HARVEY'S LAKE THROUGH THE AGES
The Modern Era
In the summer of 1941, before Pearl Harbor, 150,000 tourists filled the hotels and 2,200 cottages with rentals estimated at $660,000. A new concrete highway to the Lake was under construction. During the War gas rationing slowed seasonal activities.
After the War Roy Smith opened a flying service near Alderson and planes landed on the Lake into the 1950s. Brokenshire's Hotel also opened in 1945 at Warden Place, joining the long-established Lakeside Inn. Puterbaugh's store at Sunset would operate from 1947 to 1979. Here the Shawanese post office was located. (An effort to rename the Lake to Shawanese had failed in the early 1890s but a post office with this name was established and has operated for a century.) At Sunset a small amusement park was also created by Francis Ambrose.
But in 1949 the YWCA's Blue Triangle Lodge campground was closed. It was originally a gift in 1920 from Albert Lewis as he closed his land holdings at the Lake. In the same post-War period the Casterline family, the Lake's principal ice harvesters, closed their business. The ice industry also closed at Ricketts Glen, Mountain Springs and the Poconos.
In 1955 Tommy O'Brien established his scuba-diving service. Smelt fish were stocked in 1956. Pagliante's Grotto Pizza opened at Sunset in 1956. But in the following years the Lake's transformation to a residential area accelerated. The Noxen tannery closed in 1961, a dozen years after the Mountain Springs ice industry ended. The Lehigh Valley Railroad ceased freight operations to the Lake area in December 1963.
The Lake was struck by serious water pollution problems in 1962 and again more seriously in 1964 when beaches were closed. Pollution control measures took a dozen years to fully implement. Still, there were public beaches in this decade at Hanson's, Sandy Beach and Sandy Bottom. In the mid-1960s the beach facilities were alive to the summer music of Eddie Day's and Joe Nardone's bands.
The Rood family closed six decades of service at the West Corner in 1965, and Taft Truska acquired the West Corner store in 1968. In 1967 Sunset beach was acquired by an owners' beach association. Wildwood Girl Scouts' Camp, opened in April 1936, was sold to a private owner. Sandy Beach closed in 1974 after fire destroyed facilities there.
In September 1980 Hanson's roller-coaster was closed due to structural damage. In the Fall of 1984 the park amusement rides were auctioned. The miniature train is now owned by Bonham's Nursing Home in the Benton area. The Wintersteen descendants transferred the merry-go-round to Kisimee, Florida. After the 1984 season Sandy Bottom, the last public beach, was closed and converted to use by an association.
There were encore years in 1988-91 when the RPM Old Stars, Eddie Day and Joe Nardone reappeared at Hanson's Park. In September 1988 a fire leveled Grotto Pizza, but it was rebuilt in grand style to serve new generations.
The major expansion of the Back Mountain into a suburban community impacted the Lake community. Harvey's Lake Borough was carved out of Lake Township in 1968. There are no longer public beaches, but marinas are available at Sunset and the Hanson park grounds, with public boat access at a Fish Commission site at the Sandy Beach area. Nearby, the Pine Grove Lodge still serves guests.
The Grotto Development Corporation and its pizza-marina site predominates the Sunset area. At Hanson's a marina-campground still serves the public and a band complex draws summer crowds to national entertainment features. But elsewhere there are reminders of the past. The quiet Alderson Methodist Church celebrated its centennial anniversary in 1988 - a church born in the lumbering era. Damien's on the Lake restaurant at Sunset, site of the long-standing Burke's Barbecue of the post World War II era, also was the site of the Rhoads Hotel.
The Villa Roma pizza site had its origins with the Grotto Cote A'zur Restaurant in 1922 (later the Cotton Club, Circle Inn, and Flagstone House.) Memories linger of the late Tommy O'Brien's exploits at the Lake. Adjacent to his diving service site lies the underwater cribbing which once supported the Sunset Pavilion dance hall. Across the bridge the stone silent Commonwealth Telephone exchange building occupies the site of the Hotel Oneonta.
Near the Outlet a dry dock, once used to repair the steamboats, lies on the Lake bottom. Here, the bottom, too, has piles of anthracite ash, dumped from the steamboats after fueling their countless trips around the Lake. At the municipal building a bi-centennial marker was placed in 1981 to memorialize Benjamin Harvey's discovery. More recently a marker was dedicated to the steamboat era.
The Bowman's Creek Branch of the Lehigh Valley Railroad is now a rough road from Noxen to Ricketts Glen. A rail-to-trails project is converting the Luzerne to Lake railroad bed to a trail for public use, with a Luzerne-Trucksville link substantially underway. Along the Outlet stream there are remnants of the old mill dams. The site of a church there, destroyed by a lightening bolt in the World War I era, is unmarked but for the memories of a very special generation who matured to fight in the Great War.
Too few remain to now tell the tales of the Golden Era at Harvey's Lake, but other generations will follow to tell their own stories of their times at this very special place.
© 2006-2007 F. Charles Petrillo