek. The main hotel with six detached cottages accommodated almost 900 guests.

For six months out of the year the narrow wooden boardwalks through parts of town were clogged with bustled, corseted women and their nattily dressed escorts. Locals found themselves scheduling their errands and business at times when congestion ebbed.

Rural families didn't have that option, as Saturday was the only time they could come to town. They were accustomed to wide open spaces, little traffic and quiet. Just moving through crowds of pedestrians and fancy carriage traffic took valuable time. Most just walked in the street because they felt safer around horses and mules than darting and ducking to avoid female tourists with big hats and brandishing parasols. …

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