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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”

North Virginia Beach in Virginia Beach, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Seaside Park Casino / The Cavalier Hotel

Along the Oceanfront

 
 
Seaside Park Casino / The Cavalier Hotel Marker [Center panel] image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, January 17, 2021
1. Seaside Park Casino / The Cavalier Hotel Marker [Center panel]
Inscription.  
Seaside Park Casino
A Legend Lost in the Passage of Time
Built in 1912 by the Norfolk and Western Railroad, the Seaside Park Casino became the draw to crowds of people to the Oceanfront. The complex filled up four city blocks and quickly became a legendary amusement destination along the Eastern Seaboard. The Casino is credited with saving the life of the tiny resort town, which had suffered greatly by the loss of the Princess Ann Hotel five years earlier.

A fire in 1956 destroyed a major portion of the park. The Restaurant, Bath House and Picnic Pavilion were lost. Amenities included the Peacock Ballroom, Merry-Go-Round (Carousel), but many of the concessions and games survived the blaze. Although the park was greatly downsized by the fire, it continued to be a major attraction at the resort and operated until 1986. For nearly 75 years it served as a catalyst to the growth and development of the resort. And it provided an untold number of fond memories to the hundreds of thousands of folks who were lucky to experience a trip to the legendary Seaside Park.

Hold on to Your Hats, Folks!
The

Seaside Park Casino / The Cavalier Hotel Marker [Left panel] image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, January 17, 2021
2. Seaside Park Casino / The Cavalier Hotel Marker [Left panel]
first dual-rail "Switch Back" amusement ride appeared along the Oceanfront in 1903. The brave passengers were seated in an open-air, wooden car known as a "Woodie" and then sent out along the rails to a distant platform and then back to the starting point. Very primitive, yes, but in an era where travel by horse and cart on unpaved roads was the standard mode of travel, it was tremendous thrill to shoot down the 600-foot raised railway, at a "breathtaking" speed of about 6 mph. The ride lasted about one minute, and the rocking, lurching and clattering of the "Woodie" along the rails enhanced the element of danger. Even back in 1903, just as today, there was nothing quite like the thrill of a roller coaster ride and being "scared half to death!"

A tunnel walk way led from Seaside Park's extensive bath house (changing facility) under the picnic pavilion and out to the beach. This photograph suggests that it might be a July 4th celebration with four American Flags flying in the brisk southeast breeze. The "Slide for Life" was a favorite ride of the day and the raised patio and walkway over the tunnel served as a popular observation point.

The favorite family amusement at Seaside Park was the "Merry-Go-Round." Climbing on to an ornately decorated wooden horse and spinning around and around, and up and down providing the entire family with lifelong happy memories.

The

Seaside Park Casino / The Cavalier Hotel Marker [Right panel] image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, January 17, 2021
3. Seaside Park Casino / The Cavalier Hotel Marker [Right panel]
famous Peacock Ballroom became the main attraction at Seaside Park. Billed as the largest dance floor on the East Coast with 50,000 square feet of floor space, it became the social center along the oceanfront. At the height of the big-band era, the sweet sounds of every nationally known orchestra played at the Peacock including Rudy "The Megaphone Crooner" Vallee, Tommy Dorsey, Hal Kemp, Fred Waring, Cab Calloway, Benny Goodman and Glen Miller. For over 40 years, folks flocked to the "Peacock" to dance the night away.

The Cavalier Hotel
A Living Legend Lives On
After the destruction of the Princess Anne Hotel in 1907, the tourist industry in Virginia Beach became somewhat stagnant. Beach residents and businesses along the Oceanfront believed that a new first-class resort destination was needed to improve the local resort economy. A real estate boom was in full swing at a time when the prevailing attitude was "Everything Seems Possible." It was the decade known as the "Roaring Twenties," and it never roared louder anywhere than it did along the Oceanfront.

In 1924, the Virginia Beach Resorts and Hotel Corporation was formed with the express purpose to plan and build a new hotel. A community fund drive was held to raise money to build the hotel. Also, a public appeal went out to the local community to name the new hotel. It was decided by

Seaside Park Casino / The Cavalier Hotel Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, January 17, 2021
4. Seaside Park Casino / The Cavalier Hotel Marker
a vote that the name should be The Cavalier. It was a total community project throughout. Truly remarkable.

The Cavalier welcomed its first guests in 1927 and by 1930 was considered one of the top resort destinations on the East Coast. Nine U.S. presidents have been guests, and scores of major celebrities (to many to list here) have enjoyed the accommodations of the Cavalier.

The Cavalier Beach Club opened in 1929 as part of the ongoing development of the resort. Over the ensuing 30 years, the Cavalier Beach Club greatly expanded its facility in size and hosted all the top names during the big-band era. During the summer months, the ever-popular Cavalier Tea Dance was held each afternoon.

The Virginia Beach Railroad and Improvement Company created the resort town of Virginia Beach in 1883 by building a rail line to the Oceanfront, thereby providing dependable and convenient access to the seashore for the first time. For 60 years, the railroad became the lifeblood for growth and development along the Oceanfront. Regular passenger service to the Oceanfront was suspended in 1943, as the automobile had become the primary mode of transportation. This poignant photo depicts the commemorative, final passenger trip that the Norfolk Southern Railroad made to Cavalier Station in 1943.

By 1930, the entire hotel complex of 260 acres included not only a Beach Club but

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also a golf course, horse riding ring, indoor salt water swimming pool, ballroom, numerous dining rooms, spacious lounges and porches, and 200 guest rooms with all the "modern conveniences of the day." Amazingly, the Cavalier staff of 435 could accommodate 367 guests at the very most. The new hotel surely provided "everything a vacationing heart desired."
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: EntertainmentIndustry & CommerceParks & Recreational Areas.
 
Location. 36° 51.852′ N, 75° 58.801′ W. Marker is in North Virginia Beach in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Marker is on 36th Street just west of Atlantic Avenue, on the right when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 205 36th St, Virginia Beach VA 23451, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Ash Wednesday Storm (here, next to this marker); A Day at the Beach (here, next to this marker); The Winds of Change (here, next to this marker); The Princess Anne Hotel (a few steps from this marker); VB Now (a few steps from this marker); The Graveyard of the Atlantic (a few steps from this marker); Premier Boardwalk Events (a few steps from this marker); The Threshold of a New Nation (a few steps from this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in North Virginia Beach.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on January 20, 2021. It was originally submitted on January 20, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 40 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on January 20, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.
 
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Feb. 26, 2021