The Lake as a Summer resort would have a resurgence as the decade turned in 1940 – but change too would follow. Within 40 years the Lake as a Summer cottage and amusement center would falter and largely close. These were the last generations with memories of the Lake as a public summer playground.
In the summer before Pearl Harbor, the Lake had reached a new zenith as a summer resort. Over 150,000 tourists would visit the Lake during the summer season. There were 2,200 cottages in use and cottage rentals were estimated at $660,000.00. Other summer business owners shared an estimated half million dollars in gross receipts. At the same time, the new Dallas to Harvey’s Lake highway was being graded. The highway largely ignored the Old Lake Road that has served the Lake for generations of visitors. The new highway entered the Lake directly at Sunset. To make room for the new Lake entrance, the “state cottages” were removed from behind the Grotto and relocated elsewhere along Hillside Avenue.
Two new restaurant facilities were added as the decade began. Sofia Osko Burke opened a Sunset restaurant popularly known as Burke’s restaurant, which was later expanded and then managed in future years by a son, Walter Osko. Burke’s was a familiar Sunset restaurant for nearly two decades. At the same time, a quarter-century of family dining service was begun by Herman Kern at his Outlet restaurant. There were other services offered at the Lake. The Harvey’s Lake Boat Club was chartered in May 1941 to provide a permanent home for the Lake’s boating enthusiasts. At Alderson David Deater began operation of a general store, which served the north end of the Lake for twenty years.
World War II caused some loss of summer business at the Lake, particularly at the Picnic Grounds. Gas rationing curtailed the use of private automobiles. As a consequence, the Lake bus line enjoyed its best years. Manufacturers of ice cream and summer treats had limited supplies during the War and could not supply all the Lake restaurants with favorite treats of the time, like Dolly Madison ice cream or Coca-Cola. At Sunset the Ketran stand at the old steamboat landing seemed to have the monopoly on Coca-Cola.
Although the end of the ice industry was only a few years away, in January 1942 Mountain Springs was shipping forty daily railroad cars of ice over the Bowman’s Creek Branch of the Lehigh Valley Railroad. The Mountain Springs Ice Company planned to harvest forty thousand tons of ice during the 1942 winter season. The ice-laden trains were a familiar sight to the ice skaters at Alderson. The Lehigh Valley Railroad, however, was also attempting to end rail service over the Lake line, but the Interstate Commerce Commission would refuse to curtail the Bowman’s Creek Branch service.
The new Harvey’s Lake-Dallas highway was dedicated on July 18, 1942, and a ceremonial parade was led by Gov. Arthur James. In the same year, Lehman removed itself from the police jointure with Lake Township. The jointure had worked well despite the seventy-two square miles of jurisdiction covered by the small police force, one of the largest municipal areas in the state. With Lake Township as a separate police district, Chief Fred Swanson’s jurisdiction was now thirty-five square miles, still a large responsibility but capably handled.
In mid-July 1924 Lake properties received numbered poles as new addresses. The idea sprung from State Senator Andrew J. Sordoni, President of the Harvey’s Lake Protective Association, Harvey’s Lake Light Company and the Sordoni Construction Company. The Bell Telephone Company also issued new telephone books listing pole numbers and the Wilkes-Barre Traction Company now listed pole numbers when designating bus stops.
The nation was well served by young men and women from the farms and villages of the Lake area. In June 1943 the 144 men and women from the township who were serving in the War were listed on an honor roll at the Laketon High School. The following January, Hanson’s received its sixth winter visit from Sgt. James “Little Bull” Smith. A local serviceman, Smith drew crowds each year as a section of ice was cut from the Lake to allow the hardy young man to take another of his celebrated annual winter swims. Crowds celebrated at the Picnic Grounds and at the Lake bars on both V-E and V-J days. The Lake community served valiantly in the War. At the War’s conclusion, the losses to the small township community were heavy with twenty-eight killed in action, fourteen dead of service related causes, ten missing in action and thirteen taken prisoners-of-war.
Another landmark feature of Sunset, a neighbor of Jay’s, is Bill’s Café which Anna Zimnisky acquired in September 1945. The property formally belonged to Jacob and Mary Gosart, Sunset legends of an earlier era. Anna Zimnisky later married Edward Mikalus. When Anna died in November 1960 the bar passed to William (Bill) Zimnisky and Josephine Zimnisky. Bill’s Café has since descended to another generation in the Zimnisky family. Bill’s Café hosts an attractive Facebook page which continues the Café’s seventh decade of its history.
After the War, the Lake offered new attractions to summer guests. Ray Smith had a seaplane at the Lake since 1939. It was moored near the Ralph Davis store by the Picnic Grounds. When the War ended, Smith opened the Smith Flying Service near Alderson on a shoreside plot that he acquired in November 1944 from the estate of Arthur Stull who had died in May 1942. Several months after Smith acquired lakeside property for his flying service, the neighboring Stonehurst resort was purchased by John N. Turrell. Smith offered flying instructions, charters and scenic flying services. Smith’s seaplanes, landing on and leaving the Lake, delighted a generation of youngsters from the mid-1940’s through the 1950’s. The Harvey’s Lake Boat Club purchased a portion of the Smith land in September 1950, and in February 1962 the expanded Harvey’s Lake Yacht Club would acquire Smith’s airplane hangar and grounds.
In 1945 Fred Brokenshire, who had previously operated a hotel at Kingston Corners, remodeled the huge Walter and Anne Teter home at Warden Place and opened Brokenshire’s Hotel. The hotel offered thirty attractive rooms, and the popular Marine Dining Room with its plastic floor was a popular dancing spot with recorded music and a weekly orchestra. When Brokenshire died ten years later, the hotel continued to operate for a few more years.
As new attractions emerged after World War II, older Lake traditions would end. In March 1946 Charles Lord sold his restaurant near the Picnic Grounds after four decades at the Lake. In mid-September 1946, Sloppy Tony’s night club at Sunset was destroyed after an outside advertising sign caught fire. The night club was well-known for its heavy carpet of peanut shells, a trademark of Anthony Burnett, owner of the club. The club had been closed during the War while Burnett was in the service. The structure was once the expansive barroom for the historic Rhoads Hotel.
In the 1940’s older hotels at the Lake received new owners. The Lakeside Inn was sold by Lewis Schworm to Melvin Sweeney in November 1946. The Tabard Inn was acquired by Tony Teberio in April 1949. The inn Had been operated since 1909 by Mrs. John Merical who sold it to William Mann in 1921. Teberio renamed it the Wahoo Inn in June 1959 with acts from the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. Anthony and Nadine Teberio operated the Wahoo Inn through 1977. Over the years, a large addition was added to the structure and for a time became the Harvey’s Lake Hotel in the early 1980s.
In 1947 the Casterline family completed its last regular season cutting ice on the Lake. Mechanical refrigeration developed swiftly after World War II and replaced the familiar icebox. Refrigeration ended the small ice-cutting industry at the Lake, as well as the major ice-cutting industry at Mountain Springs. Ending, too, was the principal freight service that supported the Bowman’s Creek Branch of the Lehigh Valley Railroad. Only the Noxen tannery remained to provide any significant freight along the rail line.
In September 1948 there was a brief flurry of concern when a Lake resident proposed a charter flying service based at the Lake. Numerous opponents to the plan included former Governor Arthur H. James, Police Chief Fred W. Swanson and Protective Association President Robert W. Johnson.
In December 1948 the Property Association floated a proposed street light system around the Lake. A poll sought responses from 850 residents. Less than 350 responded; 194 favored the plan; 150 were opposed. The plan had insufficient support to proceed.
In the late 1940’s there were improvements to the Lake’s amusement centers. As the decade ended, the amusement centers were enjoying an early season. Hanson’s Amusement Park opened on May 1, 1949, on a rainy note, but the drive-in at the Picnic Grounds still received a crowd. During the spring, a fence had been constructed along the Noxen road to stop the glare of car lights from annoying the drive-in customers. Hanson also had built three new swimming docks, which were separate from the dock for the speedboats. At Sandy Beach the drive-in was open in late April. Sam Slomowitz was popular with the Lake children in the neighborhood who were invited to come to the beach pavilion to hear and view the pictures. The two drive-in theatres at the Lake were quite successful, and a controversy erupted when the township supervisors planned to adopt a tax on automobiles parked in amusement areas.
Sunset was enjoying a renaissance in 1949. Peter Ambrose planned to open the Cotton Club on May 14, and for the new season he turned the building half-way around, and moved it back twenty-seven feet where it faced lengthwise along the Sunset highway. A stone wall was also built along the front of the club. In later years, the Cotton Club assumed several names including the Circle Inn, Scarlet’s Inn and the Flagstone House. A brother, Francis Ambrose, who had acquired considerable Sunset holdings in the last few years, continued filling the Inlet basin with red ash which was topped with a finer fill. He also had developed an attractive children’s amusement area called Sunset Park. There were already in place miniature automobile, torpedo and airplane rides. A miniature train delighted children with a ride along the water’s edge. A small ferris wheel and whip were new attractions added in 1949. In a few years Sunset Park would add a merry-go-round, which originally ran at Croop’s Glen at Hunlocks Creek.
On May 1, 1949, the Alderson post office was closed and the Harvey’s Lake post office was established. In accordance with the new policy of the federal government, the apostrophe was dropped from place names. For the government, at least, Harvey’s Lake became Harveys Lake. There were other changes in the same year. The YWCA had outgrown the Blue Triangle campground and it was sold to A. J. Sordoni. The Lake’s YWCA history is at www.harveyslake.org. The Alderson section saw the Bowman’s Creek Branch of the Lehigh Valley Railroad convert locomotives from steam to electric diesel engines. The loud whistles of the new trains, which generally ran at night, disturbed the night quiet of the Back Mountain. The railroad’s steam engines were not too large for the line beyond Noxen, and a small diesel was substituted for the branch traffic to haul the ice cars from Mountain Springs. The diesels ran at night in order to allow freight customers to unload lumber, feed, cement and freight at the sidings in the mornings.
By 1949 a new attraction called television found its way to the Lake. An early owner of a television set was John Hanson. He placed a television antenna on top of the Roller Coaster, but the lead-in was too long to the Hanson home for good reception. There were only thirteen TV channels in the United States, and Channel 1 was not in use due to its low frequency. Harry Baicker added a 150 foot TV antenna to the Newell Wood estate when he purchased the home, and Baicker could receive reception from New York and Philadelphia, as local radio stations, WBRE and WILK, were still investigating the new medium.
At the end of the decade in December 1949 bar licenses at the Lake was a topic at the Luzerne County Courthouse. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board was stringent on new license applications for the resort. Police Chief Fred Swanson testified that there were about 2,500 permanent residents in the Lake area but 1,500 colleges housing 20,000 people in the Summer. On a Summer day there could be 4,000 people at Sandy Beach. On a weekend day 30,000 people could visit the Lake at times and an average was 15,000. The Liquor Control Board claimed Lake Township had only a quota of three licenses but already had 18 licenses. Nevertheless, Judge Frank J. Pinola, who had a Lake cottage, ordered the Board to issue another license to a bar near the Picnic Grounds.
On Christmas Day 1950 Anthony and Burnett, former owners of Sloppy Tony’s for 23 years at Sunset, lost their lives in their Wilkes-Barre apartment due to a gas leak.
Special events were also provided at the Lake to draw summer crowds. In 1951 the Back Mountain police sponsored a children’s picnic at Sunset Park. The event was quite an attraction and was held each summer for several years. The Harvey’s Lake Lions Club sponsored a Lady of the Lake beauty contest. The Lions Club beauty contest ran several years at Sunset Park and contributed greatly to the Lake’s attraction as a summer resort. In the 1951 contest there was an auction of a new Hudson convertible. For a history of the Lady of the Lake contests see www.harveyslake.org. In January 1952, Fred Swanson, Chief of Police since 1942, announced his retirement after twenty years of service with the Lake police force. Swanson was succeeded as Chief by Edgar Hughes, an eighteen year police veteran of Plymouth.
In early March 1954 an Alderson landmark, Allen’s Mill, was razed. The steam powered mill had been operated by generations of the Allen family. Otis T. Allen had built the mill during the early boom years of Alderson. He was followed by a son, Walter J. Allen, and by a grandson, Harry B. Allen. The mill was owned by Dr. Otis A. Allen, the Harvey’s Lake dentist, when the mill was razed. Another area miller, A. C. Devens, obtained his early experience in association with Walter J. Allen. Devens started his own mill at Kunkle before moving to Dallas. In the early years of the century, the Allen mill received a daily carload of grain from the Lehigh Valley Railroad. Deliveries were made with Allen’s horse drawn wagon along the Lake road, but the Allen mill was an early Lake business to convert to truck delivery. During World War II the Allen mill closed due to the lack of supplies and available help. Another Lake landmark was lost in November 1954 when the former home of Sen T. Newell Wood, occupied by him until 1948, was completely destroyed by fire. The twenty room home was built in 1910 and was a well-known residence at the Lake.
In August 1954 area men formed one of Pennsylvania’s earliest “aqua-lung” exploring associations at the Lake. Buck Kelly of Forty Fort formed the group with George Dombek, Bill Fonte and Jerry McGroarty, all from Wilkes-Barre. Earlier in the year they tested scuba-diving equipment at the Wilkes-Barre YWCA and began exploring the Lake during the Summer from the dock of Mal Lewis near the Picnic Ground. Others who were also diving at the Lake were Mal Lewis, Don Hanson and Adrian Pearsall. The Kelly team achieved a descent of 97 feet to the Lake bottom.
On August 22, 1954, the American Power Boat Association held spectacular powerboat races at the Lake. The races were sponsored by the Harvey’s Lake Boat Club and Gilbert’s Landing Club of Scranton. Seventy-five boats from Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Delaware were entered. Six classes of powerboats competed in one and one-half mile races over a four buoy course. An estimated four thousand visitors viewed the races. Another APBA sanctioned race for inboard motors was planned for Labor Day. The 1950s motor boat races are covered at www.harveyslake.org.
Through the 1950’s the Lake enjoyed popularity with the weekend crowds from Wyoming Valley. Sunset was crowded with refreshment stands and restaurants, and the Sunset beach was still open to the public, although the swimming docks of the Crystal Beach era were gone. At West Corner the Rood camping ground fed the entire section. Sandy Beach was filled with families during the day, with fresh evening crowds for the Sandy Beach Drive-In. The opening of Old Sandy Bottom in the summer of 1955 enlarged the public facilities at West Corner and greatly enhanced the attractiveness of the area long West End Creek. Hanson’s Amusement Park, of course, was always a stop for summer guests at the Lake, particularly for fans of a speedboat ride and the Roller Coaster. Roller skating above the Hanson’s bathhouse ended during the Korean War as it was out of fashion, but Hanson’s beach was always crowded. Swimmers were fascinated with the huge rolling log in the water, and rowboats and canoes could be rented from the aging Howard Major. There was a large cottage community, and cottages could be rented in all sections of the Lake. The back streets of West Corner, Warden Place and Barnum Place were rapidly being developed into cottage sites.
In June 1955 Tommy O’Brien arrived at Sunset with a scuba rental service. Scuba diving was still a novel sport at this time, and the earliest youngsters who glimpsed the scuba equipment thought they saw bombs. Many area divers learned the scuba sport from Tommy O’Brien at the Lake. They explored the eerie silence of the Lake bottom at Sunset and the huge cribbing along the Sunset shore, which was built by Wright in 1893 for the Rhoads landing and which later served the Sunset Pavilion. For the old-timers who warned O’Brien that the Lake had no bottom, O’Brien had a classic response: “What holds the water up?”
In the winter of 1956 smelts, a new attraction, suddenly were pulled from beneath the ice by Lake fishermen. In 1952 two hundred smelts from Lake Erie were stocked in the Lake. But they disappeared so completely the planting was thought to be a failure. Now smelts crowded the holes chopped in the ice, and by the fishermen’s lights and bonfires great numbers of smelts were seen milling under the ice. More on Smelt fishing is at www.harveyslake.org.
But as new attractions arrived, a special generation was passing, witnesses and builders of the Golden Era. The carpenter, Amos Kitchen, whose grandfather Jesse Kitchen, arrived with the pioneers at the Lake, died in October 1953. Amos Kitchen had built many of the homes and early amusement structures at the Lake. In February 1955, the well-known merchant Herman Garinger died at age seventy-five. For forty years Garinger operated a meat and grocery business on the Lake Road near Alderson. At one time he kept three trucks active on the Lake roads providing home deliveries. Meat was weighed on open scales hung on the tailgate of a truck. He was a skilled butcher and he purchased livestock from local farmers. He cut ice from the Lake to fill his icehouse at the meat market. In early days he traveled around the Lake in a horse drawn wagon announcing his arrival with a large hand bell. Another respected merchant Ralph Davis died in July 1956. He was a Justice of the Peace at the Lake for forty-eight years and had operated a store at his home near the Picnic Grounds until 1943. Despite the loss of an arm in an accident at the Alderson sawmill as a young man, Davis was known as a crack shot with his hunting rifle. In January 1957 Clarence Shaver died at age eighty. He had served as general manager of the Lake Transit Company for three wonderful decades, presiding over the steamboat line during its greatest days until the end in 1933. His brother, R. Bruce Shaver, the last steamboat captain, died in August 1959.
The Lake was a popular site for fishermen in the 1950’s. The opening day of trout season found the Lake’s shoreline crowded almost elbow-to-elbow with fishermen. At Warden Place a marine service was maintained by Jack Link, who also owned Link’s Tavern. The marine service provided boat and motor repair service, in addition to boat slips and a wide variety of bait. At the Sunset basin, the area was dredged and a retaining wall was built by Francis Ambrose to create an attractive berthing area for boats. An extension was also added to Jay’s dock in the basin for additional rental slips, and for a time Jay’s offered boat rides to vacationers in a Coronado inboard cruiser. Jay’s was created by Nicholas and Julia Arnone. Originally, it was the site of the Sunset Inn. “Jay” is for Julia. It was a popular site for returning GI’s after World War II and the Arnones operated the bar with its six-unit motel for more than three decades.
Another Sunset institution was Puterbaugh’s store. Walter and Eleanor Puterbaugh acquired the store from Eugene Duffy in early 1947. It also housed the Shawanese post office and their daughter Mable Puterbaugh assumed ownership in April 1965 and continued to serve as post-master for many years. In June 1979 Nicholas and Nancy DeVeronica purchased the Puterbaugh’s store. Jones’ Pancake House at Sunset was opened in 1953 by Howard E. Jones and his wife Jeanne Jones. Sons Terry and Kent Jones later operated the restaurant. The family business is currently run by third generation Chris Jones and the business has an attractive Facebook page for additional information.
On Sunday, October 4, 1957, Wyoming Valley area phone numbers were expanded. A pre-fix or central office name was added to existing numbers: Valley or VA (82) for Wyoming Valley; Neptune or NE (63) for Harvey’s Lake; Orchard or OR (67) for Dallas: and Greenleaf or GR (47) for Sweet Valley.
In April 1958 Wilkes College biology professor Charles Reif released a study regarding the Lake’s depth. The Lake had a surface area of 658 acres while Conneaut Lake near Erie had a surface of 928 acres. But Conneaut’s maximum depth was 65 feet while Harvey’s Lake’s greatest depth was 93 feet plus. With the greater depth Harvey’s Lake had a volume of 7,773,000,000 gallons compared to Conneaut’s 5,591,000,000 gallons. Harvey’s Lake therefore was the largest natural lake by volume in Pennsylvania. Reif noted the Pennsylvania Fish Commission found a maximum depth at the Lake with an electronic dept finder of 102 feet. Reif in February used a surveyor’s steel tape and lead weight and twenty readings were 91-93 feet in depth in an area between Point Breeze and the Hanson Picnic Ground. If there was a greater depth of 102 feet it must be less than 100 feet across.
The turn of another decade in 1960 finally completed the Lake’s transformation into a residential community. There were now over 2,200 taxable properties in Lake Township, with nearly 1,300 near the Lake. Unfortunately, the signal for the new era was the pollution of once pristine waters of the Lake. Barnum had warned of the problem three-quarters of a century earlier. On Memorial Day 1962 contamination of the Lake closed the beaches at Hanson’s and Sunset. The prohibitive cost of public sanitary facilities, required by new environmental laws, forced the closed of the Rood camping ground in 1962. Sandy Beach responded with new sanitary facilities, but diminishing public recreational services at the Lake would soon become evident.
Seventy-seven years after the railroad skyrocketed the Lake into regional fame as a resort, the flickering image of another time finally ended. In July 1963 the Interstate Commerce Commission authorized the Lehigh Valley Railroad to abandon the Bowman’s Creek Branch line between Dallas and Noxen. The railroad had been in severe financial difficulty for years, and passenger service along the entire Lehigh Valley Railroad system had ended as a practical matter in 1961. Mechanical refrigeration had ended the ice-cutting industry after World War II and eliminated the profitable hauling of ice cars by the railroad although the railroad had continued to haul hides to the Noxen tannery. The tannery, however, had peaked in 1941 when it employed 217 persons. When the tannery closed in 1961, it ended the last remaining freight service of any consequence along the Bowman’s Creek Branch, and the last freight service on the Back Mountain line typically carried only a single boxcar. The Alderson station had already been removed in May 1958 and its lumber partially used to build a cottage at Lake Carey. Governmental approval to close the railroad line between Luzerne and Dallas was granted to the Lehigh Valley Railroad in September 1963. On Sunday, December 22, 1963, at 12:01 A.M., the Lehigh Valley Railroad formally abandoned the Bowman’s Creek Branch from Luzerne to Dallas.
Serious pollution problems occurred again in 1964, closing the public beaches and destroying public confidence in the safety of the Lake for the season. Still, a solution to the sewage problem was ten years away. At the same time diminishing returns closed Sunset Park, and the area gradually was absorbed by small summer shops and the ever popular Bingo attraction, housed in the old Bennethum garage.
Through the 1960’s there were still a number of attractions to promote the Lake as a summer resort. But the facilities were not as expansive as in earlier years. At Sunset, cottage rentals were available at Ambrose’s Cottages, the old “state cottages” brought to Sunset after World War I. However, in time the cottages would be sold to private owners. The Stonehurst Lodge was acquired by Thomas Garrity in 1959 and it also provided public rentals to summer guests. Of course, a large number of private cottages and homes remained available for rental. The Wa Hoo Inn, formerly the Tabard Inn, specialized in Italian food.
At Sunset there were a number of favorite restaurants. The old Cotton Club, scene of jazz-filled evening for many years, was now Scarlet’s Inn. Burke’s offered a cocktail lounge but was more popularly known for delicious barbecue sandwiches. The most lasting Sunset institution of the new era, however, would be Joe’s Grotto. At Outlet, Kern’s bar and dining room specialized in seafood.
The weekend crowds were able to enjoy three public beach areas: Hanson’s, Sandy Beach and Old Sandy Bottom. At Hanson’s the speedboats were replaced by pontoon boat rides, and paddle boats were available for rental at Sandy Beach. Public boating was enhanced by the addition of a Pennsylvania Fish Commission access area between Sandy Beach and Old Sandy Bottom. Public boat marinas were available at Sunset Park, Sandy Beach and Lakeside Inn. Although fishermen and daily visitors found boat rentals available at Sandy Beach, Jay’s Motel at Sunset and Armitage’s at Alderson, the opportunity to rent boats would rapidly decline. Sunset was still a public beach in the early 1960’s, but was losing favor with the summer crowds and was generally used by the Sunset cottage community.
In the Beach Boys’ summers of the early 1960’s, Harvey’s Lake attracted a young generation filled with a new dance mania. Hanson’s Amusement Park attracted a host of national talent to the second floor dance hall above the restaurant, renewing the life of the Lake’s historic park. Eddie Day and the Starfires began playing at Hanson’s Amusement Park in the summer of 1963. In the winter months, they played at the Starfire Ballroom off Public Square in Wilkes-Barre. In 1965 the popular local group became Eddie Day and the Nightimers at Sandy Beach. In 1967 the group became Eddie Day and TNT playing at the beach until 1973. The youthful dance crowds were unaware that they were an extension of a Lake tradition that began with the ballroom dances at the Hotel Oneonta and the “big band” era of a half-century earlier.
During this time the Harvey’s Lake Yacht Club developed the former grounds of the Smith Flying Service into an attractive marina. The club’s membership is generally drawn from the Back Mountain and Wyoming Valley. Social activities are varied and are held in the hangar overlooking the Lake. The club’s activities are sheltered in the corner of the Lake close to where the Albert Lewis sawmill once reigned. Each Labor day the Harvey’s Lake Yacht Club holds an evening sail regatta, a lovely trail of lighted craft passing in the moonlight which traditionally closes the summer season.
In January 1965, Keefer and Company, opened a snow-skiing facility near the Outlet. The initial 700 foot slope was equipped with a rope tow and lighted for night skiing. There was a large parking area at the base with a ski lodge, restaurant and ski rental shop. Large picture windows overlooked the ski run and ski instruction was offered on weekends. Keefer sold the ski area in 1967 to investors who incorporated the Harveys Lake Ski Area, Inc. The ski area closed after the 1970-71 winter season.
Change was inevitable, especially as the Lake became a residential community. In 1964 Walbridge Lienthall began a fifteen year tenure as Lake Township Chief of Police. On September 25, 1966, Police Chief Walbridge Leinthall responded to a domestic dispute call at a Sandy Beach home. While assisting the domestic violence victim Leinthall was shot by the husband holding a .22 caliber handgun. Despite the shooting the chief was able to drive the victim to the police station where the Chief’s wife called for an ambulance to take the chief to the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital. The chief survived the shooting and the shooter was tried on a charge of assault with intent to kill by a jury in June 1967. On June 9, 1967, the jury acquitted the Defendant. The jury accepted the defense’s claim that the Defendant was unaware that the gun had discharged and injured the police chief and any discharge was accidental!
An effort was begun to create a separate borough for the Lake. A petition to incorporate Harveys Lake Borough was presented to court in November 1965. The incorporation of course, stirred the usual political controversy, but on December 6, 1966, the court dismissed objections to the incorporation plan. Harveys Lake Borough was approved for creation on January 1, 1968. The borough compromised 5.02 square miles of land taken from Lake Township and 1.30 square miles from Lehman Township, from the Sunset area to Warden Place. In November 1967, Herman Kern was elected Mayor for 1968 with an initial council of Frances D. Fisher, Arthur Gosart, Bernice Kocher, Fred A. Merrill, Jr., Walter Osko, David R. Price and Alger Shafter. Fisher was selected as Chairman of the Lake Borough Council.
The Rood family ended nearly six decades of service at the Lake when the familiar West Corner store was sold to William Purcell in 1965; it was subsequently acquired by Taft Truska in 1968. In 1967 the Sunset beach, which had attracted thousands of swimmers during the Crystal Beach days of the 1920’s and 1930’s, was largely acquired by the Sunset Beach Association; in the same year, the Harvey’s Lake Light Company, its antecedents running from the days of the Hotel Oneonta, was acquired by U.G.I.
The nearly forgotten Wright and Barnum patents to the Lake were again dredged from the historical records in 1968 when the Board of Water and Power Resources of the Pennsylvania Department of Forests and Waters planned to tax the owners of shoreline and docks at the Lake. The state agency had assumed that the Lake was owned by the Commonwealth. Counsel for the property owners at the Lake defeated the tax plan by raising the old patents, which have descended to the uncertain heirs of Wright and Barnum.
After the innovative John Hanson died in 1966, the amusement park was operated by the Hanson family for a few years. However, the park was closed during the 1972 season while ownership of the park was resolved. Donald Hanson’s Amusement Park opened in 1973, but a fire partially destroyed the dance area above the restaurant on January 1, 1973. In April 1973 the Wildwood Camp at the Lake was sold by the Girl Scouts to a private owner. Wildwood’s history is explored at www.harveyslake.org.
Two landmarks of the Golden Era would be lost to fire within a one year period in the 1970s. On early Thursday morning, August 23, 1973, the La Casa Amusement Center at Sunset, the famed La Casa club created in 1935, was totally lost in a ten-hour fire battled by 70 firemen from three area fire companies. The Center contained thirty pinball machines, pool tables and a juke box. The heat from the blaze blistered the paint on the adjacent Casino building. Then in March 1978 Richard Tattersall’s historic Lakeside Inn was destroyed in another fire.
The Lake itself finally was to receive protection when a municipal sewer authority was created to resolve the pollution issue. Line construction around the Lake was begun on February 25, 1974.
A four decade Sunset landmark began in 1979 when sisters Lily Sacco and Jeanne DeWees created the Villa Roma restaurant. In an early and more simple structure it was Jack Nothoff’s Café. Initially, Villa Roma’s menu was pizza, hoagies, stromboli, and spaghetti. Their mother, Catherine (Kasakewicz) Casey, and Lilian Sacco’s husband, Chic Sacco, were influential supporters. Chic Sacco managed the Valley Country Club, Conyngham, for 35 years. An early mentor was Joseph Mosotti, manager of West Pittston’s Fox Hill Country Club.
In 1993 Villa Roma’s owners re-opened the adjacent old Cotton Club/Flagstone building as the Villa Roma Pizza and Pasta House which operated for a few years. In October 2015 the building became the Strive Multisport Center.
Villa Roma may be generally classified as an Italian-American restaurant. It maintains its original “old world cooking with modern creativity” and retains a loyal customer base with an ambiance and welcoming atmosphere worth of company with the best experiences in the Lake’s earlier history.
Symbols of earlier times would be lost early in a new decade. In May 1980 the Pine Grove Lodge structure, formerly the Avon Inn, was partially destroyed by fire, and subsequently it was demolished. On Labor Day 1980 structural damage to the Hanson Roller Coaster closed the attraction and ended those “summer nights brought alive by the muted crash of the roller coaster.”
In mid-October 1980 Grotto Pizza owner, Joe Paglianite, announced that the Sunset landmark Casino would be demolished. He had purchased the vacant structure in 1979. The two-story building had been used as an arcade and Bingo but was now beyond reasonable repair. The site would be used to expand the Grotto and to increase parking.
In January 1980 the Harvey’s Lake Historical Society, Inc., was chartered to preserve the history of the Lake. In late August 1981 the Lake community celebrated the Lake’s discovery with a number of events, and the Harvey’s Lake Protective Association dedicated a Bicentennial Discovery historical marker which was donated to the community. It is affixed to the Borough building. During the celebratory summer, the Lake turned jade green as an algae bloom filled the Lake and closed it to water sports. The cause of the algae bloom was never fully established, but it was generally blamed on an unusual combination of environmental circumstances. The algae phenomenon was reminiscent of a grey winter season in 1895 when Wright and Barnum witnessed a similar mystery and saw their profits vanish. Ironically, the Lake waters were closed in the summer of celebration two hundred years after the summer of discovery.