The Great Outdoors

While the twin waterfront cities of St. Joseph and Benton Harbor grew rapidly in commercial industries, the area also provided recreational havens for its residents and people from the surrounding area. The area hosted beachgoers, sportsmen, families, and individuals of all ages. Theme parks and resorts offered a leisurely alternative to urban life.

New Social Circumstances

The late nineteenth century was a period of remarkable innovation (the steam turbine, electric turbine, trolley, electric lighting, skyscraper, elevator and telephone) which also led to the development of new industries and managerial occupations. The growing management bureaucracy swelled the ranks of the middle class. The cities grew rapidly, filling with migrants from the countryside and immigrants from abroad. By 1900, twenty percent of all Americans lived in a city. The average income doubled between 1890 and 1917.



cottage colonies






fishing & hunting




fairs & festivals


Harvesting the Waters Interactive Map

Out of the Urban Centers

The new salaried jobs created in people a sense of loss of control; individuals were no longer self-employed as farmer or craftsman. This perceived loss of control led to the rise of competitive sports and vacationing in the great outdoors. There was a growing concern for the health of the cities during the hot months of summer. Chicago experienced significant labor unrest. And women rejected the heavy clothing and corseting of earlier periods and became physically more active. In short, people of the cities looked for places in the out of doors to spend their leisure time and to reinvent themselves and their families. The natural harbor of the St. Joseph River led to the rapid and relatively early establishment of industry in the region, but it also provided access to the recreational wonders of the outdoors for the growing middle class of the Chicago metropolis. The west Michigan shoreline was considered by the urban reformers to be a vital part of Chicago life..

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