Saturday, May 5, 2018

Wooden Bandstands of By Gone Years

Band house, 1870. Source: Library of Congress Prints and
Photographs Division Washington, D.C.
As someone who writes fiction about life in, or near, small towns, I am fascinated by things that had a social impact on the actual citizens who are the inspiration behind my stories. The founding families set up commerce, culture, education, and faith facilities that established a community for growth and prosperity. 

A bandstand was the public symbol of their cultural standing. Like a library, it showed appreciation for education and music. Most towns had a bandstand built to suit the pockets and needs of the citizens of that town, hence, the variety of architecture, size, and location is such that this topic will cover several posts. 

The basic architectural style of a bandstand is also called a gazebo, fashionable in today's modern world where it's  often found in backyards with screens to keep the insects out.

While researching images for this post, I found one called a Band House instead of the usual bandstand. The construction might be a combination of wood and iron, but it's the same basic shape of pavilion we're talking about. This image is from an 1870 souvenir booklet entitled, Views of Fair Mount Park, Philadelphia, Part 1st. 

In the early days of settlement, a bandstand provided a stage for Sunday afternoon performances, political rallies, and the welcoming of dignitaries. Often it was placed near the center of town amidst the action of daily life. In Killam, Alberta, the bandstand is shown right in the middle of the street. I wonder if this was temporary for some special occasion, however, considering all the cars in the street that day.

Main Street, Killam, Alberta, June 22, 1918. Source: Glenbow Archives, Calgary, Alberta

This 1907 postcard shows a bandstand and common, or park, in Kingfield, ME., with lots of room for concerts if you bring your own chairs. 

Bandstand & Common, Kingfield, ME, 1907. Source: Wikipedia Commons

It's funny that I found a photograph showing the same type of bandstand on a similar corner in Scotland, Ontario around the same time frame. I don't know how long the Kingfield bandstand lasted, but the Scotland one was a landmark at this intersection until it was removed in 1941. 

Corner of Simcoe St. & Talbot St. with Bandstand, Scotland, Ontario. Source: County of Brant Public Library
According to the next image, the square bandstand in Littlefork, Minnesota is set in line with commerce buildings streetside. It seems odd there, because the music wouldn't have the same sound as it would in a pavilion with clear views on each side. It makes me wonder what the story is here, such as when it was built and which structure came first. Truth be told, it reminds me of a fruit stand.

Bandstand. Littlefork, Minnesota, Sept 1937. Source: Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 

Apparently someone was on a mission to photograph all remaining bandstands because I found a stash of images dated 1937-39, including this next one. The advertising on the side of the trailer doesn't give a clue what the event is, but from the look of the men, coupled with the white loudspeaker on the right side of the bandstand, I wonder if it was a political rally. 

Bandstand, Craftsbury, Vermont, Sept 1937. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

The town bandstand was the natural place to gather for holiday celebrations where patriotic bunting could decorate the structure for added effect. Although I couldn't find a historic photograph of an American location (which wasn't copyrighted) to show a bunting-decorated bandstand for the Fourth of July, I did find one for Canada's Dominion Day which was taken in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan on July 1st, 1906.

July 1st Celebration, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan , 1906. Source: Glenbow Archives, Calgary, Alberta

Olds, Alberta called itself progressive and set out to prove it. They built their bandstand in a small park between the train depot and track-facing businesses on the main street where visiting dignitaries could be greeted in style as soon as they stepped off the train. 

One of the busy spots in progressive Olds, c1916. Source: Prairie Postcards, Peel Library, University of Alberta

Parks were a great place to build a bandstand, especially for a concert, as you wouldn't have the hustle and noise of a busy street to impede you from hearing the music. This (hand-tinted?) stereograph shows 1865 fashion on the mall near the Music Pavilion in Central Park, New York City.

The Mall and the Music Pavilion, Central Park, New York City, New York. ca. 1865. Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Here's another view of the wooden Music Pavilion in Central Park, also from 1865, but this one shows an afternoon concert in progress. 

Saturday Afternoon, Central Park, New York City, New York. ca. 1865. Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

To end this first post in a series on bandstands, I wanted to show another of the images taken in that 1937-39 period. This wooden bandstand was found in Crystal City, Texas in 1939 and is in very bad shape. Although the image makes me sad, the wood doesn't look weathered and might have only been temporary. Still, it shows how a bandstand structure was built. It's basically a frame with slats to pretty it up. The ceiling is falling apart, but the shingled roof seems to be holding up. This basic wood bandstand may have been the only type that early settlers could afford to put up when they were first building their community. 

Old bandstand. Crystal City, Texas. Mar 1939. Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Other communities had access to different materials and rich patrons which allowed for bigger, longer-lasting structures.

My next post, on June 5th, will show scenic, romantic bandstands with a water view. 

Your turn...did this post remind you of anything? Care to share?


Anita Mae Draper's historical romances are written under the western skies of the Saskatchewan prairie where her love of research and genealogy yield fascinating truths that layer her stories with rich historical details.  Anita's short story, Here We Come A-Wassailing, was a finalist for the Word Guild's 2015 Word Awards. Her novellas are included in Austen in Austin Volume 1, The American Heiress Brides Collection, and The Secret Admirer Romance Collection. Readers can check out Anita's Pinterest boards for a visual idea of her stories to enrich their reading experience.  Discover more at:


  1. Back in Vermont, the last town we lived in actually still has various concerts in the gazebo of their park throughout the summer. They call the series "Concerts on the Green". Thanks for the post!!

    1. You're welcome, Connie. I love that the town still uses their gazebo for music in the park since these types of concerts are generally free and open to everyone.

      I appreciate you sharing. :)

  2. Great post. My town still has our bandstand that is filled with concerts all summer.

    1. Wow! Love the bandstand photo on that blog header! Sending a virtual bouquet to your town for following this worthy tradition with the slogan, "Bringing quality entertainment to the Wolfeboro Community Bandstand." That is so great.

      Thanks so much for sharing that link, Linda.

  3. We still have a bandstand in our city park, which I've seen used when we have Art in the Park - a weekend for artists of all kinds to display and sell heir creations. Concerts occur on the court house steps with folks siting on the lawn. They happen every Thursday evening from June through August.

    1. Excellent, Betti. Thanks for sharing that. This is a great response and makes me glad I didn't wait until summer was over before posting this series. :)

  4. Wonderful post, Anita. I enjoyed the pictures of the various bandstands. I've been in small towns where there is a bandstand in the park that is still used for events to celebrate homecomings. Thank you for sharing.

    1. You're welcome, Marilyn, and thank you for sharing this encouraging news. So glad to hear you've seen ones that are still being used as well. Real encouraging. :)