Ontario Beach Park – #5

In 1886 the east part of Ontario Beach is owned by NY Central Railroad who lease the land to the Ontario Beach Improvement Company. There is a carousel and roller coaster but those are run by someone else, not the “Company.” For the 1886 season there would be a new billiard room, bowling alley and shooting range under the management of Phillips & Hurst of New York. That same company would open the Vienna Bakery and restaurant.

Another new building has a photographer. That is near the Stutson Hotel. That was a small hotel that was located next to the Genesee River at the eastern end of Beach Ave. That is also where the ferry landing was located.

Bands had been the primary entertainment but I see the first reference to a tight-rope walker as being on view in front of the Hotel Ontario on Aug. 20, 1886.

In 1887 picnic grounds and baseball fields were added. They were south of Beach Avenue in what is now the big parking lot at the beach.

Moving ahead to 1888, a new hotel was built by Mrs. Seibel with a barroom, large & small dining room, lunch counter and six bedrooms. It will be next to the Manhattan Hotel (another small hotel) and not to far from the Stutson pavilion.

In 1888 both the Cottage Hotel and Hotel Ontario added what they called toboggans but were really water slides.  They were free to bathers but I am fairly sure that you had to pay for a changing room and bathing suit rental.

The Livingston Democrat of July 25, 1888 says of Ontario Beach: “In one large building is bowling alleys, rifle ranges, billiards and all kinds of games, and here the young men congregate, play games, drink beer, get drunk, quarrel, fight, and have a big time generally. Many games of chance are carried on, where you have a chance to tumble in your cash and get nothing in return. We saw some eight or ten fights the day that we were there.” They also noted that about 3000 to 4000 people were watching a baseball game.

Drawing of Blondin

The Hotel Ontario also added peddle swan boats that ran on the lake. There are only 8 of them. Then in August a storm threw the swan boat dock on the beach and destroyed one of the boats.

The biggest thing to happen at the beach in 1888 was the appearance of Blondin, a famous tight-rope walker. He had appeared at least twice before in Rochester but that was in 1859 and 1860. He had crossed the gorge near Niagara Falls numerous times to great aclaim. He had retired for a while but was back at Ontario Beach on a return tour. The Democrat & Chronicle said he would “positively make his last appearance in this country at Ontario Beach on Saturday, August 4th, 7th, 9th, 9th and 11th.” “Blondin will dance on the rope, promenade, stand on his head, turn somersault, cross blindfolded, cross in a sack, balance wonderfully on a chair, carry his son across on his back, ride a bicycle and indulge in many daring tricks.”  One thing that he did that was not mentioned was he crossed the 200 foot long rope (80 feet high high) with a backpack. At the center of the rope he sat down, pulled out a small stove out of his backpack, cooked an egg and then ate it before continuing.