Harveys Lake History


Grotto Pizza and Modern Sunset


Sunset Tornado, Destroyed Home, July 1984,
Courtesy Citizens Voice

VII. The Sunset Tornado

In the late afternoon of Friday, July 6, 1984, heavy downbursts over the Sweet Valley area were detected on radar by the National Weather Service. By 6:00 PM the storm became a tornado traveling 30 MPH in the North Lake area destroying at least three houses and damaging another dozen. An automobile carrying a mother with her two boys was swept into Harris Pond in Sweet Valley. One son, eight years old, who nearly drowned, was taken to Nesbitt Hospital in guarded condition and later flighted to Philadelphia Children's Hospital where he did recover.

The EF-2 tornado traveled nearly eight additional miles and swept through Sunset at the Lake damaging properties on Old Lake Road, Carpenter Road, Annabelle Avenue, Hillside and Ridge Streets, along with numerous fallen trees and power lines. A Lake police car was destroyed and a second damaged. The winds also affected a large area from Kunkle to Trucksville.

The Lake damages were estimated at $250,000. A cottage on Annabelle Avenue was destroyed but its five occupants did not incur serious injuries. Another home was moved from its foundation. Several dozen other homes were also impacted and 12 people had minor injuries. Two horses and a dog were killed by falling debris.

Hoss's Garden Hut, Sunset Tornado, July 1984,
Courtesy Citizens Voice

The Grotto Pizza was not damaged by the tornado. But Joe Paglianite did own an adjacent commercial area. A single-story building was leased to Drury's Deli and Restaurant. James Drury opened the deli in early 1980. His Annabelle Avenue home was damaged by the tornado but his business across the Lake highway was spared. The Drury Deli building was once the site of the Sunset Park carousel. Its pavilion was the framework for the Drury building. Drury continued operations until December 31, 2001.

A business affected by the tornado was Fred Hosler's Hoss' Garden Hut, a fruit and plant stand. (Hosler opened his business at Sunset in 1984 and relocated elsewhere along Route 415 in 1996 until it closed in late 2016 and more recently relocated along Rt. 118.) Hosler's two- week old Oldsmobile was also crushed by a fallen shed. Hoss' shortly held a "tornado sale." The Funnel Cake House/Ice Cream Shop near Hoss' invited people to "Stop in for a Twister."

County resources were used to fund clean-up costs in Ross and Lake Townships. Later in the Summer it was determined that the nature and extent of the tornado damages in the two townships did not qualify for federal disaster aid for the municipalities or affected residents.

Carmen's - FCP Collection

VIII. An Evolving Sunset


A. Burke's to Damien's

For an earlier generation Burke's Bar-B-Cue was a well-remembered site at the intersection of Carpenter's Road and Lakeside Drive. It was owned by Sophia Oskiero (Osko) Burke. She was the creator of the Grotto brand at the Lake in 1922. Her husband Oliver Burke, Jr., died in February 1954. Sophie Burke died in July 1957 and Burke's was inherited by Walter Osko, her son from an earlier marriage.

In 1971 the Burke restaurant was sold to Carmello and Vincenza Magistro, trading as Carmen's Pizza and as the LA Conca D'Ora restaurant at the Lake. The Magistros extensively remodeled Burke's as would future restaurant owners. Carmen's Pizza was also located on Public Square, Wilkes-Barre and also in Plymouth and Luzerne.

In April 1982 Damien Kaye and the Magistro family opened Damien's on the Lake at the Lake site. But by July 1982 Kaye left the enterprise and the Magistros opened Antonio's which operated into 1983. The property appears to have been vacant for a time until September 1987 when Pier III, at Sunset, a seafood restaurant and banquet facility, was opened with a new nautical décor.

Damien's on the Lake 2019

In April 1991 Damien Kaye returned to the Lake with a new Damien's on the Lake. It advertised "casual elegance" with both casual and fine dining rooms, a billiards room, banquet room, and a veranda for dining while overlooking the Lake. Damien's, Grotto Pizza and Sunset Marine sponsored trout stocking at the Lake in April for the opening of trout fishing.

Guy Giordano's Sunset Marine was created in 1984 and was a full -service dealer in motor boats, including Chris Craft, Chaparral and Yamaha products, and later in the decade the innovative personal water craft Sea-Doo. Tom 'Taco Tom' Williams sought to open a taco shop in 1998 in Sunset between Jones' Pancake House and Damien's on the Lake, but encountered zoning and vandalism issues. On December 1, 1998, the incomplete and unopened stand was totally lost in a fire which may have been arson.

In 1993 Damien's received a state-wide Chaddsford Winery Regional Restaurant award in recognition of promoting local foods and wine. Damien's, Grotto Pizza, Sunset Marine, and the Lake's Business Association were among annual sponsors of the Lake's annual Labor Day fireworks celebration.

Unfortunately, a fire severely damaged Damien's on February 17, 2006. The following June 2007 the site was reopened as Dominic's on the Lake, an upscale dance club with both fine dining and casual food, but it was closed by September 2008. In June 2013, Boathouse Bar and Grille opened at the vacant site but in July 2014 it became Jonathan's. Jonathan's closed in mid-March 2017 and reopened as the Brookshire in the former American Legion building on North River Street, Wilkes-Barre.

Damien Kaye, who operated the Lake site for 17 years, and who had relocated to Florida, returned and re-opened Damien's on the Lake on May 19, 2017.


Circle Inn 1949, FCP Collection

B. Circle Inn to Strive Multisport

In 1947 Peter Ambrose, brother of Francis Ambrose, acquired the Cotton Club which in mid-1949 he re-named the Circle Inn. In the 1930s the Cotton Club was the Lake's best-known night club. In 1961 Ambrose re-named it the Top Shelf which was severely damaged in a late September 1962 fire. The Top Shelf was re-opened on July 3, 1963, but by August 1964 it was closed and sold by the bankruptcy court in late August 1965 to Helen Sgarlet.

Helen Sgarlet reopened the former Top Shelf as Scarlet's (a variation of Sgarlet) in August 1965. Both Ambrose and later Sgarlet also owned a refreshment stand at Sunset called the Tail-O-Pup, which was part of the Inn's property interests. The Tail-O-Pup was leased as a concession from April to September. By 1975 Helen Sgarlet wished to sell Scarlet's and in April 1975 the Angelicola family transformed Scarlet's into the Flagstone House which was formally acquired by Vincent and Marge Angelicola in August 1977. In September 1982 the Angelicola's obtained a State license to operate the restaurant as the Flagstone Guest House, a personal care facility at the site.

In 1993 Villa Roma's owners opened the Villa Roma Pizza and Pasta House at the Flagstone House. After the 2001 season Villa Roma Pizza and Pasta closed. In 2014 the Borough council approved a contract to purchase the vacant building to serve as a new Borough hall and police station. But after a further review of renovation costs the Borough's offer was withdrawn. The site was sold in January 2015 and became the Strive Multisport Center in early May 2015. The Strive facility serves the multi-sport community of runners, cyclists and swimmers and is a training center for triathletes. At the time of this article in July 2019 the building was available for sale.


Multisports 2019

C. American Legion Post 967

In late 1953 Harveys Lake veterans formed the Harveys Lake Post 967 which received a Pennsylvania not-for-profit charter on December 31, 1953. Frank Lutinski, a World War I veteran who developed Pine Grove Lodge, was elected President and Elwood "Woody" Davis became Senior Vice-Commander. In its first year Post 967 garnered 142 members.

In October 1954, meeting at the Wahoo Inn, Lutinski and Davis were re-elected to their offices but membership had quickly dropped to 81. In October 1955 Steve Glova was elected Commander of the Post with Arthur Wagner, Jr., as Vice-Commander. A Legion Auxiliary was also created with Mrs. Frances Yanoski as President.

On February 5, 1957, at the VFW Hall, Noxen, the Harveys Lake Post 967 was re-organized at a Charter Night and again elected Steve Glova as Commander, but with Anthony Javers, Alderson store owner, as Vice-Commander. There were now 127 members. There was a plan to build a Legion Hall on Baird Street near the Lutheran Church on a site contributed by State Senator T. Newell Wood but the site was never developed.

In 1967 the Legion began to offer Man of the Year awards. John H. Stenger, 3rd, received the 1967 honor. The son of John H. Stenger, Jr., founder of WBAX radio, the Man of the Year was the former general manager of WBAX. He was an officer of the Lake's fire company, an ambulance driver for 11 years, civil defense director and an officer of Lake Township.

American Legion Post 639 2019

In 1968 Richard Williams received the Man of the Lake award. A World War II veteran of the European Theatre, Williams was Chief of the Lake's fire company and a charter member of the Lake's Lion's Club. He helped organized the Lake's cub scouts, boy scouts, and Little League, in addition to serving as president of both the Lake PTA and Lake-Lehman PTA. In 1969 Dr. Lester M. Saidman was the Legion's award winner. During World War II he saw service in the Pacific including Japan. A graduate of Temple University Medical School he served the Noxen community since 1946 and at the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital since 1949. In 1970 he was appointed as the medical director of the Rural Health Corporation of Luzerne County.

Several members of the Legion were to pass away in the early years after the creation of the organization. The first was likely William Gosart in June 1959. Gosart served stateside in the U.S. Army during World War II. In October 1960 Alexander Frank Rinken, 48, a Navy veteran of the South Pacific, passed away followed by the December 1960 passing of Chester L Milbrodt of Outlet.

In late May 1963 Stephen M. Glova, 38, a World War II army veteran, was fatally injured by a 18 year-old driver who struck Glova while was he was removing articles from his automobile while parked in Larksville. The driver claimed she was forced out of her lane by an on-coming 16- year-old driver who denied the charge. Neither driver was convicted of criminal negligence. A Legion member and World War I veteran, Rev. Henry C. Kraft, died in early January 1967. In early December 1967 Edward P. Crake, 60, a World War II veteran, died at the area's VA hospital.

At the end of the decade in February 1969 Michael Brin, Loyalville, a member of the U. S. Army's Engineers in World War II, passed away. In July 1969 Daniel J. Smith, who was born at Alderson and a World War II Navy veteran, passed away. He had worked for the American Leather Tannery, Noxen, for 20 years.

Paul Kutzer 1985, Courtesy Times Leader

A permanent home for Post 967 was elusive for more than two decades. During these years Post 967 met at various locations at the Lake. In August 1981 Frances Ambrose sold his last holdings at Sunset to the American Legion. The two parcels also included two cottages along Annebelle Avenue (Annebelle was named after a daughter of Ambrose). One of the cottages was destroyed by the July 6, 1984, tornado at Sunset just before the Legion had planned to raze the cottage.

In 1981 the Pennsylvania legislature enacted a law which required not-for-profit Bingo operators to obtain a license effective November 1, 1981. Post 967 was issued the county's first Bingo license on October 30, 1981, when county treasurer Michael Morreale presented it to Post Commander John McManus.

In time the Legion utilized Casino Hall behind the Grotto to hold events particularly on Sunday evenings. Joe Paglianite, who leased Casino (or Bingo) Hall to the American Legion, would eventually raze the building.

In November 1984 Post 967 voted unanimously to rename the post as the Arthur R. "Tinker" Gosart American Legion Post 967. Staff Sgt. Gosart was seriously wounded on September 26, 1944, while serving with the US Army in France. The Gosart family managed a grocery store and post office at Sunset for decades. "Tinker" Gosart was a past-commander of the Legion and in 1984 was its sergeant-at-arms. But seemingly the Gosart name has not remained attached to the Post.

On Easter Sunday, April 7, 1985, the new American Legion Post 967 was opened at Sunset.


Sunest Marine c. 1986, Courtesy Guy Giordano

D. The Paul Kutzer Veterans' Memorial

Paul Kutzer, Edwardsville, enlisted in the US Army infantry on July 16, 1943, and embarked to Europe on November 13, 1944. His brother, Peter Kutzer, was in the Army Air Corps and another brother, Metro, was serving in the South Pacific. A third brother, William, was also in the service. Paul Kutzer had been working at the Woodward Colliery of the Glen Alden Coal Company and he was an Edwardsville constable before his Army enlistment.

During the War Kutzer saw service in France, Germany, Austria and England. Among other decorations he received three battle stars. In late November PFC Paul Kutzer was discharged at Fort Dix, New Jersey. He would later qualify for a service-connected disability. During his Lake years the passionate veteran was known by the honorific "Sarge" Kutzer.

In 1951 Paul Kutzer and his wife, Margaret, purchased a property along Carpenter Road which was developed as the Rose Garden Motel. The motel had 4 units and Kutzer at times advertised the connected rooms as "cabins."

Tail-O-Pup c. 1986, Courtesy Guy Giordano

When Margaret Kutzer died in February 1973, Paul Kutzer closed the motel but continued to live there. He sold the motel in June 1987 which was then converted into private units. For years Sarge developed a veterans' memorial next to the motel site. The memorial was a collage of usually discarded material including a 20-foot high stack of wire reels painted red, white and blue, along with a 12-foot "missile" purchased at an auction after the war. Cannons were fashioned from auto transmissions, coil strings, a hay wagon seat, and gas caps. Bowling balls painted silver served as cannon balls.

In February 1998 a magistrate ordered Kutzer to dismantle the memorial. A neighbor permitted Kutzer to move the memorial to the neighbor's yard but objections continued. Finally, the American Legion allowed Kutzer to relocate the "missile" and the "cannon" to the Legion's flag-site memorial. He died in April 1993 at the VA Hospital, Wilkes-Barre. In time, Kutzer's memorial contributions at the Legion site have been removed.


E. Sunset Marine and HL Powersports

In 1979 Joseph Paglianite acquired a parcel of land from Helen Sgarlet adjacent to the former Circle Inn-Flagstone House. Over the years it generally had been used as a site for a summer refreshment stand. In 1984 Mr. Paglianite sold the site to Guy Giordano who built Sunset Marine, a retail boat and service facility which opened in December 1985. The Tail-O-Pup pavilion was moved into an outside storage area along Carpenter Road where its vacant shell remained for several years but has since been discarded. Giordano also managed the Grotto's marina.

HL Powersports 2019

Giordano had purchased Wildwood Lodge, the former Weckesser home and later Girl Scouts camp, in 1973. He extensively refurbished the Weckesser home. He was President of the Borough council and he revived the Harvey's Lake Protective Association which led to the beautification of the Sunset entrance. He was the key advocate of a "no-wake-at night" regulation at the Lake which also led to a "no-wake-buoy program." These regulations improved Lake safety after a series of serious and deadly boat accidents in the 1980s. In 1994 Giordano sold Sunset Marine to Nick Arnone who continued the boat sales and service company for several years.

Thereafter, Sunset Marine was closed for a few years. In July 2011 the building became HL Powersports which is a full-service all-terrain and ultility-task vehicle dealer. The firm also specializes in personal watercraft and motorcycle maintenance and other lake- specific services.


Nothoff's c. 1949, FCP Collection

F. Nothoff's to Villa Roma

Jack C. Nothoff was a well-liked World War II Navy veteran who once operated the New Grotto restaurant at Sunset and in 1947 opened his own bar at the present Villa Roma site.

On August 31, 1957, Nothoff and the La Casa both had their Liquor Control Board licenses revoked for violations of the liquor laws. Suspensions and revocations of LCB licenses were common at Sunset for decades.

Nothoff subsequently lost the building itself in a mortgage foreclosure proceeding in 1959. Cassie Makelonis, who owned a Wilkes-Barre grocery store, acquired the property in the foreclosure action.

Nothoff contested the foreclosure in court for two years but lost his challenge in April 1960. Nothoff still refused to vacate the Sunset property until Judge Frank Pinola, who had a Lake cottage, ordered Nothoff evicted in July 1960. Subsequently, Makelonis sold the property to Joseph and Katherine Kaskiewicz (Casey) who converted it into a family home.

On July 21, 1978, Lilly Sacco and Jeanne De Wees, daughters of Katherine Kaskiewicz, embarked on their nearly four- decade landmark at Sunset at the former Nothoff bar, with their restaurant Villa Roma Pizza. Although Lithuanian by descent and with no prior experience operating a restaurant, the sisters operated their restaurant generally in the Italian tradition specializing in stromboli, but also serving spaghetti, meatballs, sausage, hoagies, and hot Italian sandwiches.

The sisters' mother, Katherine Kaskiewicz, and Lillian Sacco's husband, Frank J. (Chic) Sacco, were influential supporters of the new restaurant. Chic Sacco managed the Valley Country Club, Conyngham, for 25 years. An early mentor too was Joseph Mosotti, manager of West Pittston's Fox Hill Country Club. Moscotti shared his own recipes with the Villa Roma.

Villa Roma 2019

In 1998 a newspaper review described Villa Roma's offerings as "artful dishes that combine old-world cooking with modern creativity." The menu offered Italian, American and French dishes with Jeanne as the executive chef while Lilly greeted customers and oversaw the general operation.

Framed photographs of film and TV stars and other personalities who dined at the Vila Roma decorate the walls. These include Richard Harris (The Molly Maguires); Lattimer-native Jack Palance (Shane); David Canary (All My Children; Bonanza); William Christopher (the "Mash" priest); and Air Force Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager.

In 1993 Villa Roma's owners acquired and reopened the old Cotton Club/Flagstone House at Sunset as the Villa Roma Pizza and Pasta House which operated through the 2001 season. The original Villa Roma Pizza restaurant was now more simply titled the Villa Roma.

In 2012 a Citizens' Voice article noted the sisters' restaurant offered "acerbic wit, gourmet food, and plenty of dog photos." The chef since 2001 was Robert Bizub who created his own special Cajun seasoning for the Villa Roma. Open Wednesday through Sunday evenings the Villa Roma has a Facebook page to explore this unique dining experience.


Natoma Steamboat Memorial 2019

G. The Borough Building Controversy

After Harveys Lake Borough was created in January 1968, Borough council wrestled with a location for Borough offices. Finally, members in November 1976 were split over a Sunset or Sandy Beach location. In early 1979 the Borough council by a 4-3 vote decided to purchase the Stone House at Sandy Beach for a municipal building and also to acquire a portion of Sandy Beach for a public beach. The Stone House had last served as Tavel's, "Jim" Pearsall's French-inspired restaurant. A lawsuit followed by the Lake's taxpayers' association. While litigation was pending, the Borough occupied the Stone House in October 1979 along with the Lake's police department which relocated from its historic home with the fire department at Alderson.

In January 1980 a new majority took office for the Borough and would not support the earlier purchase of the Stone House or the beach project. A settlement was reached with the Stone House and Sandy Beach property owners and the sale was rescinded in April 1980. The Borough and the police department relocated to the Harveys Lake General Municipal Authority Building at Sunset. Finally, an addition was built to the authority building for Borough purposes and it was open to the public on November 2, 1982, for Lake voters to cast ballots on election day.

By 2002 the Harvey's Lake Police department relocated from the Borough's offices to a structure across the highway vacated by Bob's Archery, Hunting and Fishing. In March 2019 the police department moved to its present location next to the older building which had been damaged in an automobile accident and would be razed. The Borough paid rent to Paglianite for five years for the site after which Paglianite donated the police station site to the Borough.

In the summer of 1996 the Harveys Lake Protective Association, under the leadership of past-president Guy Giordano, planned a memorial at the Borough building to the Lake's steamboat era. Years earlier an Alderson resident, Gary Evans, acquired the cast-iron propeller of the Natoma, a former Lake steamboat launched in 1900 which last operated in the 1940s. The four-bladed propeller, 30 inches in diameter, was donated to the stone-built memorial site.

In mid-August 1996 as the memorial was near completion, the Natoma propeller was stolen from the site. Guy Giordano, who largely funded the memorial costs, offered a reward for recovery of the propeller. The Borough would soon raise the reward to $3000.00.

A local diver, Stan Piershowski, stated he located the propeller in the Lake at Warden Place, but the Luzerne County Sheriff's Dive Team made two searches of the area, diving to forty feet below, and could not locate the propeller in the four feet of Lake mud bed. It is widely believed that when the sighting of the propeller was announced the thief retrieved it or dragged it in order to sink it in deeper water--or it may have sunk deeper into the mud bottom after Piershowski's sighting.

Guy Giordano purchased a similar propeller in Florida and the monument was completed with the substituted propeller.



Copyright 2019 F. Charles Petrillo