Located on the undulating, wooded, Allegany hillsides overlooking Lake Chautauqua, this 106-acre church camp turned residential community was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., in 1875 at the height of America’s “Great Awakening,” a period in American history defined by increased spirituality. Point Chautauqua was planned as a Baptist revival camp. Concerned with the spatial relationship of roadways and lots to the existing topography and lake, Olmsted borrowed earlier design principles developed for Riverside, Illinois, and for his aborted plan for Tacoma, Washington, to respond to topography, create vistas and opportunities for community, and provide a rural and restful retreat from the city. He placed private housing along more steeply sloping land, while public lands like the Corinthian and Sylvan Groves and Ashmore Park were sited upon the gentler slopes.
By 1885 Point Chautauqua’s function had changed; the lakeside community was now a vacation hotspot among wealthy industrialists from Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Buffalo who arrived by rail or steamboat during the summer months. Religious pavilions like the Tabernacle Grounds showcased performances, while a large hotel, bathhouses, a roller-skating rink, and other amusements thrived during the early 1900s. Currently home to year-round retirees as well as summer vacationers, Point Chautauqua is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.