Finding a way to cool off in the early 1900s might have meant a trip to Olcott Beach. Getting from Lockport to Olcott prior to 1900 meant riding a stagecoach pulled by a team of horses. However, many people arrived in Olcott using their own buggies, wagons, bicycles or whatever means they had at their disposal. Olcott Beach had developed a steady but rapid growth that continued through the end of the 19th century. A visit from Governor Theodore Roosevelt to the Pioneer Association Picnic in 1899 saw a crowd that numbered 20,000 people.
Interest in the community led to the introduction of the International Railway (IRC) building a trolley line from Lockport to Olcott Beach. On the first day of operation, August 27th, 1900, trolley rider ship exceeded 12,000 passengers. In order to afford better accommodations and services to the visiting public, the IRC erected a grand hotel that was simply named the Olcott Beach Hotel. The hotel boasted 100 rooms for rent, a large ballroom, a dining room that overlooked the lake, a ladies- beauty parlor, a barber shop, a game room on the beach level and several small dressings rooms where patrons could change into a bathing suit or back into their street clothes at the end of their swim. At the time of the “big-bands,” almost all of them headlined at the Olcott Beach Hotel at one time or another.
Even though the hotel had suffered a devastating fire, the hotel owners had made the necessary repairs and operations continued into the 1930s. Two other factors combined to spell the demise of this Mecca of recreation: the Great Depression and the rise in popularity of the automobile. Most visitors to Olcott began to arrive by car and usually departed for home the same day. As a result, the hotel and trolley suffered a serious decline. So it was in 1937 that the decision was made to demolish the hotel, signaling the end of the line for a once thriving landmark of the region.
Douglas Farley, Director
Erie Canal Discover Center
24 Church St.
Lockport NY 14094