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A Surprise Arch - Hailey, Idaho

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Huh? WOW! A 1922 Tourist Park arch right on the old road in Hailey, Idaho providing the gateway to a real park. I knew I wasn't driving through a time warp, but I was sure taken by surprise.











Hailey has been added to my short list of favorite road trip destinations. For skiers it is intimately associated with Sun Valley, but it offers much for the summer traveler. First of all, we stayed in a great place, the Wood River Inn for a very reasonable price. No cookie cutter place this. All of the amenities, and in walking distance from the quaint downtown. We extended our stay a day.


Hailey loomed large on the early western transcontinental routes. Jackson on the first every transcontinental auto trip (1903) with his mutt Bud went through Hailey and as I recall waited for repair parts here. Huss and Megargel in the first ever transcontinental auto race (1905) stayed here. It was seeking the story of Huss and Mergargel in Old Scout and Old Steady, their curved dash, tiller steered Oldsmobiles, that brought me here. That story will be longer and come later, but first the Hailey Tourist Park arch.




Where else in the west do we have an authentic tourist auto park arch, outside a real, but re purposed park, complete with a community interested enough to recall that history? It is enough to bring a tear to an old roadie's eye!


Tourist parks were an effort by communities in the late teens and much of the 1920's to “capture” the tourist trade. Before tourist courts and motels, the majority of long distance auto travelers camped, and by the 1920's stayed in city tourist camps, supported by the city and local merchants, Obviously Hailey had one. And it was by a beautiful fishing stream and on the now unimportant, but once main road headed toward Boise.....and not incidentally on the route of the 1900's transcontinental trips.


The two photos below are thousands of miles from Hailey, on the Lincoln Highway, from the wonderful University of Michigan collection. They show a less impressive tourist park arch, and one of my favorite photos of transcontinental travelers.











I wish I had taken photos of Hailey itself. It has a theater with a neon sign that is unequaled for its simplicity and beauty at night. The small restaurants scattered along main street were varied, and excellent.


I'm guessing this place is a whole different ski scene in the winter, but at least in the summer the locals regain the upper hand and it feels like home town USA. Sheila and I sat at a sidewalk cafe and people actually said “Hi” and stopped to chat.


The local museum is excellent and staffed by eager volunteers. I got my opportunity to let the museum staff and the library staff know that they were an important stop on the early transcontinental routes. Sharing old road tales with local enthusiasts (local newspaper, library, museum folks) is always rewarding in that you get back as much or more than you give and almost always make a friend.


Good times in Hailey!




Keep the Show on the Road!

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Love that architectural style--it just screams "1920s!", as does the illustration on it.

There are local 1920s-era bungalow houses here (Tucson) that have almost that exact same style of front porch columns as the ones on the arch. Some of them are quite beautifully kept up.



Ah, fond recollections of Tucson! I lived up on north Oracle in the 70's while attending UA.


Sheila and I were out and about today here in the Puget Sound. The sky was clear with just a few puffy clouds, and the temperature was in the 70's. I said to her, “Like Tucson in December.”


Back to the arch. From what I can read in on line newspapers, the city was sandblasting old paint off the arch this summer and discovered the raised letters “Hailey Tourist Park,” which led to the new paint job. Bravo to Hailey City officials!


Thanks for the come back!!




Keep the Show on the Road!

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I'm old enough to remember when some of those early tourist courts were new!!!!!!!!!!!!! Or nearly so. Still, a world of difference between the late '40's/early 50's when my folks took me and my sister to Ohio from Maine to visit friends and relatives in the Dayton, OH, area several times. Dad was adamant - we were on the road out of southern Maine by 6am - no arguments!!! 12 hours later we stopped at a motel of sorts in New Stanton, PA for the night after a trip down that wonder of wonders (at least to a 10 year old) - the Pennsylvania Turnpike (had 7 tunnels back then). New Stanton, today, is a long, long way from what it was back in those days. And you want to know something - it still takes 12 hours to get New Stanton traveling on the interstates!!!!

Thanks for the report and the great pictures.



Alex Burr

Memphis, TN

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