publications

Automobile Camp at Elmwood Park

Long distance travel in the early days of the automobile was difficult, and comforts along the way were few. Motorists pitched their own tents and cooked their own meals in the auto tourist camps that soon sprang up along the nation’s roads. Some were free; others were operated by a commercial businessman. Pay camps, with more conveniences, soon became common.



“What a fount of information is the tourist camp at this season of the year!” said the Sunday World-Herald of August 8, 1926, “And what a place is a tourist camp of an evening, filled by people from everywhere. There are hundreds of such places in the land, but according to motorists who have availed themselves of the hospitality and advantages of the one out Elmwood Park way, there is none that beat it.”



The camp was situated on high ground overlooking Elmwood Park, with features that attracted an American public increasingly drawn to the open road. “There are plenty of trees, ample accommodation for 150 cars and the parties that go with them, while permanent buildings contain baths, equipment for the washing of apparel and dishes, cooking facilities and other things to make things easier for the traveler. In the assembly room are writing tables, a big fireplace, maps, free stationery and all the comforts you would find in the writing room of a big hotel. . . . The paths and driveways are of the finest chipped stone, and the grounds themselves are kept neat and clean all the time.”



The cost for such services was modest, even by the standards of 1926: fifty cents per car for a twenty-four-hour period. The usual stay was limited to four days, although one could stay longer if conditions permitted. The World-Herald noted, “In 1924 some 7,302 cars stopped in the camp, and in 1925 there were 7,792. Already this year there has been 3,280 registered there . . . . The summer months are the big months, but spring, fall and even winter brings visitors in number.”



The establishment of this popular auto tourist camp was due to the Omaha Automobile Club, which had appointed a committee to propose its establishment before the Omaha City Council. The camp was viewed from the first as a successful advertisement of Omaha’s wealth and hospitality to travelers. “Members of one family going west were loud in their praises for the local camp. ‘We’ve been in 20 or more. This is by far the best in every particular. We are certainly going to stop here for a while on our way back.'”



As auto campers demanded more comforts, roadside accommodations such as those found at the Elmwood Park camp were accordingly upgraded. Individual tourist cabins were constructed that provided not only cooking and sanitary facilities, but overnight privacy and shelter from bad weather. Some owners connected their cabins and arranged them around a central court to form a motor court-which, in turn, gave rise to the modern motel.



(April 2007)


Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

Other Publications

Crazy Horse Surrender Ledger Foreward

Red Dog, an Oglala Lakota who lived at the Red Cloud Agency, Nebraska, 1876-77 (Nebraska State Historical Society RG2955.ph). In the summer of 1876, following the ...

Darryl F. Zanuck

Darryl F. Zanuck Darryl F. Zanuck (1902-1979), a native Nebraskan, produced some of Hollywood's most important and controversial films. He helped found 20th Century Fox ...

The Burlington’s Profitable Pork Special

Nebraska railroads were much concerned with developing an adequate economy in the areas they served. The Burlington, for example, had a long history of caring for the ...

Bungalow Filling Stations

After the giant Standard Oil Company was broken into thirty-four separate companies in 1911, the newly independent Standard Oil of Nebraska dominated the state's market ...

The Bull Fight

This is the perfect time of year for a visit to the old fishin' hole. But a group of fisherfolk from Plainview discovered that this bucolic pastime sometimes has ...

Buffalo Soldiers West

African-American soldiers on the western frontier are the focus of an exhibit at the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln. Buffalo Soldiers West, on loan from the Colorado ...

Protection for Buffalo

The extermination of the buffalo on the Plains occurred largely between 1870 and 1885. The Nebraska State Journal of Lincoln on February 1, 1874, editorialized in vain ...

Buffalo Hunting

In late October 1877 young Rolf Johnson and three friends left their homes in Phelps County, Nebraska, for a buffalo hunt in northeastern Colorado. The hunt was not very ...

Buffalo Hunt, by J. E. Johnson

Joseph E. Johnson, editor and publisher of The Huntsman's Echo of Wood River Centre in Buffalo County, took a hunting and exploring trip with friends during the summer ...

Buffalo Hunt at Niagara Falls

In 1872 James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok acted as master of ceremonies for a "Grand Buffalo Hunt" at Niagara Falls. Joseph G. Rosa's article on the hunt in the Spring ...

Buffalo Hunt, 1871

Buffalo were still relatively plentiful in western Nebraska in the early 1870s, and Nebraskans from more settled areas often went on hunting excursions. The exploits of ...

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, 1883

The first public performance of William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody's Wild West show was May 19, 1883, in Omaha. A dress rehearsal had taken place May 10 in Columbus. Several ...
About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.
Nebraska Collections
History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.
Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.