The Automobile brought a new era to Letchworth Park, but with it came new dangers. In the summer of 1917 the Park suffered its first fatal automobile accident. As shown below in the account taken from the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Report of 1918, the accident had a significant impact on the 20th century development of the Park.
You can read a contemporary newspaper account of the accident and view what we believe to be a real photo postcard of this accident in our Photo Album.
We are pained to record the first fatal accident in Letchworth Park, which occurred about 5:45 p.m. on August 10,1917. A five passenger Buick automobile containing nine adults and two children, driven by John Torrey of Gainesville, went over the cliff a little below the Upper Fall. Mr. and Mrs Franklin B. Powers of Youngstown, Ohio, who were within 150 feet of the car when it went over the bank, witnessed the accident. It appears from their testimony, that the car, instead of keeping to the road way at the turn, went 24 feet in a straight line from its course, tore away a tree 1 foot 8 inches in circumference and 24 feet 8 inches high, and plunged down to the rocks of the river, 47 feet below. Miss Ethel Tomovitch of Rochester was instantly killed and the others variously injured. Mr. and Mrs. Powers gave the alarm, and doctors and nurses were summoned from Castile and Warsaw. Mr. Humphrey, Chairman of our Letchworth Park Committee, also hastened to the scene from Warsaw, and everything possible was done for the care of the injured. The most seriously hurt was taken to the hospital at Warsaw, where Miss Grace Dillow subsequently succumbed to her injuries.
Since Letchworth Park became the property of the State, the number of visitors by automobiles has greatly increased. Many of the chauffers are inexperienced, careless, ignorant or overventuresome and these shortcomings are especially unfortunate with those who come from sections where steep and crooked roads are not common. With these facts in mind, we have decided to exclude automobiles from two view-points near the cliffs and also to make some changes in the layout of roads in the interest of further safety. We have already set the driveway near the Upper Fall farther back from the edge of the cliff, and Inspiration Point, between the Middle and Lower Falls, has been set aside for pedestrians only.
ASHPS Annual Report, 1918. (Letchworth Park History Files)
(We thank Mr. Brian Scriven, Historic Site Director at Letchworth Park, for providing us a copy of this report.)