Welcome to the Greater Mankato on the Move Mobile History Tour featuring Highland Park’s Tourist Camp.
The innovation and popularity of the automobile brought about a major social development of the early 20th Century - travel. While people had journeyed across the globe before, it was usually restricted to members of the upper class who had the extra money to do so. But with the availability of automobiles after the turn of the 20th century, thanks to the assembly lines which made them abundant and affordable, people began to embrace the freedom this transportation offered them and Tourist Camping became a popular activity.
Unlike earlier hotels that served mostly railroad passengers, tourist camps evolved along roadways to accommodate the needs of the newly motoring public. In their early days, they typically consisted of stand-alone structures that looked and functioned like small houses, with as few as four units to rent. Those built during and after World War II were increasingly likely to be under a single roof in the form recognizable today as motels. “Motel” (a blend of motor and hotel) became a popular term beginning in the 1940s and implied more rooms and greater conveniences to travelers.
This craze started to bring people from all over the country to Mankato, specifically to the Tourist Camp located at Highland Park. This area was already a popular spot for locals, bringing up to 600 picnickers each Sunday, but also was highly praised by those who came from afar. Its large quantity of trees set it apart from the other camps, which usually were simply barren fields to park camping trailers in. The 10-acre park also boasted a public kitchen and accessible water as early as 1905.
Many people stayed here, from traveling salesmen who worked out of their campsites, to retired couples who simply desired to tour the country. However, the number of tourists started to decline during WWII in part due to gas rationing. The camp never regained its popularity, eventually shutting down in the mid-1940s. But the park remains to be enjoyed today by locals and visitors alike.
Visit BlueEarthCountyHistory.com to learn more.