Harvey Houses, a glimpse of a different past

July 30th, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Harvey Houses, a glimpse of a different past”

Hi friends, here is a link to another historical piece about the Harvey Houses, and a window to the not-too-distant past that it might be nice to return to 🙂



A few months ago I took Amtrak cross-country and it took three nights and four days from NYC to Seattle, including a four-hour layover and change of trains in Chicago.  A century ago when you wanted to get anywhere in a hurry in the United States, you took the train.  Times change.

And so has what it means to take a meal in the dining car.   The fine china, Irish linens, the fresh fruits and vegetables, the ever-changing menus, and the “Harvey Girls” are all sadly gone. Now if you are thinking, who are the Harvey Girls, that’s even sadder, because 150 years ago Fred Harvey organized a system of train food service and production that changed the travel food industry and its glowing symbols were the young women servers.

Originally passenger trains did not serve food.  About every hundred miles, the trains stopped for water and to change engines.  They usually stayed about twenty minutes and during that time, passengers could buy and gobble down whatever food was available.  Typically, it was expensive and inedible, unidentifiable stews and biscuits that were served in tents or ramshackle buildings close to the tracks.  Many of these unhappy meal stops were in the isolated and windswept lands of the newly opened west.  It was a problem for the railroads but one they chose to ignore.  They were in the railroad business.

Click the link to read the full article.