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For more than a hundred years Harvey's Lake thrived as a recreational attraction for visitors from the Wyoming Valley and beyond. No less than 10 public hotels welcomed guests beginning in 1855. Many of the historic structures are now gone--lost primarily to fires and the transition of the Lake from public playground to private residential community.
Lake House/Rhoads Hotel
The lake's first public hotel, the Lake House, was opened in early July 1855. The three-story structure, seventy-five feet in length and forty feet in depth, was located near the Lake’s front where Carpenter Road now enters the Lake Road.
The Lake House accommodated 100 guests. It offered sail and row boats, along with fishing tackle. It sported a porch and veranda the entire length of the hotel.
With the opening of the Lake House, a daily stage line to the Lake was also made available for the summer trade. The ride from Wilkes-Barre took at least two hours. Access to the Lake was severely hampered by poor roads that delayed the resort’s development. Despite the advertisement of excellent fishing and hunting at the Lake, the Lake House apparently was not an attractive investment as ownership of the hotel changed many times within the next two decades.
James W. Rhoads, who had been managing the hotel, purchased it outright in March 1875 for $8,500. The purchase included the fifty acres upon which the hotel stood as well as 8,500 square feet of adjoining land. Rhoads was a retired Sheriff of Luzerne County. Under his management, and benefitting from the promotional talents of the Rhoads family, the Lake House had increasing success. Rhoads renamed the establishment the Harvey’s Lake Hotel, but eventually it was simply called Rhoads Hotel.
On January 4, 1908, the Hotel completely burned to the ground. A defective pipe in the furnace caused the fire, which spread rapidly. James's brother Frank Rhoads was at the hotel and discovered the fire. He telephoned for aid, and although local caretakers and men from the Albert Lewis sawmill responded, there was no hose or pumping equipment available to halt the raging fire. An effort to save furnishings was also unsuccessful as only two trunks were saved. Since the hotel served as the local telephone exchange, telephone service to the Lake was disrupted. The loss was estimated at $20,000.
Lake Grove House
The Lake Grove House was built at the Inlet (Sunset) by Col. Jacob Rice in the spring of 1881, and it was ready for occupancy in June 1881. Rice, a Dallas merchant, was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the 115th Pennsylvania Militia, and later he served in the 53rd Pennsylvania Volunteers during the Civil War. The hotel was on the site where the Hotel Oneonta would later be erected.
When originally built, the Lake Grove House had a confectionery and general store, a picnic area, and stables for horses. The hotel benefited from the increasing popularity of the Lake in the early 1880s. One Sunday afternoon, in mid-July 1882, over 300 guests visited the Lake Grove House. It had a good reputation for bass dinners.
After changing owners several times, Samuel Gottfried purchased the Lake Grove House in 1891, and in April 1892 he expanded. On July 4, 1892, 200 people were entertained at the hotel. Fireworks crowned the evening. By August Gottfried was planning major renovations to the hotel, and eventually he added a second extension to the hotel. Gottfried also secured county funds to help support the township’s costs to replace the wooden Inlet bridge with an iron bridge for the 1893 season.
The Lake Grove House was sold to the Harvey’s Lake Hotel and Land Company in 1897, which wanted the site to build the Oneonta Hotel. The Lake Grove House was used by construction workers while the Oneonta was built behind the older hotel. In late May 1898, after the Oneonta Hotel was completed, the Lake Grove House was torn down.
The Hotel Oneonta, the Lake's most magnificent building, opened in April 1898 at Sunset. The hotel had 70 rooms on three floors with a fourth floor for storage. It had its own electric power plant and was conveniently located below Oneonta Hill where at the hilltop a newly constructed trolley line from the Valley had a station.
The first-class Hotel Oneonta (an Indian name for "place of rest") had elaborate furnishings and decorations and drew patrons from as far as Philadelphia. It's lakefront landing was the major stop for the Lake's steamboat traffic, which carried trolley and hotel passengers around the Lake or to the Picnic Grounds. Major Wyoming Valley events were held at the Oneonta including a visit by former President Teddy Roosevelt in late August 1912.
In early February 1919 the inadequately insured hotel was totally destroyed by fire. The cause of the fire was not determined, but the mortgage was seriously in arrears at the time. Full Story...
The Lakeside Inn
The Lakeside Inn was located at Warden Place, the present site of the parking lot for Lady of Victory Church. In 1915 Lakeside, along with the Oneonta, Avon and Tabard, was among the Lake’s four major hotels. Lakeside had a capacity of 60 at a rate of $2.00 daily or $10.00 weekly. In the early 1920s Lakeside was “headquarters” for the Protective Association’s police force.
The Lakeside Inn was the domain of Mrs. Martha James Schworm and her husband, Lewis. Martha Schworm was an extraordinary hostess. While chicken dinners were popular inexpensive dining treats elsewhere at the Lake, Lakeside was particularly known for Martha Schworm’s chicken meals. Her reign lasted from the World War I era to 1939 when she died. Her husband, Lewis, continued at Lakeside until 1946 when he sold it to Melvin Sweeney.
For another 30 years the Lakeside Inn continued to offer hotel or bar services under different owners. On March 1, 1978, the Lakeside, then owned by Richard Tattersall, was housing for 4 families when it was extensively damaged by fire–and later razed.
Copyright 2006-2008 F. Charles Petrillo