Ontario Beach Park – #39

Buildings torn down – from Rochester Herald, March 4, 1921

In 1921 the City of Rochester owns (but hasn’t yet paid for) 26 acres with 1,746 feet of beach front. In March of 1921 the City bought a block of buildings (see picture) on the south side of Beach Ave. and tore them all down to use as a parking lot. One of those buildings had been in the past a livery stable for the former Bartholomay Cottage Hotel. That lot is behind present day Abbott’s Custard.

The City leased out the Hotel Ontario to Kenealy’s (see opening ad below). That company owned a few small restaurants in downtown Rochester. A want ad in the June 24th Democrat & Chronicle has Kenealey’s looking for a waitress working from 6 to 10 p.m. It said that they were paying 50 cents per hour which was a good wage for those days. Kenealey’s would run that restaurant only until the 1924 season.

The Monday after Decoration Day (Memorial Day) the City opened the former Auditorium (and former Hilarity Hall) for evening dancing for the season. One newspaper article said that there was a 6 piece orchestra and another article said that it was a 10 piece orchestra. Cost was 10 cents per dance or 75 cents for all 17 dances per evening. Spectators could watch the dancers from the balcony of the dance hall.

By July 4th the City has added a float out in the lake with a lifesaving tower (see picture). That picture is another one taken by Albert R. Stone for the Rochester Herald. It appeared in that newspaper dated August first. The white line didn’t appear in the picture in the newspaper. It probably came from being in contact with another glass negative over many years.

An article in the Democrat & Chronicle of Aug 29th complained that ladies’ bathing suits were getting smaller. Some ladies’ one piece suits only have ruffles instead of a skirt. Men’s trunks were also getting shorter.

Most histories say that less people were heading to the Park. Figures in newspaper articles don’t make it seem that way. The City reported that for the summer of 1921, 170,341 people used the bath house at the beach. The biggest day was July 7th when 8,233 used the bath house. Those figures only are people that rented lockers. Many people went to the beach to cool off without going into the lake. Good figures continued over the next few years. For instance, on June 22, 1924 the estimated crowd was 50,000 even though the water was so cold that the bath house wasn’t open.

A lot of people still went to the the Park for picnics by themselves or with a group. There were three picnic grounds so many groups could have picnics at the same time. One of the largest was a group of 15,000 from the Knights of Columbusthat  picnicked at the Park on Aug. 22, 1923.

In mid July 1924, 131 boys from St. Mary’s Orphan Asylum were at the beach for a picnic. Joseph Agrie, aged 12, was struck by a large wave and then taken farther out in the lake by an undertow. Louis Pickens, aged 22, a farmer from Latta Road tried to rescue him but was drown. Agries was saved by Alfred Schwaise of First Street and taken to St. Mary’s Hospital.

Next: The end of the Hotel Ontario