Over a century ago, in 1875, the Thousand Island Park Camp Meeting Association was founded by the Rev. John Ferdinand Dayan. Caught up in the religious revival movement of the time, Rev. Dayan dreamed of a Methodist summer community where families could enjoy both spiritual and physical renewal.
At the turn of the century, the Park was a dynamic summer community which boasted, among other things, a library, yacht club, golf course, roque courts, annual tennis tournaments, daily concerts, an art school, its own printer, a needlecraft shop, a Japanese bazaar, an oriental shop, contractors, fishing guides and boats, a book shop, a photographer . . . and Sunday services. There was the grand Columbian Hotel, the Wellesley Hotel, and other “Hotels” such as the Geneva, the Pratt House and the Rochester.
By the 1920’s “modern times” had arrived; with them, our way of life had changed. Caught by depression and war the Park contracted. Those cottage owners who could survive the economic and social hardships of the thirties and forties clung to the Park. Yet many could not. The Wellesley Hotel closed and, by the mid-1950’s, only 320 cottages remained. Except for its loyal families, the charm and tranquility of the Park were lost to the rest of us.
Large areas of the Park were seemingly abandoned to time and the elements . . . yet, quietly, rebirth was underway. Twenty years later, in 1975, the Park’s Centennial celebration was one of renewed strength. Cottages had been spruced up; the Park’s architectural charm and setting were once again appreciated. Newcomers soon realized what its residents and vacationers already knew: that here was the community that had, through perseverance, escaped the stress of today’s world. Rev. Dayan had indeed prevailed. Here, on the rocking chairs on the porches-porches that seem to be in close proximity-we suddenly realize that individualism and isolation are not synonymous . . . that a sense of community is as important today as it was in 1875.