Tin Can Tourists converge on Gainesville this weekend

This postcard depicts the Tin Can Tourist Camp in the 1920s that was on the site of what became Alachua General Hospital and now is the site of Innovation Square.

State Archives of Florida
Published: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 3:44 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 10:35 p.m.

History will be rolling through Gainesville this weekend.



What: An open house exhibit of different makes and models of vintage trailers, sponsored by Tin Can Tourists, a club for the promotion and preservation of vintage trailers and motor coaches. Proceeds benefit the Alachua Conservation Trust.
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Prairie Creek Lodge, 7204 SE County Road 234
Tickets: $5 per vehicle
For more information, contact Alachua County Trust at 373-1078

Tin Can Tourists, an all make and model vintage trailer and motor coach club, will host an open house Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. to benefit the Alachua Conservation Trust.

The open house at Prairie Creek Lodge, 7204 SE County Road 234, will give Gainesville residents an up-close look at more than two dozen vintage trailers and a chance to learn about the history of tourism.

“This is a unique way to see how people have traveled around Florida for a long time,” said Tom Kay, executive director of the Alachua Conservation Trust, an organization dedicated to conserving land in North Central Florida for wildlife and public recreation opportunities.

“People are coming in from all over the country,” Kay said, adding that the event will feature local artists, too. “It's also a great opportunity to learn about Prairie Creek.”

Tin Can Tourists club director Forrest Bone said Gainesville residents should be especially excited because “there is a lot of history between the Tin Can Tourists and the city of Gainesville.”

Tin Can Tourist Camps proliferated around Florida soon after World War I. Automobiles were moving rapidly off the assembly lines, affordable to many, and the tin can camps provided visitors “safe and clean camping areas, wholesome entertainment, and high moral values.” At first, people would rig their cars up with folding side tents or convert trucks with sleeping arrangements in the truckbed. Soon small travel trailers became a common site at the Tin Can camps.

In Gainesville in the 1920s, a tourist camp was located on what used to be the site of Alachua General Hospital and today is the site of Innovation Square. Another camp was located southeast of the Maddox Foundry in Archer.

Gainesville's mayor at the time, William Reuben Thomas, promoted tin can tourism, hoping to lure new citizens to the area.

These days, the Tin Can Tourists club holds rallies across the country, mainly in northern states during the warmer months and in the South in the winter.

Bone said the oldest trailer in attendance Saturday at Prairie Creek Lodge will be a 1948 Spartan Manor and the newest model will be a 1973 Argosy. Other trailers include a 1965 Arrow Little Chief and four different models of Airstream trailers manufactured from 1955 to 1964.

The open house is part of a three-day Tin Can Tourists rally. Founded in 1919 outside Tampa and renewed in 1998, the 3,000-member international club is the oldest camping club in the world.

The Tin Can Tourists host about four events each month, mostly in the United States and Canada, with about five winter events in different cities around Florida.

“We promote the preservation of history through the history of tourism,” said Tim Heintz, the club's southeast regional representative.

Bone said people who attend the open houses feel connected to the history of vintage trailers, and these events often bring out memories of traveling in tin trailers with grandparents.

“There's a great interest in vintage trailers,” he said. “We really work hard to educate.”

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