Pretty as a Picture

Picture Window Resort, ca 1950

Why would anyone name a resort “Picture Window Resort”?  This resort, near Garrison, was described in the 1950s as: “1½ miles south on Hwy. 169. Ultramodern hskpg. cottages. Gas heat, gas ranges, electric refrigerators. Open all year. AAA approved.”

The resort’s name came from a style of window popular in the early 1950s called the “picture window.” It was a large single pane of glass that gave an uninterrupted view of the landscape. Each cabin featured a picture window.

Picture Window Resort, ca 1950

Before the 1950s most homes and cabins had  windows that were small, with several pieces of glass separated by strips of wood. Six panes on top, six on the bottom was common. With bumpy roads smaller pieces of glass were easier to transport and cheaper to replace if broken. The large single pane “picture window” became an integral part of the housing boom after World War II, and indicated a sign of affluence as seen in the movement of people to newly formed suburban housing. Because of the conformity of the suburban buildings, and to a certain extent the persons moving there, the picture window became a symbol of that era. Looking through a picture window from the inside was almost like looking at a framed picture on a wall. Unfortunately the suburban picture windows often provided only an unobstructed view of an identical house across the street. Those might have easily been called  “mirror windows.” The suburban ones didn’t invite conversations with passers-by like the double hung windows of the city.

Picture windows in the rural areas, however, could frame a view much like a landscape painting. In 1950 when I was thirteen, my parents sold their small resort. I helped my father build our new home one mile away. It was the first time I had heard the term, “picture window.” The house was only 18 X 45 feet including a garage, but the 4 foot by  4 foot picture window made the living room seem larger; as though our yard became part of the house.

Picture Window Resort, ca 1950

Resorts have used the term “picture window” to project positive images of summer vacations at a lake, with boats, beaches, and people having fun. If  resort advertising included “picture window,” you would likely have a panoramic view with subject matter worth framing.


(The first two images are courtesy of Rick Wolfe’s “Shared Photos” Minnesota Collection #1, the third is from The Early Resorts of Minnesota, Figure 206B)

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