Harveys Lake History

Harveys Lake Ski Area


Harvey’s Lake Ski Area, January 1965

In late January 1965 Pennsylvania Governor William W. Scranton declared January 22-31 as “Pennsylvania Ski Week.” The State was promoting its growth as a winter sports destination especially in the Pocono Mountains region. Earlier in the month on Sunday, January 3, 1965, the Harveys Lake Ski Area opened at the Outlet section of the Lake.

A January 7, 1965, article in the Wilkes-Barre’s Times Leader described the new ski resort:

A new ski development, located near the Outlet section of Harveys Lake, and operating under the name of the Harveys Lake Ski Area, opened on Sunday, with several hundred spectators and skiers in attendance. According to William Genetti, chairman of the Luzerne County Tourist Promotion Agency, this is Luzerne County’s first and only commercially-owned ski run. “The Cove Ski Area,” located near Hazleton, but just outside the county, opened this year for the first time also.

Harvey’s Lake Ski Area, January 1965

The weekend snow brought to the area its first weekend of skiing. Mrs. Dorothy Major Baker, manager of the Luzerne County T.P.A., said the 700 foot slope at Harveys Lake is equipped with a rope tow and lighted for night skiing. The hill would beclassified as a novice or practice slope. At the foot of the slops is a large parking area and ski lodge. Restaurant facilities and a well-equipped ski rental shop are in operation.
Conditions permitting, the hill will be open to the public daily, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; evenings, 7 to 10:30. Among those taking advantage of the ski instruction will be a group from the Back Mountain Y.M.C.A., headed by Robert Crosson.
According to Donald Keefer of Keefer and Company, a 2100 foot run, extending down the mountain toward the Outlet of the Lake, equipped with a T-Bar lift and snow making equipment, is planned next year.

Donald C. Keefer (1910-1977) established Keefer and Company, commonly known as Keefer Army-Navy, in January 1947 in his home town of Askam in Hanover Township to successfully market U.S. government surplus supplies and clothing after World War II. In July 1949 he relocated the store to larger quarters in Askam. In later years Keefer stores were relocated or established in Wilkes-Barre, Berwick and Kingston.

In the mid-1950s Donald Keefer began to acquire considerable acreage at the Outlet section of the Lake. His holdings were formally surveyed in 1955 as the North View Plot but it is generally called the Keefer plot. Lots were typically 50 feet by 100 feet and sold for $250 to $350 but in mid-1959 the company was holding a half-price sale.

When Keefer announced the development of the $50,000 Lake ski run on September 21, 1964, Hazelton’s Standard Speaker newspaper reported:

Harvey’s Lake Ski Area, 1965

Plans for a $50,000 ski run at Harvey’s Lake have been disclosed by Donald S. Keefer, Lake Township building contractor.
Among the facilities will be a mile-long run with rope lifts, modern lodge, and parking accommodations for 200 cars, he said. A road is being built from the outlet – where the entrance will be located – to the top of the mountain.
Snow for three slopes along the mountainside probably will be manufactured, Keefer added.
“We plan to have the facilities completed by early December,” Keefer said. “Changes probably will be made as we go along, the weather and patronage being very important factors in the operation.”

When the ski area opened in January 1965 the longest ski slope was not a mile but 700 feet. There were two smaller slopes but there is no record of artificial snow-making capacity but rather reliance on natural snow fall.

Apparently, the early 1965 winter season was not really successful. While the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area had 11.5 inches of snow in January, there was only 2.3 inches of snow in February. The seasonal snowfall totaled only 31.9 inches, the lowest for the next seven seasons. By early March 1965 the Harveys Lake Ski Area was offered for sale.

Harvey’s Lake Ski Area, January 1965

Keefer’s January 1965 plans to add a 2,100 foot run, T-Bar lift, and snow-making equipment for the 1965-66 season also would not materialize. There was nearly no snow in December 1965 but an average of 19 inches in January-February 1966, and the Lake ski run was open daily from 12 noon to 10:00 p.m. and opened weekends at 9:00 a.m. A combination ski rental and tow lift ticket was $3.00.

The ski area was still advertised for sale in June 1966. The sale included 200 acres of woodland; 3 ski slopes; lodge; well; and restaurant equipment for a total sales price of $19,000. In December 1966 the ski area opened on New Year’s Eve at 10:00 a.m. and the 1966-67 season had 75 inches of snow in the region.

In late May 1967 Keefer and Company sold the Harveys Lake Ski Area to Leonard Crawford from Dallas. Whether Crawford intended to maintain the ski area is not known but he did plan to build and operate a large camping ground at the site. But Crawford died unexpectedly on July 4, 1967, at age 47.

The Crawford estate sold the ski area in September 1967 to a trio of Delaware County investors, William F. Wright, Joseph M. Bowers, and Charles L. Eshleman. They incorporated the Harveys Lake Ski Area, Inc., and transferred the property holdings to the corporation on October 7, 1967.

For most of its operational life the Lake ski area would seemingly open in January and only on weekends. In January 1968 there was only 6 inches of snow and 3 in February. The hours were 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. There was limited snow fall in 1968-69 until February 1969 when the ski area was open 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on weekends.

With 76 inches of regional snow fall in 1969-70, the best since the ski area’s 1965 opening, the ski area was open Tuesday-Saturday nights from 6:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and weekends from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Back Mountain YMCA Ski Club, February 1965

The last advertisement in an area newspaper for the Harveys Lake Ski Area (“A convenient place to enjoy family fun skiing”) was on January 8, 1971. There was 20 inches of less snow in the region in 1970-71 than in 1969-70. January and February 1971 each had 15 inches of snow and a surviving record notes skiing continued into March. It was the last season skiing was offered.

The Harveys Lake Ski Area had also been the settling for the Hill House, a gourmet summer restaurant in 1969 and 1970 entirely operated by teen-age entrepreneurs. The chef was A. James (Jim) Pearsall, 18, and supporting staff: sister Cindy Pearsall, 16; brother Jed Pearsall, 13; cousin Yvonne Pearsall, 12; Denise Starojny, 15; Bryan McCartney, 15, Carl Goeringer, 19; and Mary Lopatto, 16.

The restaurant leased the ski lodge in the summer of 1969 and was originally created by Jim Pearsall, Jim Sgarlet and Peter Dempewolf. Pearsall and Dempewolf were roommates at Darrow School in New York State, but the latter left the enterprise after its first year to travel to Europe. The 26 seat restaurant served a seven course dinner for a price fixe of $8.00. Offerings could include snail bourguignon, fillet of beef béarnaise, and chicken breast cooked blanc and a pate de foie and cream sauce.

The unique restaurant received a highly favorable review by renowned New York Times food critic Craig Clayborne on August 13, 1970, who stated it was a “sophisticated, impressively professional kitchen.” A favorite dessert feature of the Hill House was “Mile High Pie.” Read the New York Times review with Hill House recipes here.

In the fall of 1970 Jim Pearsall entered Cornell University at its School of Hotel Administration where he graduated in 1975. He later owned nationally acclaimed restaurants and is now affiliated with Kurfiss Sotheby’s International Realty in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

In the March 1971 issue of Seventeen magazine there was a two-page photo spread of the Hill House restaurant featuring the diary entries of Cindy Pearsall’s impression of her 1969 and 1970 summer experiences and friends. Photos were taken by John Robaton, a famous photo-journalist.

At the time of the closure of the Lake’s ski area after the 1970-71 season the ski business in in Northeastern Pennsylvania was at a record-high. There were 11 major ski resorts in the region with an annual economic impact of 11 million dollars. Interstate 80 across Pennsylvania was completed in 1970 and provided easy access by the New York region to Pocono ski resorts. On October 29, 1972, the $2.5 million dollar Jack Frost ski complex in the White Haven area would open.

The Harvey’s Lake Ski Area described in January 1965 as “a novice or practice slope” could not survive. In May 1975 the Harveys Lake Ski Area, Inc., with its land holdings, was sold to David and Linda Schuler, Harveys Lake, for an alternative private home development.

 

October 2018. All photographs Copyright © 2018 FCP Collection. Thanks especially to David Schuler for very helpful information which corrected and expanded an earlier draft of this article. Dave Schuler is retired from the family’s automotive business and was a well-regarded racer at the Giant’s Despair Hill Climb.

 

Copyright 2018 F. Charles Petrillo