A walk on the historic side in Stroudsburg

For the Pocono Record

Tough economic times, increased gas prices and an uncertain future have many people looking closer at their dwindling savings accounts and asking: How did Mom and Dad do it?

That question may require a real look back into the past.

“Many people are planning ‘staycations’ ” this year,” said Amy Leiser, executive director of Monroe County Historical Association. MCHA could have the answer to this year’s “staycation” plans with the self-guided walking tour brochure, “Stroudsburg Historical Tour.”

Visitors can pick up the brochure at Stroud Mansion, 900 Main St., or at Josephine's Fleur-De-Lis, 601 Main St., and follow the tour through Stroudsburg, strolling by buildings that were constructed as single-family homes between 1890 and 1910, along the 800 block of Main Street.

The tour begins at Stroud Mansion, which has been used for many purposes over the years, including a tavern, library and local meeting place. Catch a glance into the past by viewing some of the artifacts and antiques inside the mansion.

Allow for the luxury of a sensory overload by taking a deep breath, for visitors can truly smell history within the walls of this well-preserved example of Georgian-style architecture built in 1795 by Stroudsburg's founder and Revolutionary War colonel, Jacob Stroud.

Also along the tour, read about the historical beginnings of the Pennsylvania Power & Light Building of 1928. Take a look back through the many changes that the courthouse and Courthouse Square have encountered since Stroudsburg's earliest beginnings. And be sure to pass by the Sherman Theater, with its new marquis, designed in the same style as the one that hung outside when the theater first opened to the public in January 1929.

Many of the historical buildings outlined on the tour are still open to the public as businesses. Most of the store owners have preserved as much of the buildings' architectural history as possible, incorporating it into their store's unique character of today.

Aardvark Sports Shop, an athletic-shoe store, is one such place. The store was originally the home of Stroudsburg National Bank, circa 1893, and visitors can walk to the back and see the original bank's vault within the store.

“As they stroll through the stores along the tour, people leave with a positive feeling when they take a piece of the day home with them if they purchase some unique item that catches their eye,” Leiser said.

The walking tour itself is undergoing some changes. The first version of the brochure dates back to 1983, while the current version of the brochure is being supplemented with newly added historical markers throughout the town to be incorporated into the tour. Also in the works is an audio version of the walking tour, thus allowing the presentation of more information that can be quickly and efficiently edited to keep the content current.

Yet, viewing the architecture and reading about the heritage of Stroudsburg while taking the walking tour allows visitors to look back at how Mom and Dad may have lived.

Once reacquainted with Stroudsburg's past through the walking tour, anyone with any kind of personal history attached to Stroudsburg through relatives or ancestors will want to visit and re-visit the extensive Genealogy Library that is housed at Stroud Mansion.

The library consists of U.S. Census records, cemetery records, church and funeral home records, newspaper obituaries, maps and more than 1,300 family files dating back to 1836, when Monroe County was formed.

All of this information is provided free to members of MCHA and only $5 per reading for non-members, with staff there to assist researchers.

“It only takes a few visits to the Genealogy Library to pay for the $25 annual individual membership,” Leiser said. Family memberships are $35 per year. There are special rates for senior citizens and other membership classes as well.

Membership is open to all who are interested in preserving Monroe County history, and will provide members with free and unlimited access to the Genealogy Library, bi-monthly newsletters and access to the MCHA Web site.

The association also hosts many programs, including the annual Victorian tea, spaghetti dinner, Christmas luncheon, kids events and history programs.