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History of Manitou Park

Manitou's tourist parkThe Metropolitan Park District purchased 10 acres for $2,500 in 1915 in what was the extreme southwestern corner of the city. At the time of purchase, this tract was bisected by the Pacific Traction company's electric car line which ran from City Center to American Lake and was later extended to Fort Lewis. When the line was abandoned, Metro Parks acquired the right-of-way for the nominal sum of $10.

With the influx of automobiles came the need for camping grounds or tourist camps which most cities offered free or at a nominal charge. To meet that need, Metro Parks installed light, water, toilets, bathing and laundry facilities, large ovens and tables under shelters, and hired a caretaker to supervise the operation. It was considered to be one of the best tourist camps along Pacific Highway and at fifty cents a day it was self-supporting. Records show that 3,079 people traveling in 901 autos stayed at Manitou Park in 1920. By 1923 that number had increased to 11,000 people traveling in 3,086 autos.

The car camp ended in 1927 when the need for park and playground facilities was deemed more important. The property was cleared and sodded, so that a wading pool, new ovens, and swings could be installed. During the summer of 1937 the attendance was 15,304. In June and July of 1938 there were 17,051 recreational attendees.