Cobourg's Summer Visitors - In addition to the Shoenberger family, a number of other wealthy individuals from the United States also began making Cobourg their summer home.
These included Pittsburgh industrialists William L. Abbott, F. G. Kay, James O'Hara Denny, George M. Howe, George Tener Oliver, Wallace Rowe, and Charles Speer, among others. Industrialists, military figures (e.g., General Orlando Metcalf Poe, General Charles Lane Fitzhugh), and politicians from throughout the United States joined the Pittsburghers as well. Even Nellie Grant, daughter of General, and later President, Ulysses S. Grant established a residence in Cobourg. [Reported to be the Tremain house on Monk street].
Wealthy Americans and Canadians from cities throughout North America constituted the core component of Cobourg's summer colony. Nonetheless, many working class families from the United States also visited Cobourg on a yearly basis. While wealthy families typically remained in town for months, their working class counterparts' visits usually lasted only a few brief hours. During this time, the working class families could stroll downtown or relax and picnic on the beach. Despite the short duration of their visits, working class families welcomed the opportunity to enjoy a quick, easy, and relatively inexpensive getaway to a foreign country.
Beyond differences in economic status, Cobourg's summer clientele also represented diverse geographic and political backgrounds. As discussed earlier, families from Pennsylvania and other parts of the northern United States first came to Cobourg for business-related reasons and later brought along their families. On the other hand, for families from the former Confederate states of the southern U.S., Cobourg's allure was related both to climatic conditions and the town's geographic location outside of the northern United States.
Northern and southern U.S. families sharing a foreign vacation destination immediately following the Civil War is worthy of note. However, the fact that an appreciable number of these visitors were also veterans of the Confederate and Union Armies - representing every military rank from private to general - made Cobourg's summer colony truly unique.
The Summer Colony's Social Activities
Between 1867 and the 1880s, the summer colony's social activities largely centered around the Arlington and other hotels in town. Social activities of this period were generally slower paced than the activities of later decades. "Hops," soirees, and other events often took place in the hotels with U.S. and Canadian families hosting and/or attending the festivities.
More on Sidbrook], Ravensworth (Fitzhugh family), Balmuto (Shoenberger family), and Cottesmore Hall (Wallace Rowe). Not surprisingly, following construction of the new summer residences, the colony's social life shifted its focus from the hotels to the estates.During the 1880's at the height of the Gilded Age, Cobourg's summer colony underwent a significant transformation. Rather than staying in hotels as in years past, the wealthy U.S. summer visitors began renting or buying residences in Cobourg. A number of the Americans also began building stately homes in the town and the surrounding countryside. Among the large residences constructed in and around Cobourg included Sidbrook (photo below) (William Abbott) [
As Cobourg's summer homes increased in size and grandeur, Cobourg's social events accordingly became more elaborate and extravagant. The increasingly opulent events even taxed Cobourg's newspaper reporters as evidenced by an August 5, 1894 Cobourg World account of a recent book party held at the Arlington which was attended by over 130 guests "each representing the title of some book." In the article, the paper noted apologetically, "We are sorry we could not obtain a complete list of those who attended, this being an entirely new department for Cobourg in the way of entertainment." Although dances and other hotel-centric activities continued to take place throughout the 1890's, these long-standing pastimes were gradually supplemented with regattas, horse races/shows, and lavish outdoor parties. The Cobourg Horse Show, established in 1905, exemplified Cobourg's new high-profile social activities. Considered one of the best equine events in North America, the show drew competitors and spectators from across Canada and the United States.
Marsha Anne Tate prepared a list of known US Visitors in this period. You may download that list here.
In Four Parts
- The Establishment of the American Summer Colony - part 1
- The Marketing of Cobourg as a Summer Destination - part 2
- Cobourg's Summer Visitors - part 3 - this page
- Social and Economic Linkages between Cobourg's Canadian and U.S. Residents - part 4
[Also - Summary, point form version]
Based on a presentation by: Marsha Ann Tate, ABD
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park, Pennsylvania USA 16802
As presented to Cobourg Historical Society