HARVEY'S LAKE THROUGH THE AGES
The Golden Years
The years between 1887 and 1919 saw growth all around lake. During these golden years industry--concentrated at Alderson and the Outlet--and tourism--centered on Sunset, Warden Place and the Picnic Grounds--flourished side-by-side. The lake's parallel development is epitomized by the modes of transportation that arose in this era. A trolley line served the tourist trade from its terminus at the south end, on Oneonta Hill. A more substantial railroad served the lumber and ice harvesting industries at the north end and continued on to Noxen and beyond. This line would also serve the north shore amusement areas.
Steamboats connected all the tourist points on the lake. The first boat was brought to the lake from the Susquehanna River in 1860 by enterprising hotel owner James W. Rhoads. The age of large steamers began in 1891 when Capt. William Bond's Big Boat (later Shawanese) was launched. Eventually two steamboat firms, the Lake Transit Company, and the Harvey's Lake Steamboat Companies, would vie for passengers visiting the major attractions
The North Corner, as it was originally called,was settled by the family. But it later was identified with the lumbering enterprises of Albert Lewis (The "Bear Creek Lumber and Ice King") and ice harvesting. Lewis was a wealthy natural ice harvester and lumberman who enjoyed immense success in the White Haven-Bear Creek region in the 1870s-1890s. He created Bear Creek village as a showcase for his enterprises there.
In the late 1880s Lewis built the Wilkes-Barre and Harvey's Lake Railroad which he sold to the Lehigh Valley Railroad. The railroad reached the North Corner in 1887. The site was renamed Alderson after the treasurer of the Lehigh Valley Railroad. The railroad continued on to Noxen, Stull, Mountain Springs and Ricketts (and eventually to Towanda).
Lewis built a substantial log house at Alderson, along with the Alderson complex of railroad station, company store, sawmill, and allied buildings. He also founded the village's Methodist Church (as with churches at White Haven, Stull, and Bear Creek). The Alderson mill closed in 1913-14. The railroad, however, continued operations to serve area farmers, the ice industry at Mountain Springs and the tannery at Noxen.
Passenger service on the Bowman's Creek Branch of the Lehigh Valley Railroad peaked before World War I when two passenger trains daily passed through the area (with two return trips). But passenger service ceased in March 1936, except for special excursion trips to the amusement park as late as the early 1950s.Sunset
Originally, this area was called Inlet due to a small stream entering the Lake here. (The 658 acre Lake is mainly fed by underground springs). Here was the easiest access point on the Lake from the Valley.
The familiar bridge at this Lake point was initially a wooden span built in 1855 which was replaced by an iron bridge in 1893 to serve the Oneonta hotel. The trolley reached here in 1897, originally as a steam railroad but it was converted to electric trolley in late December 1898.
A wide range of recreational and restaurant facilities grew around the area and by 1915 a new long concrete bridge spanned the inlet. In 1919 L.C. Schwab's Sunset Pavilion, a dance hall, was built, giving the area its modern name. The greatest investor in the area was the Lake Improvement Company in the 1920s which had an array of facilities along the road and beach area. After the Hotel Oneonta burned in 1919, a large dance hall, the Oneonta Pavilion was erected in its place. Opened in late May 1922, Paul Whiteman, the famous dance band leader, played here three times. In 1928 the present short concrete bridge was built. But fires in 1928 and 1929 largely destroyed the Sunset area.
In later years other recreation and business interests filled the Sunset area.
The Picnic Grounds area was created by the Lehigh Valley Railroad in 1891. Here amusements filled the large grounds. The waterfront had immense swimming docks and steamboats also docked here. A merry-go-round operated as early as 1903 and a roller coaster was added in 1909.
The area became a true amusement park by 1910 when 15,000 visitors jammed the park on July 4 to try a new roller coaster and a miniature train and other rides. On the water front there was a large slide into the Lake called the Shoot-the-Chute.
In 1923 the railroad sold the park to John Redington. He had business ties to the Wintersteens who controlled the Dodgem ride and Merry-Go-Round. In 1931 the 65 foot high "Speed Hound" Roller Coaster was built. In 1934-35 the park was sold to John Hanson. The Pretzel Ride (Pirate's Cove or "dark house") was added in 1934. In the 1930s there was more emphasis on the water front attractions. In the late 1930s the Shoot-the-Chute was dismantled and Chris-Craft motorboat rides were added.
For a brief period in 1948-50 Hanson's also had a Drive-In movie park. Decades later in the 1960s, national and local band talent drew crowds to Hanson's Amusement Park including Chubby Checker, Bobby Goldsboro, the Supremes, and Frankie Valli. The popular local bands, Joe Nardone and the All Stars and Eddie Day with the Starfires (and TNT) regularly played at the park. John Hanson died in 1966. Donald and Shirley Hanson succeeded and operated the park for another generation to enjoy.
West Corner and Sandy Beach
Farmers were attracted to the West Corner since it held some relatively flat acreage near the Lake. Here the Perregos settled and a church was created in 1872. The Perrego Cemetery nearby runs tothe Lake road.
The Rood family came to the Lake in 1898. Here Irwin Rood purchased a store and ran an early wagon and school bus service. He was also the Laketon postmaster. In 1928 Ben and Vernon Rood, the sons of Irwin Rood, rented tent sites which evolved into a major tent and cabin rental site. They also operated the Martha Washington Inn.
Sandy Beach was developed by Thomas Pugh and William Davis and was opened on July 4, 1925. Here a large restaurant was built, locker facilities for 350 bathers, and also several amusement rides and a dance hall. In the 1930s Sandy Beach was a major site for Valley crowds who enjoyed the "dance band" era when Cab Calloway, Guy Lombardo and Paul Whiteman played at the beach hall.
In 1948 Sandy Beach was acquired by Sam Slomowitz. He added Kiddie-Land, a new merry-go-round and the Sandy Beach Drive-In, built in June 1948. He also filled the beach with tons of Atlantic City white sand.
In December 1954 Joseph and Margaret McCaffrey purchased adjacent beach property to create Old Sandy Bottom, another swimming area for the public.
Joseph Worden (later spelled Warden) settled here on a farm in 1855. At Warden Place the cove has rocky underwater ledges and it was too dangerous for the steamboats to dock there. But the steamboats Wilkes-Barre and Kingston were built along the shore near here in 1903.
The Lakeside Inn was built in 1914. Its owner Martha Schworm was a fixture here and famous for her chicken dinners. In the early 1920s the Inn was headquarters for the Protective Association police patrol. The hotel was lost to a fire in March 1978.
Link's tavern was popular at Warden Place as early as 1932. In the 1950s Jack Link also provided a marine service here. In 1945 Fred Brokenshire, a Kingston hotel owner, purchased the Teeter home and remodeled it as the Brokenshire Hotel.
The Hotel Oneonta provided a place for Catholic services in the early years of the century. Lady of Victory chapel was dedicated on September 3, 1923, as a memorial to Catholic servicemen who died in World War I.
© 2006-2007 F. Charles Petrillo