Month: November 2020

Anecdotes of Hotel Conneaut & Exposition Park: Part 6, 1940-Present

This will be my final post of 2020 as the busy holiday season is underway and I need to focus on writing my novels, but I have many great stories planned to share in 2021. I was devastated to discover that just days before my intended visit to Hotel Conneaut tomorrow that the travel restrictions have caused my plans to be cancelled. Due to COVID, Ohioans visiting Pennsylvania have to procure a negative test result within 72 hours crossing the border and me and my group simply would not have time to do so prior to the trip. Unfortunately, the ghost hunt will be going on without us both tonight and tomorrow night. I imagine many groups, especially those coming from out of state, had to cancel due to the pandemic.

Postcard of the boardwalk and Hotel Conneaut, 1941

In the sixth installment of my series on Hotel Conneaut, we alas reach the decade where all the parties, all the glamor, all the fun, and the entire experience of vacationing at Conneaut Lake Park came to an abrupt end. September 1, 1939 marked the beginning of WWII and the U.S. joined in 1941 following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. With war came economic crisis, war rationing, and undying patriotism. All the excess and frills dominating the previous decades were trimmed off and though people still longed for the escapism of an amusement park, it simply was not possible for many families to attend an annual outing at the resort. Then, in 1943, a fire devastated Hotel Conneaut, putting her out of business for the next year, and reshaping her entire future. The war and the poor economy left a sad haze on the entire park and the magic was lost. Though many groups continued to come to the park for their annual meeting or convention, the crowds of yesteryear were long gone. Because the hotel appeared significantly less in the news, I have less material to work with and have combined the decades leading into present day.


The Pittsburgh Press, May 26, 1940
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Friday June 14, Jun 1940, Page 27

For everything you’ve ever wanted in a day or a whole season of rest and relaxation. Fun and play—visit Conneaut Lake Park. It is the ideal fun site for young and old alike. Fully equipped to meet the scattered diversions of everyone, rich in concessions, spiced with variety in the amusement center, packed with facilities for outdoor sports enthusiasts. The high, healthful, elevation and pure sweet air instills new life in your system, makes you feel “tops” again. Come to Conneaut Lake Park now….you’ll be a “Conneaut Lake Park fan” every year if you do.

Hotel Conneaut—Located on the Western Shore of Beautiful Conneaut Lake—has long been famous as a vacation center. More than 300 delightful rooms—Both American and European plans—Excellent cuisine at most reasonable rates—at Hotel Conneaut you have everything, and everything is devoted to making your stay a most enjoyable one. Relax in perfect ease on Lake-view verandas, or obtain new vigor and vitality through stimulating sports—at Hotel Conneaut. Dancing nightly at the smart new Beach Club…music by famous orchestras….there’s something here for every mood…under the sun or under the starts…at Hotel Conneaut. Enjoy Your Playtime Here!”
You Can’t Beat a Bargain Like This! All Expense 7-Day Vacation….$31.55
Just think of it! Seven wonderful days and nights at HOTEL CONNEAUT with round trip transportation, a comfortable, furnished room, three inviting meals daily served in the Main Dining Room. Dancing and Floor Show privileges nightly at smart BEACH CLUB. Also Golf and Fishing Privileges. Many Other Activities, ALL FOR ONE VACATION PRICE. For information write Hotel Conneaut, Conneaut Lake Park, Pa. 

– The Pittsburgh Press Sunday, June 23, 1940
The Pittsburgh Press, Sunday, June 23, 1940
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Friday, June 28, 1940, Page 24
The Pittsburgh Press, Sunday, August 25, 1940, Page 44


The Pittsburgh Press Sunday, May 25, 1941, Page 39


Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, Sunday, May 24, 1942, Page 32


Hotel Conneaut was prepared for its opening on May 1st, but on April 27th, an electrical fire began in the north wing. The fire department quickly brought it under control and the resulting damage amounted to $5,000. This postponed the hotel’s opening for a week. However, hot coals from the fire reignited another blaze, one that burned silently through the hotel’s interior for five hours before it was noticed at 4 a.m. on April 28th and brought under control by 9:30 a.m. 150 guest rooms on the second and third floors and the main dining room and main lobby on the ground floor were gutted in the blaze. $150,000 of damages were estimated. The park manager, T.C. Foley, announced the hotel would not open as scheduled and could not open for the imminent future. 

On May 11th, lightning struck wires leading into the second story of the park office near Hotel Conneaut and the building caught on fire. Assistant Park Manager William Tarr and his wife lived on the second story but were reportedly absent at the time of the fire. Downstairs in the office, smoke and water ruined the park records and the total damages amounted to $500.

Plans for repairing Hotel Conneaut were underway, but due to war rationing, the lumber could not be acquired and therefore Hotel Conneaut’s fate was at a standstill. Her gaping wounds lay open to the elements and finally in October, Manager Foley decided that the damaged wing would be completely razed. 120 rooms would be left and Foley projected the hotel would be open for the 1944 season.

The park and the lake as a whole continued to operate and welcomed visitors, but not without further tragedy to cap off the season. Grove City teen, Lillian Cokeane drowned after her rowboat capsized just off of Oakland Beach on the shore opposite Hotel Conneaut.


Due to the ongoing war effort and rationing, the hotel was not finished for the 1944 season as originally hoped and the building sat empty.


The resort opened under new ownership as a family-owned park. Hotel Conneaut finally reopened its doors after a heavy cleanup and restoration, forming a new entryway that opened into the original old part of the hotel which housed the stairwell. The new lobby created that year still stands to this day. 


Pittsburgh-Post Gazette, Tuesday, May 27, 1947


Conneaut Lake Park added a new ride, the Tilt-A-Whirl, which continues to operate to this day.

The resort hosted a two-day convention for insurance claim adjusters of which 175 people attended. 90 were from Ohio and one man, G. Don Brown, was from Niles.


Actress and singer Doris Day reportedly sang at Dreamland Ballroom with her band when she was just starting out her career sometime in the 50’s.

Postcard of Kiddie Land in the early 1950’s


The Conneautville Courier Thursday, April 16, 1953, Page 7

Hotel Conneaut opened on May 24th under new management. Robert S. Haire came from his post at Norman-Shoreham Hotel in South Beach, Florida to manage the storied hotel on Conneaut Lake. Robert Varner from the Naples Beach Hotel in Naples, Florida, took over as room clerk. Business proved to be very good that year as many conventions and parties were booked and guests scheduled their vacations. The hotel closed for the season on September 14th


The Record-Argus (Greenville, Pennsylvania), Friday, July 11, 1958, Page 4


Conneaut Lake Park opened for the season in May, down to two hotels from a dozen. Hotels Conneaut and Elmwood remained. Hotel Conneaut received a new private dining room and patio prior to the season opening.

In the park, a new scrambler ride had been installed next to the Dodgem. The Tumblebug ride was remodeled and the Whip moved to a new spot next to the flying scooter.


Postcard of Hotel Conneaut in the 1960’s


Fairyland Forest opened that year as a separate amusement from the main park.

This attraction, just across the road from the park, was one of several storybook-themed parks which sprouted across the nation in the 1950s and 1960s. It was very popular in its early years. There were many large fiberglass and concrete sculptures on the landscape such as a turtle, frog, penguin in the pond and whale, plus scenes from nursery rhymes such as Humpty Dumpty, Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, Jonah and the Whale and Noah’s Ark. There also were live animals to pet and feed, and visitors exited the grounds through a windmill-shaped building that housed a gift shop.

Ken Lahmers for My Town NEO, Aug 27, 2014

During the off-season, the animals from the new park feature were kept in cages and cared for by trained keepers.


The resort opened on May 28th that year after an early spring busy with workers remodeling. Hotel Conneaut received new carpeting, furniture, and bathroom fixtures in an effort to keep the old hotel looking up-to-date. 

In the park, a new ride called the Paratrooper was installed to replace an old ride, the Rockets. The Paratrooper featured long arms reaching out from a central mechanism and on the end of each arm was a cage to hold riders. It spun around and after increasing in adequate speed, the cages moved so the riders were parallel to the ground like they were flying.  The Merry-Go-Round, Jungle Cruise, and the Caterpillar rides were all refurbished. The Blue Streak rollercoaster was also repaired.


Prior to the season opening, Hotel Conneaut lost her last standing comrade when Hotel Elmwood was leveled to the ground. Meanwhile, Hotel Conneaut received a facelift with new carpeting and décor.



The Pittsburgh Press Sunday, April 26, 1970, Page 109


The Pittsburgh Press, Sunday, May 7, 1972, Page 150


The Pittsburgh Press, Sunday, Aug 5, 1973, Page 38


Postcard of Conneaut Lake in 1974

The park opened for the season on May 24th. Memorial Day weekend brought a huge United States Polka Association convention along with the 3rd annual Polka Festival held in Dreamland Ballroom. Cleveland radio personality Paul Wilcox acted as the master of ceremonies.

Buffet dinners were served every Sunday in the hotel’s dining room. The Log Cabin restaurant had been newly rebuilt within the park and welcomed diners for eat-in or take-out. The lake-front Buffeteria served one-priced dinners to park guests.

At Fairyland Forest, “children can feed a baby llama, talk to their favorite Mother Goose characters, or to Bobby Baxter, the park’s clown-in-residence —while their parents can stroll through the Lollipop Gardens, a majestic maze of floral beauty.” –The Daily Times, May 22, 1974

On July 12th, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran a special article on Hotel Conneaut. Editor Mike Kalina said the hotel was “a cross between an antebellum mansion and a nursing home for the affluent in St. Petersburgh, Fla.” He mentioned how the overall charm of the hotel was due to its history and inability to keep up with the times. The hotel had not been regularly updated like it had in its heyday, decades before. Kalina mentioned how such efforts had been attempted, such as the conversion of a reading room to a television room or fish tanks placed in the taproom, albeit holding artificial fish. He brought up how the hotel rooms were almost primitive in nature, with no TV or radio, air conditioning, and the bathrooms absolutely ancient. Sounds carried through the thin walls, even with the transom (the window above each guest room door) closed. In many ways, the hotel still resembles a few of these aspects in 2020, though the rooms are comfortable and quaint with televisions and some rooms with modern showers, though many still have the old clawfoot bathtubs.

Kalina’s article expressed the affordability of staying at the hotel, a night’s stay costing $12.50 a night for a single-bed room and only $80 for a week’s stay. Food was still served in the hotel’s restaurant, though the dining room was significantly smaller than the one lost in the 1943 fire that could hold up to 1,000 people. The menu offered at the hotel featured steak, chicken, and seafood. In the park, people could eat at the Buffeteria or at one of the food stands. Corn dogs, a novelty food item at the time, was the most popular food sold in the park.


Local Sharon Stone won the title of Miss Crawford County and reportedly stayed at the hotel, though I cannot confirm that fact as an absolute truth. Born in Meadville and having graduated from Saegertown High School, it seems very likely the famous actress would have visited the park and the hotel.


At Hotel Conneaut, a family of four could stay for $20 a night or $120 for a week. The rooms still lacked air conditioning and televisions, but most guests came for the atmosphere. The main dining room served entire meals for between $3.95 to $6.95. The hotel also served drinks in the cocktail lounge, which today is known as the Spirit Lounge. Guests could sidle over to the Beach Club in the park if they wanted to spend an evening listening to contemporary music. Cottage rentals costed between $90 to $100 for a week’s stay and even today, vacationers can rent out various cottages around the park and lake.

In the park, a ride pass, or Ride-A-Rama pass, cost $5.25 for the day or $3.50 for just the evening. Among the 39 amusements in the park, there was the Ferris Wheel, the Turtle, the Wild Mouse, the merry-go-round and the famous Blue Streak roller coaster. The park acquired four rides from the closed West View park. Other amusements included the Jungle Cruise—a 20 minute motor-boat ride on a lagoon—pony rides, and miniature golf. Guests could eat at the Log Cabin Snack Shop or Lakeside Cafeteria. 


The park’s resident paddle boat captains.
The Pittsburgh Press, Sunday, June 17, 1984


Conneaut Lake Park opened on Friday, May 28th, celebrating its 90th season after major remodeling and additions throughout the prior winter and spring. Charles Flynn, the park’s director of public relations that year, was the grandson of one of the businessmen who bought the park in 1945. He said, “We’re seeking to set ourselves apart from the huge theme parks of steel, concrete, and plastic. We are an old-fashioned, family-style lakeside resort with something for everyone.”

A family-owned and operated park for the last 40 years, the 100-acre facility distinctive for its turn-of-the-century charm, contains a 40-ride amusement park, a grand old resort hotel, two ballrooms, a convention hall with 3500 seat capacity, a children’s storybook land and petting zoo, Fairyland Forest, a sandy well-guarded beach, and several restaurants as well as a night club and lounge.

– Niles Daily Times, Friday, May 28, 1982, Page 1

The two golf-courses were now separate from the park, though the park did have miniature golf.

The famous wooden roller coaster Blue Streak was painted blue over its original tan shade. A new water ride had been installed, called the Rampage, a roller coaster with a 63 ft drop into Conneaut Lake. Also added was an electronic wild west shooting range called “Krazy Kenny’s Saloon” along the midway. 

Kids could enter a miniature version of the park and in Kiddieland, they could ride a small Blue Streak rollercoaster, Ferris wheel, and merry-go-round. 

Water Slide
The Pittsburgh Press
Sunday, June 17, 1984

Entry into the park was free and visitors could pay for individual rides or purchase a ride pass. The Ride-A-Rama day pass cost $7.25 that year and every Wednesday was bargain day where ride passes cost $5.50 a person. The park was open daily from 1 to 10:00 p.m.

At Hotel Conneaut, a family could purchase a three-night vacation package starting at  $69.95.

For entertainment, the season brought Sammy Bill Orchestra’s “Big Band” in Dreamland Ballroom, dancing, country and western music shows, a 15,000 meter foot race, two antique shows, a water ski show, and fireworks on July 4th and September 5th. Johnny Greco and Art Farrar’s orchestras also performed that year.


The park opened on May 27th and for six months prior, extreme renovations and additions had been made. Two new rides, Battlin’ Bob’s Bumper Boats and Captain Conneaut, a bounce ride, were installed. A turn-of-the-century ice cream parlor, the Gazebo, proved a nostalgic new feature as well. 

A three-year remodeling process began on Hotel Conneaut and by the season’s opening 56 guest rooms had been updated with new paneling, carpets, and fixtures. The remodel was accomplished with a turn-of-the century tastes in mind.

That season, free shows went on every Sunday from July 4th weekend to Labor Day. The Laker 15k race was held on Saturday, June 18th and runners ran the ring around the lake. The 2nd annual Conneaut Lake Jazz Festival was held August 26-28th. Fireworks were set off on July 4th and September 4th. The park closed for the season on September 5th

Ride passes cost $7.25 that year, with the bumper boats and pony rides extra.


Hotel Conneaut received a fresh coat of white paint. A new ride, the Sea Dragon, was installed and along with the 1900’s carousel, 1920’s Tumble Bug, and Blue Streak, gave the resort a turn-of-the-century, nostalgic atmosphere that executive vice president Charles Flynn hoped to create. “We’re trying to make the rides more active and still keep the atmosphere the same as it has been for the past 50 years. It’ll be a neat trick,” he commented for the Pittsburgh Press. 

In regards to the hotel, he said, “I think we are tapping the nostalgia market, especially at the hotel. We’ve probably had a 40 percent increase in occupancy over the past two years. It’s not only grandparents bringing their grandchildren back; we’re also getting couples with young children. I think they don’t like cookie-cutter motel rooms.”

For that reason with keeping with the atmosphere, the guest rooms still had no televisions or air conditioning. The TV room was located off of the lobby. Guest rooms cost between $24 for a single room to $38 for a larger room with a view.

1990’s & 2000’s

I visited Fairyland Forest with my family in the late 80’s or early 90’s. I don’t remember much from our trip, but I have several photos from a couple visits there.

In 1990, Conneaut Lake Park enclosed its perimeters and for the first time charged admission in desperation to remain afloat. That season proved a bust and led to even greater financial ruin. What followed was an effort to find stability by auctioning off several rides and a group of businessmen banded together to save the park. However, in 1995, the park owner’s filed for bankruptcy and did not open that season. After a few transfers of ownerships, the park finally found footing and was able to stay open. This is a brief summarization as the details can be found on Wikipedia, therefore I will not go into them.

In 2008, an arsonist torched the Dreamland Ballroom and the historic dance hall was gone forever. In 2013, the banquet hall and an adjoining bar were lost to fire as well.

The park struggled for many years, but rallied back to delight new generations. I do not feel the need to cover the recent history as it is fairly well known and dozens of articles are available online about history buffs coming together to save the park and the hotel. 

The Ghost Lake 13 Levels of Fear helps keep the park alive during the Halloween Season. Patrons visit several areas of the park, including the hotel, and delight in the abounding scares.

Hotel Conneaut has become a historic landmark and prime destination for ghost hunting. The Spirit Lounge bar alone is a huge draw for locals who crowd inside its walls, the lobby, and the porch. I am devastated that due to COVID, I will not be visiting the beautiful hotel this year. I cannot even begin to describe how much I adore the historic building and I truly hope she is around for many years to come.

2022 UPDATE: In January 2022, the Blue-Streak was lost to fire and people thought that once again the curse of fire had destroyed the beloved coaster. Instead, news reports said that while the park owner conducted a controlled burn of wooden parts of the roller coaster, the machinery performing the demolition malfunctioned and the fire went out of control. The entire roller-coaster, tracks and all, burned to ash. The fire department worked to contain the blaze, concerned that the fire would spread to other areas of the park, including the carousel which was most under threat. History-lovers as well as people that had grown up riding the coaster were outraged at the deliberate razing of the Blue-Streak, which had been around since 1937. To recall fondly its memory, enjoy a video of what it was like for thousands to ride the coaster here.


  • Fire Causes $5,000 loss to Conneaut Hotel: The Morning Call, 28 Apr 1943, Wed Pg 2
  • $150,000 Fire Hits Hotel Conneaut: Lancaster New Era, 28 Apr 1943, Wed Pg 2
  • Hotel Conneaut Partly Gutted In Blaze Today: The Record-Argus, 28 Apr 1943, Wed Pg 1
  • Conneaut Lake Office Suffers Loss in Blaze Today: The News-Herald, 11 May 1943, Tue Page 9 
  • Around the Keystone State: The Morning Call, 24 Aug 1943, Tue Page 5
  • Plans For Rehabilitating Fire-Swept Conneaut Hotel: Warren Times Mirror 6 Oct 1943, Wed Page 3
  • Town Talk: Niles Daily Times, Friday, June 10th, 1949, Pg 1
  • Hotel Conneaut Manager Named: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3 Jun 1953, Wed. Pg 24
  • Manager Named At Hotel Conneaut: Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph 22 May 1953, Fri · Page 21
  • Conneaut Reopens: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3 Jun 1959, Wed Page 11
  • Kaleidoscope: Tired old Conneaut Lake Park facing uncertain future; visit was nostalgic: Ken Lahmers for My Town NEO, Aug 27, 2014
  • Conneaut Lake Park Stirs In Sleep As Crews Prepare For New Season: The Oil City Derrick,19 Mar 1965, Pg 15 
  • Landmark Razed At Conneaut Lake: The Pittsburgh Press, 28 May 1967, Sun · Page 82
  • Conneaut Lake Park to Open: The Daily Times, May 22, 1974 Page28,
  • At Hotel Conneaut, It’s Yesterday Once More: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 12 Jul 1974, Fri Pg 21 
  • Small-Town Resort Never Seems To Change: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Fri, Jun 16, 1978 Page 19
  • Old Fashioned Lakeside Resort Opens: Niles Daily Times, Fri May 28, 1982, Pg 1
  • Big Band Sounds At Conneaut: Niles Daily Times June 16, 1982 Pg 16
  • Hotel Conneaut Fix-Up: The Akron Beacon Journal, 24 Apr 1983, Sun Page 94
  • Conneaut Lake Park To Open For 91st Season on May 27: Niles Daily Times May 19, 1983, Pg 13
  • The Resort Time Almost Forgot: The Pittsburgh Press · Sun, Jun 17, 1984 · Page 112
  • Conneaut Lake Park’s Blue Streak roller coaster is no more, but not due to fire: By Associated Press, Published January 10, 2022 at 2:00 PM EST

Anecdotes of Hotel Conneaut & Exposition Park: Part 5, 1930-1939

In my fifth part of the ongoing series on Hotel Conneaut and Conneaut Lake Park, I explore the decade of the 30’s. The stock market crash of December 1929 pitched the country forward into the Great Depression. Despite the possibility of financial catastrophe, Conneaut Lake Park’s president Henry Holcomb remained optimistic, believing that the resort could stay afloat, and his projection was correct. However, the long management by Holcomb had come to an end due to his ill health and the transfer of ownership of the resort.

Postcard Showing View From Hotel Conneaut, 1935


A fire at an adjacent cottage put Hotel Conneaut in danger on February 18th. Fortunately the blaze was quickly extinguished before the flames could spread to the hotel, though the cottage was a loss.

In April, Hotel Virginia sold for $10,000 in a sheriff’s sale to an anonymous buyer.

Victor Leval

Hotel Conneaut opened for the season on May 15th, newly redecorated and under new management. Victor Leval came from Hotel Winton in Cleveland where he had been catering manager and also managed the Rainbow Room and Tally Ho Room. Having been brought up as the 5th generation of famous Levals in the European hotel business, he showed great promise in ushering a new age for Hotel Conneaut. Leval had begun his apprenticeship at the age of 11 at the Royal Palace Hotel in Switzerland before getting his start at Adlen Hotel in Berlin followed by the Metropole in London. From there, he went to Canada where he worked in service at the hotel and dining room of the Canadian Pacific Railroad. He managed the Manitoba Club in Winnipeg before WWI began and he went into military service for the next four years. He began as a sergeant and was eventually promoted to a major. After his discharge, he became vice president of the Overland Hotels Co. and when he lost all his money, he began to work as a cook to feed himself. He was assistant manager at the Coronado Hotel in St. Louis and from there, his services were acquired by Hotel Winton in Cleveland. With his experience in the finest cuisine from around the world, he put together a spectacular menu with Hotel Conneaut’s chef. Some of Leval’s first plans for the park were to install a new private bathing beach for hotel guests and build a recreation parlor.

Leval and his wife hosted a dinner dance and housewarming for around 400 guests at the hotel. The guests present were from Cleveland, Erie, Greenville, Meadville, and Sharon, among others. A dancing and entertainment program shown in the dining room revealed one of the finest displays yet to be seen at the hotel. Seven vaudeville artists danced with their hats to the George Williams’ orchestra.

George Williams And His Music Makers were employed for the season to play music in the dance pavilion, newly dubbed Dreamland Ballroom, and in the Crystal Ballroom at Hotel Conneaut.

The park opened on Memorial Day, May 30th with dances held both afternoon and evening at the dance pavilion.

Jeanne Oatman of Massillon had been employed by Mr. Leval to run a print shop in the basement of Hotel Conneaut. Mr. Leval had agreed to board Mrs. Oatman and her children for free as well as pay her wages. Mrs. Oatman was the widow of Lieutenant Harry Oatman and they had married after they met while he was stationed in France. They had three children, Yvonne, Richard, and Jacqueline. The trouble was that Mrs. Oatman had been acquitted two years prior for the stabbing death of her husband at their Cleveland home. The death was deemed accidental as Mrs. Oatman stated her husband was stabbed during a quarrel. The couple had argued while she peeled potatoes with a paring knife that somehow entered his body. He bled to death in a hospital bed. Her mother-in-law, Alice Oatman, failed to believe her innocence and went after Mrs. Oatman with the full force of the law, attempting to foreclose her late son’s house and all the furniture with it. Unfortunately, the printer Mrs. Oatman was taking with her to Hotel Conneaut was included in the suit. Though Mrs. Oatman claimed it belonged to her, her mother-in-law declared vehemently that all the furniture, including the printer, was hers. I could not find a conclusion to this case, but my presumption is that Mrs. Oatman was not able to go to Conneaut Lake that summer due to her legal troubles in Cleveland.

R.J. McDonald, new Managing Director

After Hotel Conneaut closed for the season, Victor Leval left for Chicago where he became catering manager for the Congress Hotel. The grand hotelier spent one and only season at Hotel Conneaut and was replaced by R.J. McDonald. Leval would go on to serve 90,000 meals a month at Camp Canol in 1942 and was mentioned in the book, The Black Soldiers Who Built The Alaskan Highway by John Virtue.


Las Vegas Age, June 13, 1931, Page 3

Max Schmeling, heavy-weight boxing champion, set up his training camp at the resort that summer. Arriving May 20th, he stayed in a cottage with his manager, Joe Jacobs, his trainer, Max Machon, and his private chef, Otto Winemann. Guards patrolled the outside of the cottage to keep eager fans at bay. Schmeling had an outdoor ring where he trained heavily for his big fight against Young Stribling in Cleveland set for July 3rd. On one of Schmeling’s off days, he played two rounds of 18-hole golf. The remainder of his free time was spent playing tennis, fishing, riding a speedboat, bowling, and flying his airplane. On Sunday, June 28th, the park celebrated German Day, and Schmeling was cheered on by 4,317 people who thronged his outdoor boxing ring. 

Evening Star, June 29, 1931, Page C-3

Schmeling won his match against Stribling due to a technical knockout. Twenty years later, Schmeling recalled an amusing story about his exploits while staying at Conneaut Lake Park. He said that he and his friends along with his part-owner/boxing promoter Billy McCarney went into Hotel Conneaut’s basement while the undertaker’s association held their annual convention. They got into the alcohol the hotel was serving to the crowd of funeral directors, despite prohibition, and became quite inebriated. McCarney became far gone and the boys carried him upstairs. They came upon some caskets on display for the convention and laid him inside one. The boys lit the candles around the casket and left one boy to watch over McCarney while Schmeling returned to his cottage. As the story goes, the undertakers came upstairs and perhaps in jest, bowed in solemnity and said a prayer for the dead. McCarney regained consciousness, panicked when he noticed where he was laying and jumped out, running all the way back to Schmeling’s cottage. Schmeling died in 2005 at the age of 99 and was buried in his native country of Germany.

On August 1st, two cottages directly behind Hotel Conneaut burned, threatening both the hotel and the park offices but were extinguished. The loss amounted to $2,500.

Niles Daily Times August 14, 1931, Page 6
Pittsburgh Post Gazette, September 5, 1931, Page 21


Hotel Conneaut opened informally on May 27th, hosting a banquet for the Wild Life League of Pennsylvania who were in charge of the lake’s fish. Carp were removed from the lake and replaced with game fish, including blue gills, perch, and salmon. 

Niles Daily Times, May 26, 1932 Page 7

On Memorial Day, the park opened with the spectacular fire pageant, “The Spirit of America”. Freddie Carlone’s dance orchestra and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Boys Band of Warren, OH provided the music.

The Park Theatre opened with “The Lost Daughters”, put on by the Broadway Players.

On Sunday, June 26th, Captain Walter “Chris” Criswell of Meadville jumped 4,000 feet from a plane, deployed his parachute and landed in the water in front of Hotel Conneaut. One of his parachute straps broke during the descent and struck him in his eyes, causing injury. The dare-devil parachute jumper made another two leaps on July 4th

Niles Daily Times, June 28, 1932 Page 5

On Independence Day, two features were made free for visitors, one being a water show of the sinking of the Lusitania on the lake in front of the hotel. The other was a reproduction of a zeppelin attack on the Capitol of Washington. They used life-size airplanes, dirigibles, steamships and U-boats in the reproduction. That day, concerts and parades were given by the Veteran of Foreign Wars Boys band, featuring more than one-hundred instruments. Freddie Carlone’s orchestra played in the newly renovated Dreamland Ballroom and also in the dining room at Hotel Conneaut. The park’s new night club, Radio Villa, was opened to guests. At nightfall, a spectacular fireworks display was shown.

Perry Como
Photo from The Evening Star
September 9 1956, Pg 3

A young Perry Como joined his uncle at his barber shop inside Hotel Conneaut in order to send home money to his family. While in Cleveland, he went to a show at the Silver Slipper Ballroom, watching Freddie Carlone and his famous orchestra who often provided the music at Conneaut Lake Park. Carlone invited anyone with talent to come onstage and sing with his band. Como was terrified, but coaxed by his friends, went up and began to sing to hundreds of spectators. Carlone was so impressed, he offered Como a job with his band. Though the job offered significantly less pay than his haircutting gig at the hotel—$28 a week—Como dubiously accepted the offer and stayed with Carlone’s band for the next three years. Como went on to become very famous, with a long and storied career in the music industry.

One young guest of the park recalled her memories of her interaction with the young singer many years after Como left Conneaut Lake Park to begin his career:

“Back in 1931 [sic] —I was only a small child at the time—my family rented a summer cottage at Conneaut Lake, Pa. We frequently ate at the Conneaut Lake Park Hotel because, according to my parents, the food was excellent, and they enjoyed the dinner-hour dance music of Freddie Carlone’s orchestra.

“One of the band’s chief attractions was a young singer who specialized in “crooning.” Bing Crosby was then the top crooner, and I can still remember many of the lake people listening to the youngster sing (he couldn’t have been more than 18) and commenting, “This fellow will give Bing Crosby a run for his money—if he has the gumption to stick with it.” The reason they might have had doubts was that the boy had a likeable, easygoing poise that made him seem a bit, well, lethargic.

“Often the young man would visit our table and talk with my parents. After dinner, he usually invited me to the edge of the bandstand, where I sat on his ice-cream parlor chair (it was sort of a trademark of his act) while he sang.

“As the summer wore on, I developed a regular “crush” on the young singer. Was I the envy of the sandbox set on those days he’d join us at the beach and romp with me!

“The years passed, and I soon forgot all about that summer at Conneaut Lake. Then, one day in the early 1940’s, I turned our radio up to “teenage” volume to hear a new smash hit called “Prisoner of Love.” It was being sung by a bobby-sox sensation named Perry Como. I had never seen his picture, but just the sound of his voice made me swoon all over.

“My mother came in, turned the loudness down, and said, “Norma, just because he used to be your boyfriend, you needn’t bring down the walls!”

“Boyfriend? Me? Perry Como? And then it all came back. The young-man who sang to me on the ice-cream parlor chair…those days we spent on the beach…that relaxed, boy-next-door manner.

“Although the sand castles we built together quickly dissolved into the lake, and many of the songs have faded, my childhood memories of that likeable young man, who the adults said seemed to lack “gumption,” will remain till the day I die.”

-Mrs. Norma Leary, Jamestown, PA
As told to the Rome News-Tribune, October 29, 1973
(I flagged the year because according to records, Como did not come to Conneaut Lake Park until 1932)

Como died in 2001 and is buried in Riverside Memorial Park in Florida.


In May, Katherine Wolff, who had been a housekeeper at Hotel Conneaut for several years, died in Meadville from illness. She was buried in St. Catherine’s Cemetery in Titusville.

Niles Daily Times, May 25, 1933, Page 8

Henry Holcomb lay ill in Cunningham Sanitarium in Cleveland with heart trouble for several months before succumbing on June 7, 1933. He had been ill for some years prior, though had still been involved with some of his hotels before he was admitted into the sanitarium. News of his death reached Conneaut Lake Park by telegram and the incredible loss was felt quite profoundly as the man had spent his life shaping the resort into something truly remarkable. He was 69 years old and had been the park president as well as manager of Hotel Conneaut for thirty years. He left a wife and adopted daughter. His funeral service was held at St. John’s Episcopal Church and he was buried in Erie Cemetery

Actress Fifi D’Orsey visited the resort on June 27th.

Niles Daily Times, June 29, 1933, Page 6

The July 4th celebration at the park proved truly ostentatious. Fireworks were set off every hour from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Freddie Carlone’s Orchestra, who had played at President Roosevelt’s inauguration, provided the music, playing in Dreamland Ballroom and Hotel Conneaut’s dining room. Edythe Siegrist and her group of high flying performers from Ringling-Barnum held acts all throughout the day. Parachute jumper Walter Criswell returned to jump from the wing of a seaplane.


Conneaut Lake Park was purchased by the People’s Pittsburgh Trust Co. and operated the park as Hotel Conneaut, Inc. Glenn Klingensmith was made president and R.J. McDonald vice president and general manager of the park.

The railroads discontinued railroad service as running special trains into the park was no longer sustainable due to the ever rising popularity of motor cars. The 85 mile trip from Pittsburgh took less than two hours by car and proved the preferable method to arrive at the park.

On the season’s opening, held on Decoration Day, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Boys Military Band of Warren provided the music. They had won the National VFW Championship and played at the Word’s Fair. Carleton Coon and the three O’Neill Sisters were the main features at Dreamland Ballroom, playing harmony blues to the masses.

On 4th of July weekend, a young man named Fred Vosens, Jr. noticed a man struggling in the water. The boy jumped in, pulled the man to safety and the man was resuscitated. The man returned home while the boy received many accolades for saving the man from drowning. Fred was aged 15 and was the son of Hotel Conneaut’s senior chef.

Daisy and Violet Hilton

Violet Hilton, a Siamese twin who had been denied a marriage license to her fiancé Maurice Lambert by the New York court, planned to marry at Conneaut Lake. Violet and her twin sister Daisy were born attached at the hip and had become vaudeville stars. While performing in Geneva, OH, Violet told the press the wedding would be the last week of July in Pennsylvania where several justices of the peace had offered to perform the ceremony. They arrived at Conneaut Lake on July 25th but were advised by their attorney to not file for the license in Meadville and the marriage was delayed. Unfortunately, the wedding never happened and with the continuing frustration of the law against the marriage of a conjoined twin, Lambert broke off their engagement.

Niles Daily Times June 29, 1934

On Friday, August 10th through Sunday, August 12th, 2,000 firemen and their families attended the annual firemen’s convention at the park held by the Northwestern Pennsylvania Firemen’s Association. On Friday evening, the women were entertained with a card party and floor show in the Crystal Room. On Saturday, the men were split into teams for a water battle. That evening, a banquet was held at Hotel Conneaut followed by a firemen’s dance in the Crystal Room.

On August 11, a Hotel Conneaut employee, Ray Cobb, was picnicking with friends near the hotel when boiling coffee spilled on his chest and arms. The 20 year old was rushed to Spencer Hospital with severe burns from which he recovered from.


A new manager was appointed to run Hotel Conneaut and proved to be the youngest hotel manager in the state. In January, thirty-one year old Maurice Bigelow of Pittsburgh came to serve as proprietor of Hotel Conneaut, Hotel Virginia, and the Beach Club, having spent six years as the business manager of Hotel Webster in Pittsburgh.

W.E. Baker of Pittsburgh was named park manager by Hotel Conneaut, Inc. In February, plans were made for a substantial remodeling of the entire park with a projected cost of $50,000. 51 workers began to raze the concession stands and five cottages along the midway. A large court and new cottages were constructed in their place to provide an overall appearance of clean lines and genuine attractiveness. The laborers had cut ice on the lake prior to commencing the remodeling project and had went on strike due to wages. Their wages were raised from 20 cents an hour to 40, therefore they gladly went on with the remodeling work. 

Plans for building a bath house on the pier with a completion date prior to opening day were disrupted by an injunction by the Conneaut Lake Navigation Company barring Hotel Conneaut from building. In June, the injunction was dissolved and the construction of a new bathhouse moved forward. The beach ran south of the pier and was completely redone and beautified.

On December 2nd, a cottage inhabited by William Kleeb, caught fire and burned. Fortunately Kleeb had just left the cottage and was not present when the fire tore through the structure. Kleeb was vice president and general manager of the Conneaut Lake Park Company.


On May 1st, two men died in a cottage fire at the resort. The victims were Arthur Bigelow and William Kleeb, the man who had escaped a fiery death just months before. Bigelow was both assistant manager of the park and the father of Hotel Conneaut’s manager Maurice Bigelow. It has been said that their bodies were taken to the Crystal Room of the hotel while waiting to be picked up by the coroner.

Despite the terrible tragedy and loss of his father, Maurice Bigelow pushed forward with park renovation plans. $50,000 was put into making improvements at the park. The hotel’s first floor was redecorated and refurnished and the lobby completely redone. Outside, landscapers added evergreens, shrubs and flowers and the plaza, or common green on the north end of the hotel was beautified. The ground was regraded and sod placed in the areas without sidewalks. The concession stands around the hotel were moved to another area of the park and a cement sidewalk added between the hotel and the Temple of Music.

The midway was once again rebuilt with a fresh design. The Giggle-Giggle and other amusements were torn down. Laborers reinstalled the Old Mill that had been removed the prior year. The new structure sat in its original location at the west end of the dance pavilion. When the Park Hotel burned several years before, it had taken the Dodge ‘Em ride along with it, but the ride was rebuilt that spring, ready in time for the new season. The ride now occupied the space where the Park Hotel once rested.

On the pier, a 600 ft. boardwalk, 20 ft. wide, was rebuilt to extend from Hotel Conneaut to the Beach Club. The promenade on the dancing pavilion was redone with new walkways added. A new bathing beach was provided and the park now allowed guests to swim for free. 

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
July 2, 1936, Page 13

On opening day, Memorial Day, the park featured a music concert, a parachute jump, and fireworks. New concessions and amusements were offered as well.

On June 7th, 3000 women from the Order of the Eastern Star came to the park for their annual convention that continued until June 12th. They held their gathering at the Temple of Music, which had been redecorated and repainted.

Hotel Conneaut served three fixed-priced dinners for $1, $1.25, and $1.50. A food critic remarked that he gave the hotel an honorable mention for serving a tomato salad with the tomato skin. 


During the winter, painters repainted the entire interior of the hotel. In April, the crew began painting the exterior of the hotel.

The Steamboat Helena fell on her side during a bout of rough winds after she was torn from her moorings. The Conneaut Lake Navigation Company, owner of the boat, had the hulk saturated with gasoline and set on fire. The steamer had been built in 1903 and retired in 1931. Her sister ship was set on fire later that year, having been retired in 1932. On both occasions, guests of Hotel Conneaut watched the fire on the south side of the lake where the two boats had been moored.


Conneaut Lake Park opened on May 28th, projected to be one of the best seasons the park had ever had. Hotel Conneaut had propelled its amenities and cuisine into top tier status.

In June, Hotel Conneaut hosted 162 Republican women from the Pennsylvania Council of Republican Women. 

The 12th Annual Conneaut Lake Bridge Tournament was held July 13th through 17th and conducted by Dick Needham. 

The last week of July, The Veterans of Foreign Wars Boys Band of Warren, OH camped for one week at the park. They played two concerts on Sunday July 30th. Their director was Donald Hurrlebrink, also director of the local high school band.


Niles Daily Times, July 1, 1939 Page 4
Niles Daily Times, July 3, 1939 Page 4


  • Hotel Conneaut Menaced As Flames Sweep Small Cottage: The Kane Republican 18 Feb 1930, Tue Pg 8
  • Hotel Conneaut to Open May 15 With New Manager: Niles Daily Times April 29, 1930 Pg 9
  • Hotel Virginia Sold to Unknown Persons: The Record-Argus, 7 Apr 1930, Mon  Pg 10
  • Dancing At The Lake: The Record-Argus, 10 May 1930, Sat. Pg 5
  • Hotel Conneaut Opens Auspiciously For Summer, with Fine Banquet: The Record-Argus, 26 May 1930, Mon Pg 5
  • More Trouble For Widow of Massillon Man: The Evening Independent, 25 Jun 1930, Wed  Pg 1
  • War Bride Gets Bond In Husband’s Death: Niles Daily Times, Saturday, July 21st, 1928, Pg 1
  • Conneaut Lake Park Hotel to Open Saturday: Warren Times Mirror 22 May 1930, Thu Pg 3
  • Fire At Conneaut: Warren Times Mirror 3 Aug 1931, Mon Pg 10
  • Schmeling to Have Three Days Grind As Last Hard Training : Evening Star, June 26, 1931, Page C-2
  • Win, Lose, or Draw: Evening Star, June 4, 1954 Page C
  • Fireworks At Conneaut On Decoration Day: Niles Daily Times May 26, 1932 Pg 5
  • Meadville Parachute Jumper At Lake: The Conneautville Courier, 29 Jun 1932, Wed · Pg 1
  • New Features Booked For Conneaut July 4: The News-Herald 28 Jun 1932, Tue Pg 7
  • Perry Como: Fishman, Charles (January 24, 1993). “A Few Moments With Perry Como”. Orlando Sentinel.
  • Katharine Wolff Death: The Conneautville Courier 31 May 1933, Wed Pg 8
  • Henry Holcomb Dies, Spent Life Helping Boost Conneaut Lake: The News-Herald 7 Jun 1933, Wed Pg 2
  • Plan For 4th At Conneaut: Niles Daily Times, June 29, 1933 Pg 4
  • Conneaut Lake Planning Finest Season: Niles Daily Times May 17, 1934 Pg 5
  • Life Saved By Young Swimmer: The Conneautville Courier, 4 Jul 1934, Wed Pg 1
  • Firemen’s Convention Planned: The Conneautville Courier 18 Jul 1934, Wed. Pg. 1 
  • Siamese Twin To Wed In Pennsylvania Soon: Evening Star, July 23, 1934, Page A-16
  • Twin Delayed Wedding: Evening Star, July 26, 1934, Page B-18
  • Conneaut Lake Boy Burned: The Conneautville Courier 15 Aug 1934, Wed Pg 4
  • Plans to Remodel Conneaut Lake Park: The Conneautville Courier 27 Feb 1935, Wed Pg 1
  • Injunction Dissolved: The Conneautville Courier, 12 Jun 1935, Wed. Pg 8 
  • Youngest Manager: Times Herald, 8 Jan 1936, Wed Pg 5 
  • Two Men Die In Fire At Summer Resort: Pottsville Republican 1 May 1936, Fri  Pg 1
  • Park Plans To Make Changes: The Record-Argus 18 Apr 1936, Sat Pg 1 & 6
  • Park Adds New Features: The Pittsburgh Press 29 May 1936, Fri Pg 10
  • Conneaut Lake Park Opens Memorial Day: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 28 May 1936, Thu Pg 13
  • A New Peel: The Record-Argus 14 Jul 1936, Tue Pg 2
  • Season Is Opened At Conneaut Lake: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 11 Jun 1936, Thu Pg 15
  • Hotel Repainted: The Conneautville Courier 21 Apr 1937, Wed. Pg 1
  • Steamer Burned At Conneaut Lake: The Conneautville Courier 7 Jul 1937, Wed Pg 8
  • Conneaut Lake Park Expects Biggest Season: The Pittsburgh Press 29 May 1938, Sun Pg 32
  • Republican Women Plan For Campaign: The Conneautville Courier, 22 Jun 1938, Wed. Pg 1
  • Ridge Boys Go To Camp of VFW Boys Band At Conneaut: Niles Daily Times, Saturday, July 30th, 1938 Pg 3 
  • Trains Took Vacationers to Conneaut’s Many Hotels: The Pittsburgh Press, Sunday June 17, 1984
  • ‘Whitewash’ Won’t Aid Earle Opponent Says: Evening Star July 24, 1938, Page A-7

Anecdotes of Hotel Conneaut & Exposition Park: Part 4, 1920-1929

1920 Postcard featuring the sunken gardens of Conneaut Lake Park

In Part Four of my ongoing series of Hotel Conneaut and Conneaut Lake Park (the former Exposition Park), I dive into the decade of the roaring 20’s. The 20’s brought not only the Charleston, but an enormous surge of people purchasing private family automobiles. Due to assembly lines and mass production, the average family could afford to purchase a vehicle and people began to practically live in their cars. As an unsavory result, all summer resorts began to suffer as the amount of guests diminished enormously. People no longer wished to stay in one place, spending a week or two at Conneaut Lake Park. Now, they were eager to drive from state to state or across the country and see all the sites. It truly was the end of an era, but the glitz and glamor of Hotel Conneaut had yet to wear out and plenty of visitors continued to book their annual stays and company dinners at the hotel. 

1920’s Postcard


The Falcon Steel Company from Niles, OH held an annual outing at the park, motoring over for a day of swimming, dancing, and amusements. They supped at Hotel Conneaut before driving home in the evening.

After season’s close, Hotel Conneaut opened briefly to hold a game dinner for the park residents on Armistice Day. Only the lobby and dining room had been heated while snow flew outside. Hunters had collected game throughout the week prior and forty rabbits, pheasants, wild duck, and two racoons were served. Chef Holmes busily cooked in the hotel’s kitchen for the 112 people in the dining room. They completed their evening with dancing and games of cards.

Henry Holcomb spent nearly his entire winter at the park as he had done for many years. He kept himself very busy with repairs that every year averaged a cost of $30,000, proving that the maintenance of the park was no small task or fit for a small pocketbook.


The Niles Uniform Rank of K and P came to Conneaut Lake Park, expecting to make their annual encampment as planned. Unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding, their 150 tents were not available to them and the group had to return home to Niles, OH. They quickly made new plans for a week of camping at Brady Lake.

1921 Postcard of the Boat Landing


In January, the sad news came to the park of the death of Frank Lockwood, Hotel Conneaut’s former proprietor of eight years. He died in Titusville, the town of his residence and was eighty-five years old.

Many improvements were made to the park prior to the season opening. Some of the new installations were sewage disposal plant, a large deck in front of the bathhouse, a diving platform with a height of 30 ft. above the water’s surface, additional boat docks, and several cottages.

In August, a series of large hail storms north of the lake brought chilly weather to the park. Nonetheless, scheduled events moved forward as planned.

On August 26th and 27th, a grand boat race was held with some of the fastest boats in the U.S. The race was held over a 30 mile course on Lake Conneaut.

The board of directors of the Conneaut Fair and Racing Association held a meeting at Hotel Conneaut to finalize arrangements for the fair to be held August 28-September 2. 250 of the best horses around were slated to race that season.


Hotel Conneaut opened on Saturday, May 6th, after a round of redecoration. The Keystone Serenaders were employed to play the music at the dance pavilion and daily concerts at Hotel Conneaut. Substantial rain had raised the level of the lake so high that the docks were nearly beneath water.

The 4th of July celebration brought an obscene amount of visitors to the park, the trains alone shuttling in a wide estimate of 25,000-40,000 people. Even more people arrived in their newly acquired automobiles, causing significant congestion. Because parking spots were limited, drivers parked their vehicles along the highway for up to three miles away. 

Because of automobiles, fewer guests made reservations at Hotel Conneaut in advance and came to the lobby expecting to take their chances on whether they could acquire a room or not. Usually by 11p.m., the clerk had to turn people away, but it was no matter, as they simply drove on to the next town to find lodging. Also, guests did not spend a week or entire summer residing at the hotel, instead staying for only a night or weekend. Times had certainly changed and very fast at that.

The other great change was the lack of drunkards in the park, as alcohol had been outlawed. Prohibition had brought a temporary peace and the teetotaler guests found a renewed calm to the resort.


That spring, renovations to Hotel Conneaut were rapidly underway with the construction of a large south wing. 180 new guest rooms were built, each with their own bathroom, and outfitted with electric and plumbing. The guest rooms also included private apartments with a living room and two bed rooms. Most spectacular was the new auditorium, named the Crystal Room, on the southeast corner with a wide porch encircling the addition on the front, north, and part of the south ends. The purpose of the new auditorium was to serve as a place for conventions, dances, and other festivities. The auditorium is today known as Elizabeth’s Ballroom and the new south wing has survived to present day when the older north end of the hotel burned to ash twenty years later. Also included in the addition was a sun parlor and oriental tea garden with a red rubber floor. A fresh coat of paint was put on the entire exterior.

Postcard of the Crystal Room

A band stand was also constructed where the old dock used to be in front of Hotel Conneaut. A children’s playground was installed on the upper side of the boat landing. Ground for two new golf courses was cleared, one a nine-hole and the other an eighteen-hole. A firehouse was also built and men’s clubrooms built into the upper story. 

The hotel’s new south wing was not ready for the season’s opening on Memorial Day, though the Crystal Room was open for events. Opening day proved a huge success as thousands from Pennsylvania and Ohio crowded into the resort.

The Conneaut Lake Press Outing Association held their sixth annual outing at the park. Over one hundred from the association enjoyed a lovely banquet on June 7th in Hotel Conneaut’s dining room before moving into the Crystal Room for an interlude of entertainment. Afterward, they walked over to the dance pavilion for an evening of dancing and at 11 p.m. finished their night off with a lovely steamer ride across the lake.

In early June, Hotel Conneaut hosted the annual convention of Western Pennsylvania Funeral Directors. The undertakers, nearly one-hundred of them, were also guests of the hotel and used Hotel Conneaut for their annual meeting for several years.

The stockholders of the Conneaut Lake Fair Association held their annual meeting at Hotel Conneaut and made preparations for the large fair coming up in August.

The Pittsburgh Builder’s Exchange held a four-day outing in mid-June and was one of the largest conventions at the hotel and resort as a whole that season. 

The Bessemer & Lake Erie Veteran’s Association held their annual outing at Hotel Conneaut on June 21st and 22nd, proving to be their largest one yet.

In early October, several thousand members of the Ku Klux Klan descended on Hotel Conneaut, which they considered their national headquarters. Dr. Hiram W. Evans of Atlanta, the national head of the clan, spoke on radicalism during their event. The group were entertained by singers, band concerts, airplane stunt flying, and fireworks. The Yellow Dogs, the fun-making sect of the Klan’s Realm of Pennsylvania, initiated hundreds of new members into their order. One of these new members was Dewey Allen, a bellboy at Hotel Conneaut, who became the first known black member to be initiated. 

The Buffalo Times Sun Jul 6 1924


On September 1st, Conneaut Lake Park held an enormous dance contest, seeking to find the person that demonstrated the Charleston in the absolute best manner.

Eighteen-year old Peggy Bosza of Pittsburgh won a beauty contest held at the park from a selection of 1,200 other girls and was thus dubbed Peggy of The Press after the competition’s name. The preliminary contest first pitted the redheads, blondes and brunettes against one another and for the main tournament, the three winners from each went forward to compete. Peggy’s mother had died five years prior and Peggy was left with a father and two brothers and two sisters, all younger. She badly wanted to cut her hair into a bob as that was the style of the day. Her father adamantly refused and she won out from the brunettes and then the entire contest with her long jet-black hair, named Queen of The Press. Virginia Lee Bateman, age five and half, won the junior division. As part of Peggy’s prize, she became a special guest of Henry Holcomb at Hotel Conneaut and stayed in the large suite with windows looking out over the lake. She enjoyed the best treatment possible, even receiving her first manicure in the hotel’s manicure parlor. A dance was held in her honor and many young men scrambled for her attentions, one being Tom Holleran, a football star who had become a coach for Thiel College.

1920’s Postcard of steamer on Conneaut Lake


In the spring, new improvements were underway including the installation of a water system at the cost of $40,000. The dance pavilion was remodeled and the pier in front of Hotel Conneaut received a new stage intended for band concerts and vaudeville acts.

Henry Holcomb had presided over the park for twenty-seven years and was a truly hardworking, dedicated man. His position had truly been a labor of love in every sense and that year was relieved of much of the burden of his many duties. A reorganization plan was put into effect and his responsibilities were delegated to others. He told Jim Borland of the News Herald, “You can say that I am still the largest stockholder of the Conneaut Lake Company and president of it. With Lowerey Humes as president of the Board of Directors, of which I am a member, and John Greer, of Sharon, as park superintendent, I have simply been relieved of many of the details. That’s all there is to it.”

Unfortunately, the park was not welcoming the massive crowds seen in the prior decade as people were taking family vacations in their automobiles. 

At the end of August, workers completed the conversion of the 9-hole golf course to a full 18-hole course. Work was begun on a new road that would connect the two roads on either side of the lake with a projected completion date for the following spring.


The first weekend in June, Henry Holcomb hosted the employees and 250 family members of 100 newspapers from western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. Included in the group at Hotel Conneaut were newspapermen from Niles, Youngstown, Hubbard, Girard, Struthers, McDonald, and Lowellville. They enjoyed all the amusements and shows the park had to offer. Billy Erhardt of Youngstown’s Erhardt’s School of Dance did several performances at the dance pavilion. At Hotel Conneaut, the Red Arrow Quartet of the Pennsy Railroad, the Newspapermen’s Mandolin Club of Butler, PA, and the Royal Welsh Ladies Chorus all performed for the special guests. 

By July, the park reached its season’s peak of excitement and frenzy. Guests amused themselves not only with the rides and games of the park, but also golfed, played tennis, boated, swam, rode horses, and danced. 

Guests shown swimming, or “bathing” in 1920’s postcard

Prohibition did not deter the employees of Hotel Conneaut from serving alcohol to their guests, in fact it was expected to serve up large casks during conventions and parties. On July 12th, dry officers raided a sheriff’s convention going on in Parlor B of the hotel. In the end, the officers took away the alcohol and arrested a bellboy.

August 26th through 30th, the Elks committee celebrated a large annual meeting at the resort, hosting a “Miss Elk” bathing beauty competition on August 29th. They also enjoyed a huge display of fireworks, a parade, an auto presentation contest, water regatta, golf tournament, and a flying circus with a 2000 foot parachute drop into Lake Conneaut.

Towards the end of the season, a deluxe duck dinner was served to guests at Hotel Conneaut. Gertrude Gruman and the Royal Welsh ladies’ choir entertained in both the dining room and Oriental Tea Room. In the Crystal Room, the Mountain Quartette sang.

In the fall, hunters came to the lake to shoot grouse and woodcock as Conneaut Lake had become an extremely popular destination for the sport.


On Saturday, May 25th, the Newspaper Outing Association held their 18th annual convention at the park. After a reception at Hotel Conneaut, the association enjoyed an evening of dancing at Hotel Virginia. On Sunday, they golfed, boated, and swam before returning to their respective homes. Jim Borland, who regularly wrote articles in the Franklin Times about Conneaut Lake Park, was re-elected president of the association, having served that position for seventeen years. 

Niles Daily Times, Aug 29 1929, Page 8


  • At Conneaut: The Niles Daily News, Saturday, July 17th, 1920
  • Seeing Winter Come: The News-Herald, 19 Nov 1920, Fri. Pg 4
  • Unintentional Misunderstanding: The Niles Daily News, published in Niles, Ohio on Tuesday, August 2, 1921 Pg 2
    Conneaut Lake Will Shine Like A New Dollar This Summer: The Niles Daily News, published in Niles, Ohio on Saturday, May 27th, 1922, Pg 4
  • Frank Lockwood Death: The Conneautville Courier, 11 Jan 1922, Wed. Pg. 4
  • Conneaut Lake Park Has Many Events on the List: The Pittsburgh Press, 13 Aug 1922, Sun. Pg 47
  • Conneaut Lake Park: The News-Herald, 22 May 1923, Tue. Pg 11
  • Autos, Prohibition, and Time Change: The News-Herald, 7 Jul 1923, Sat. Pg 4
  • Large Addition to Hotel Conneaut: The Conneautville Courier, 14 May 1924, Wed. Pg. 4
  • Conneaut Lake Park: The Pittsburgh Press, 8 Jun 1924, Sun. Pg. 74
  • Klan may Guard Invaded Church In M’Kees Rocks: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · 7 Oct 1924, Tue · Page 15
  • Charleston Contest to be Held At Lake: The News-Herald, 21 Aug 1926, Sat. Pg 7
  • Red-Headed Lad First to Take “Peggy of the Press” For Boat Ride on Conneaut Lake: The Pittsburgh Press, 8 Sep 1926, Wed. Pg 1-2
    Improvements: The Conneautville Courier, 11 May 1927, Wed. Pg. 6
    August Days at the Lake and the Pines: The News-Herald,13 Aug 1927, Sat. Pg 4
    100 Newspapers In Outing At Conneaut Park: Niles Daily Times, Monday, June 4th, 1928, pg 5
  • High Point of Season Reached at Conneaut Lake Park: Niles Daily Times, Thursday, July 19th, 1928, Pg 7
  • Elks Convention At Conneaut Lake To Be Record Breaker: Niles Daily Times, published in Niles, Ohio on Tuesday, July 24, 1928 Pg 5
  • Borland Elected Association President: Niles Daily Times, Monday, May 27th, 1929, Pg 3