West Point: Summer Resort
In the 19th century, West Point was a popular summer destination for both American and foreign travelers. At the start of the century, sloops dominated transportation in the Hudson Valley, but predicting arrival time by these large sailboats was nearly impossible. A journey from New York to Albany could take from 1-2 days to 1-2 weeks depending on wind conditions.
Robert Fulton's Steamboat made its maiden voyage in August of 1817, chugging from New York to Albany and back in about four days. In the next three decades, steamboats got faster and dominated traffic until the railroads debuted in the 1840s and 1850s. But, steamboat companies responded to the iron horses by making their vessels more luxurious and boat continued to be the favored mode of travel for Hudson River tourists for the remainder of the century. A stop at West Point along the way was almost a requirement.
The etching above is from the 1893 edition of Appleton's Hand Book of Summer Resorts, which features 2-3 pages on visiting West Point. It recommends visiting in June, July, or August because of the added excitement of cadet summer training on the Plain. Recommended places to visit included Kosciusko's Garden, the Museum of Ordnance and Trophies, the Riding Hall ("open from 11-1 except in summer"), and Trophy Point. Scroll to the bottom to see an annotated copy of the above etching with the buildings labeled.
Because the West Point hotel was on Trophy Point, there was always excitement nearby. Guests could scramble up the hill to Fort Putnam in the morning, relax in Kosciusko's Garden in the afternoon, watch a Cadet parade in the evening, and then socialize at night. How much did a night at the West Point Hotel set you back in 1893? $3.50!
In a future post, we'll talk about dining at West Point. For now, here's your guide to the image above:
Source: Appleton's Hand Book of Summer Resorts. New York: D. Appleton & Co. 1893.