By Fran Lane

It was the day of the steamship on the Chesapeake Bay. Twenty-seven miles across the Bay from Baltimore, lay Tolchester Beach in Kent County, MD. In 1877 at Tolchester, an amusement park opened on ten acres of land. It included picnic grounds with tables, a few concessions, a bath house, a hand propelled merry-go-round, and a hand organ pulled by a goat. This was the beginning of the most popular beach resort along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay.

On June 1st, 1889, a bizarre attraction opened at the park—a dead whale. Although dead for weeks, the whale was perfectly preserved and appeared completely lifelike. Some of the crowd purchased tickets to enter the monster’s mouth, which had been outfitted with a settee, a table, and carpeting—a Jonah-style amusement. The whale had been killed in Cape Cod, and then pickled, sold, and transported as a tourist attraction for Tolchester Beach.

At its height, Tolchester Beach attracted as many as 20,000 visitors a weekend. Sadly, after flourishing for eighty-five years, Tolchester Beach passed finally closing in 1962. My parents used to visit Tolchester Beach as children. Ahhh…the grand days of steamship travel to an amusement park and resort!


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