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Dec 15, 2013 01:57 AM

Who is Fred Harvey and why should we care?

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  1. Harvey Houses are a recent memory for many, They died with the demise of passenger train travel in America. Arguably the first restaurant chain in the United States.

    1. I believe the hotel/restaurants we stayed at, in Yellowstone and Grand Canyon, were Fred Harvey. They were a cut above what you would expect, I must say.

      1. And then of course there is The Harvey Girls with Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Angela Lansbury, an incredible supporting cast of the best character actors of the 40's including the fabulous Virginia O'Brien and Johnny Mercer songs. "Atcheson Topeka and Santa Fe" anyone? It is vaguely about the Harvey restaurants and girls heading west to work in one. Evidently the female wait staff were one of the draws along with no other dining choices in the parks. Not much about food unfortunately.

        1 Reply
        1. re: alfairfax

          Yes, at a time and place where there were few women, most of them wives or whores, the wholesome Harvey Girls got lots marriage proposals. Many went on to open their own restaurants as well.

        2. When I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, the Illinois Tollway Authority awarded Fred Harvey restaurants a franchise along the tollway. (There were limited numbers of other franchisee restaurants, as well. It was not an exclusive franchise.) By the early 1970s, they were gradually closing down and being replaced by other restaurants. I remember it as a rather tired-looking and uninteresting restaurant chain, but this was in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I suspect that it had more energy and innovation earlier in its existence.

          1 Reply
          1. re: gfr1111

            I recall the Harvey Houses fondly, much better than Howard Johnson.

          2. The book referenced at the link is a terrific read - Harvey and his sons built a major, solid chain of restaurants and hotels, providing 20th century train travelers [and visitors to some of our earliest national parks] with good food and clean lodgings. Both the Yellowstone and Grand Canyon properties mentioned by a PP were Harvey, and the company that manages them now honors his legacy.