Camille of Fire Island
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Published in: May-June 2017 issue.


“A DAY AT THE BEACH” was a well-established national pastime by the turn of the 20th century. Beach colonies developed on land adjacent to waterfronts—Coney Island in New York, Atlantic City and the New Jersey shore, Mission Beach in California—all convenient to large cities. Many locations provided amenities for visitors, including bathhouse changing facilities, food stands, and souvenir shops. Family photo albums abound with images of fun in the sun by the sea. By the 1940s, a very few locales also became known to homosexual vacationers as places where they could find others like themselves. Provincetown (near Boston), Russian River (San Francisco), Key West (Miami), and Palm Springs (Los Angeles) were intimated to be safe havens—as was New York’s Fire Island, a barrier island five miles off the coast of Long Island. The initial draw of Fire Island for many was its distinction from most commercial beach resorts: relative isolation, an undeveloped beachfront, and few tourist amenities. Cherry Grove exemplified these characteristics, and it grew in popularity among the “Greenwich Village set” from New York City.

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