How Chautauqua Was Founded
The Chautauqua movement was founded in 1895 as the Piasa Bluffs Assembly on 310 acres as a tent summer resort tent community and as time passed, tents became more permanent structures, and assembly buildings and recreational facilities were built. By 1910 there were 39 Chautauquas in Illinois and hundred spread around the country, with the mother Chautauqua being in New York State, Entertainment and educational groups travelled on a circuit and local people lodged depending on their interest and income. Every year since 1895 the Annual Program for each summer season has been different.
A small group of largely Methodist ministers but others as well shopped by river boat for a place to develop a gather. Originally Babb’s Hollow it is a narrow valley nuzzled between limestone bluffs. Actually two valleys, they invade the highlands about mile from the Mississippi River. Transportation from to Chautauqua has changed over time from steamboat, to train, to car, and perhaps soon ride-share. 126 cottages and handful of common buildings along with about 2 miles of roads make up the development, but for all of that Chautauqua remains very natural and host abundant flora and fauna.
The community spirit is alive and well with us. At the peak of season there are perhaps 500 residents during a 10 week season. Several families are represented by more than one cottage and some families go back six generations. Films, plays, lectures, sporting events, swimming, boating, structured youth activities, church, crafts, and many forms of outdoor recreation make up the typical day in Chautauqua. However bar none the most common activity is gatherings in the community and the enjoyment of sometime life-long friendships.