Dressed for the beach -- 06/02/08

My last entry, with its vintage photograph of the Rockingham Hotel and the Narragansett Casino taken from Narragansett Town Beach, prompted comments (both via e-mail and in the Comments area) about the beach fashions of that era.

Here is a closer view of part of the beach portion of that photograph.

The man in the upper right corner seems appropriately attired for being on a beach -- you might well find guys on that very same beach today wearing fairly baggy almost knee-length shorts and with a sleeveless t-shirt -- but compare that with the guy in the lower right corner wearing a dark heavy-looking suit and he is wearing the jacket (instead of carrying it) and he also has on a hat (and, given the fashions of the era, he is probably wearing a vest under that jacket). And then look at what the ladies are wearing! Long-sleeved dresses! I feel overcome with the heat of summer just looking at them.

Here's another view -- same day, same beach -- providing an additional view of period costumes. See that wagon on the beach. It is an artist's "studio on the beach" -- a few months ago I was at an exhibition put on by the Pettaquamscutt Historical Society (note -- that Web site has musical background) that presented an historical series of paintings, drawings, and sketches done here in the South County area through the 19th and 20th centuries. As you might expect, there were a number of seascapes in the exhibition. I suddenly realized while looking at this photograph that I had seen a picture of this wagon in that exhibit (along with some of the artist's paintings). To my chagrin, I cannot remember the name of the artist -- and without that I cannot find anything on the Internet about him.

How could they stand to wear such heavy clothing in the summer -- in the bright summer sunshine on a beach! Picture a modern day beach. Compare and contrast. *grin*

In the course of poking around on the Internet, I found the New York Times' news story about the fire (the link is to the text of the opening paragraph which then links to a PDF of an image of the original story) -- I've stuck in below an image of the start of the PDF. Have we had much inflation in the past 108 years? Just consider that the total loss of the Rockingham Hotel (that huge building shown in the photo in my last entry, plus the Narragansett Casino (of which the Towers was just a small part), plus the many other smaller buildings lost in the blaze came to $350,000. I ran that number through a couple of inflation calculators and found today's equivalent to almost $9,000,000 -- which seemed a bit low to me -- but then I realized the inflation figure was based on the consumer price index inflation, but a building is not something you purchase off-the-shelf in a store. Construction is one of those areas where labor costs are much higher today. Also, not one of those buildings could be built today because of building codes and fire codes as well as modern expectations. You would not find a five or six story wood construction hotel today.

This would be a story that would be of interest to the readers of the New York Times. The Narragansett Casino at that time was owned by Louis Sherry, a successful restaurant owner in New York City, and a significant number of the summer visitors to Narragansett were New Yorkers, both the wealthy and the "merely" upper-middle-class.

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