A pleasant ring is brought to my ears whenever I hear the mention of Old Orchard Beach, located on the southern coast of Maine. An abundance of fond memories come forth in my mind–from vacation stopovers of childhood days to a penny-pinching camping trip with my own children.
This blog posting will be a short focus on the Hotel Velvet as displayed in my featured postcard with the addition of some background history on Old Orchard Beach (OOB).
The Hotel Velvet was destroyed in a fire on August 15th, 1907. According to the handwritten message on the postcard, this hotel was the largest of 77 buildings that were burned to the sand on that Thursday evening. “We saw the ruins still burning Fri. afternoon” said the message on the card.
The Hotel Velvet was originally known as Hotel Emerson. The hotel opened on July 1, 1899 and was located at the corner of East Grand Avenue and Old Orchard Street.
The hotel was owned by H. Hildreth, who was a candy maker known for making Molasses “velvet” kisses. The candy was wrapped in red and yellow paper and packaged into yellow boxes; the hotel had been painted yellow and red to match.
The area of Old Orchard Beach, is located at the mouth of the Saco and Goosefare rivers and this region was inhabited by some of the Abenaki tribe prior to the settlement of European occupants. Thomas Rogers officially settled this area in 1657.
The postcard was postmarked August 17, 1907. The card contains a handwritten message but is not addressed to anyone, nor is it signed. This card was published by The Hugh C. Leighton Co., Manufacturers, Portland, ME (1904-1909), U.S.A.; printed in Frankfort, Germany; card number 4854.
The Old Orchard Beach area has long been known as a tourist destination. The rail service began in 1842 running from Boston to Portland.
The well-known pier opened in July of 1898, it included a casino at the very end, a structure of 1825 feet, built by the Berlin Iron Bridge Company. It was partially damaged by a storm in late fall of 1898. The Casino was rebuilt in 1899 but the entrance was destroyed during the same fire that destroyed the Hotel Velvet in 1907. Again, rebuilding repairs were made in 1908 but much was lost to the great storm of March 1909. Afterward, the casino was reduced down to 1000 feet in length
During the 1940s, this area was very popular with my parents. I think it was my mom’s very favorite place and she spoke fondly of it, very often, over the years. The Casino Ballroom, on that pier, was known to hold as many as 5,000 people. It hosted moving picture shows and live entertainment.
There have been several storms over the years to affect the Pier. The casino was razed in 1970 and the blizzard of 1978 destroyed the remaining portion of that pier.
The current-day pier re-opened in 1980, containing shops and restaurants. It is 500 feet in length over the ocean.
As mentioned above, my mom spoke often of the enjoyment she experienced at OOB during its “heyday”. If all goes well, I will have some new blog posts very soon beginning with an introductory posting that will include some pictures of my mom and her friends when they visited OOB during the mid-1940s. My dad was in the military at the time and I have one of those fold-out souvenir cards from OOB that my mom had addressed to my dad in the service.
My plan is to feature that fold-out card in a blog piece. That first story shall lead into a short series of postings focused on my dad’s military service group and some details about their reunions held during the 1980s and 1990s. To date, I have already put in a good deal of time working on that project but I am not sure when I will be completely ready to roll it all out.
In the meantime, I may try to churn out a couple of shorter writings, such as these “One Postcard Saturdays”.
Until next time…
gotravelmaine.com/history-of-old-orchard-beach-pier/; accessed 29 May 2021.
mainememory.net/artifact/51263 and 51278; accessed 29 May 2021.
metropostcard.com/publishers.html; accessed 03 July 2021.
oldorchardbeachhistory.com; accessed 29 May 2021.