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

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