For years, Baltimoreans seeking relief from the city’s infernal summer heat and humidity boarded such venerable steamers as the Emma Giles, Ferdinand C. Latrobe or the Chippewa, for a voyage to such well-known bay resorts as Tolchester, Chesterwood, Brown’s Grove or Betterton.
Betterton, known as “Maryland’s Foremost Bay-side resort” or “the Jewel of the Chesapeake” from the 1890s to the 1940s, has been recalled in a recently published book that was complied by authors Larry Crew and Jack L. Shagena Jr.
In “Betterton: Jewel of the Chesapeake,” the authors have wisely chosen to tell the story of the now-faded resort through vintage postcards.
The postcards show revelers relaxing on sands that look mustard-colored or frolicking in bay waters as well as the once wonderful hotels and cottages with their broad porches covered in awnings.
One of the grandest was the Hotel Rigbie with its wrap-around porch that bragged of its “Unexcelled Service,” while those of less modest means could stay at the lesser known Ellwood Cottage, the only brick building in town.
Amusement piers offered such diversions as movies, beer halls, crab houses, dancing, bowling and even pocket billiards.
A 1913 ad in the Philadelphia Inquirer extolled the virtues of Turner’s Pier as having “good, clean, healthy amusements under well directed management.”
With the opening of the Bay Bridge in 1952, the crowds abandoned the old steamboat resorts and pointed their cars toward Ocean City, Rehoboth, Bethany Beach and even Cape May.