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The Picnic Grounds
Chapter 1: The Early Years 1891-1909
In earlier years railroads and trolley companies stimulated passenger traffic by constructing parks at scenic areas along the rail lines. After the Lehigh Valley Railroad purchased the Harvey's Lake and Wilkes-Barre Railroad in 1887, it planned to develop a major resort along the lakeshore. In November 1889 several tracts of land between Alderson and Barnum Place were purchased by the railroad in order to construct the Harvey's Lake Picnic Grounds.
By early June 1891 the Lehigh Valley Railroad was preparing to open its splendid new park at the Lake. Well-shaded and ideally located, the major attraction of the park was the 150 foot dance pavilion, the largest in the region. On June 9, 1891, twenty train cars, run in three sections, transported the Odd Fellows from Wilkes-Barre and Pittston for the first major picnic at the new park.
William Bond had launched his Big Boat, a new seventy-foot steamer, a few weeks earlier and was ready for the event. On the lakeshore at the new Picnic Grounds the railroad built an immense L-shaped dock, 180 feet long with a ninety foot arm. The dock would accommodate Bond's Big Boat, his smaller City Charter and the Mistletoe, a small steamer owned by the Rhoads Hotel. Bathing houses were also constructed at this time along the park's shoreline.
The Harvey's Lake Picnic Grounds was an immediate success. Additional features were planned for the following year. C. F. Cook, a Wilkes-Barre photographer, opened a gallery at the Picnic Grounds in June 1892. The steamer dock, which was moved several feet by the winter ice, was repaired, but plans by the railroad to construct a large hotel at the park grounds for the 1892 season were never completed.
For a decade the Picnic Grounds served as a popular park for families to gather for picnics and for couples to stroll along the lake shore. In 1903 the park grounds were still primarily shaded areas with picnic tables. A Merry-Go-Round was operating at the park, but the only other amusement device at this time was a crude bowling alley.
The railroad line from Alderson ran along the lakeshore and turned into the park to leave passengers at the small Harvey's Lake substation, which was located behind the dance pavilion. Passenger cars chartered for picnic excursions would layover on a side track at the park for the day. W. F. Clark now held the photograph gallery in the front of the park at Noxen Road. For the 1906 season the Lehigh Valley Railroad leased the park to John A. Redington, who also owned the Redington Hotel in Wilkes-Barre.
But late In the same year, on December 12, 1906, the dance pavilion was lost to fire along with the original carousel that had been stored inside the pavilion for the winter. The park then leased a lot along the Noxen Road toward the rear of the park to H. F. Seibert for a small Merry-Go-Round, and a new dance pavilion was constructed at the site of the old one.
Copyright 2006-2007 F. Charles Petrillo
Copyright 2006-2008 F. Charles Petrillo