Delaware Water Gap and Mount Pocono born from tourism

Part 11 of a series of articles commemorating the 175th anniversary of Monroe County

By Amy Leiser, Executive Director
Monroe County Historical Association

Borough of Delaware Water Gap

The area that would become the Borough of Delaware Water Gap was founded by Antoine Dutot, a French-born settler who emigrated from Santo Domingo in 1793.

Dutot first arrived in Philadelphia where he was encouraged to settle northward along the Delaware River. It was here that he bought large tracts of land and named his settlement, Dutotsburg, after himself. Dutot died in 1841 and did not live to see Delaware Water Gap become the bustling city he had hoped.

Delaware Water Gap became a borough on May 31, 1889 when it broke off of Smithfield Township. John F. Barteau was chosen the chief burgess at a special election held at the Kittatinny House the following month on June 18.

Interestingly, the borough’s fist official name was “Borough of Water Gap.” As it was incorporated in 1889, the names left out the word “Delaware.” The mistake was realized, and Barteau appeared before the courts on August 12, 1889 to rectify the error and amend the title to the “Borough of Delaware Water Gap.” In addition to Dutotsburg, Delaware Water Gap has also been known as “Monroe Square” and “Wolf Hollow.”

Because of the stunning landscape and majestic views, the area became an important destination for tourists starting in the 1800s. In fact, Delaware Water Gap was such a famous destination that it became the second largest inland resort in the United States (behind Saratoga Springs) and held the title of the most desirable vacation location in Pennsylvania.

The two most famous resorts were the Kittatinny Hotel and the Water Gap House.

The Kittatinny Hotel was the earliest hotel in the borough and was built in 1829 by Antoine Dutot. Originally a 25-room structure, the building expanded over the years into a 500-room hotel. The Water Gap House was built in 1872 by Luke W. Brodhead and could accommodate 275 guests.

The Glenwood House was built by Rev. Heratio Howell and welcomed 200 guests, and the Riverview House was built by John Blair and was originally known as the Lenape House. The Central House, today known as the Deerhead Inn, was built in 1885 by Samuel Overfield. In 1900, B.F. Skiurm built the Delaware House which featured a bowling alley and was located closest to the train station. Of course, there were many small boarding houses and cottages for rent.

The Delaware Water Gap Railroad Station
In 1903, the Delaware Water Gap train station was built and featured high ceilings, granite flooring, and chandeliers. This elegant structure welcomed thousands of tourists, and town and rail officials felt it was important to impress the clientele, especially since the Borough of Delaware Water Gap was the “Gateway to the Poconos.” The transportation industry goes hand-in-hand with the tourism industry.

The Presbyterian Church of the Mountain was dedicated in 1854, and the first minister was Horatio Howell. The first newspaper in Delaware Water Gap was known as the Mountain Echo, and it was first published in 1879. The first post office was opened in 1806 with Dutot serving as the first postmaster. There is only one cemetery located within the boundaries of Delaware Water Gap. The oldest headstone dates to 1840, and the cemetery is still in use today.

During the summer months, Delaware Water Gap’s population swelled with visitors. In the August 21, 1890 edition of the Stroudsburg Times, it was reported that 467 people permanently resided in the Borough. By 2010, that number increased to 746 individuals. Today, the Borough of Delaware Water Gap has the smallest population of residents of any municipality in Monroe County.

Borough of Mount Pocono

To learn more about the history of the Borough of Mount Pocono, one has to look back to the history of Coolbaugh Township (see April 2011 article on the brief history of Coolbaugh Township). The first settler in the area that would become Mount Pocono was Oliver Smith who, in 1835, opened a tavern. By 1848, the first post office was built. The Borough of Mount Pocono was incorporated on July 12, 1927. The area that was to be the new borough was taken from the southeastern corner of Coolbaugh Township and encompasses 3.8 square miles.

In the mid-1800s, the area that would become present-day Mount Pocono was known as Mount Pleasant. The area received that name because of the beautiful natural surroundings and the clean air and water that drew not only settlers, but early tourists to the region. One advertisement boasted that the area of Mount Pleasant was “free of malaria and mosquitoes.”

By 1864, Mount Pleasant was renamed Forks Station or Forks because of the major roads that intersected through the village at that time. These roads now form the 5-point intersection. According to Alfred Mathew’s 1886 book, "The History of Wayne, Pike and Monroe Counties," Forks consisted of a train station and depot, a post office, two hotels, two stores, three boarding houses, a bottling company, and roughly twenty residential dwellings.

Mathew also remarked that the town was rapidly increasing in size. The village’s name of Forks was once again changed in 1886 to Mount Pocono because of the increased importance placed on the tourism industry and for the high elevation of the area. The name “Pocono” is a derivative of the Native American term, pocohanne, meaning “a stream between mountains.”

At the time, Mount Pocono was the second largest vacation destination in Pennsylvania, just behind Delaware Water Gap. Visitors descended on this Pocono destination by the thousands each summer. These tourists arrived to the Mount Pocono Train Station, which was built in 1886, by the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad. Visitors scattered into the numerous hotels and boarding houses that the area had to offer.

Postcard of The Montanesca Hotel in Mount Pocono, dated September 28, 1908.
By the turn of the 20th century, resorts and boarding houses of all sizes could be found in Mount Pocono. Some of the larger hotels were five floors tall and could accommodate hundreds of guests, while smaller boarding houses welcomed no more than 30 people at a time. One of the larger resorts, The Montanesca, boasted amenities such as electric lights, an elevator, and steam heat in every room.

The Mount Pleasant House was built in 1877 and could provide lodging for 150 guests. The Pocono Heights House accommodated 40 visitors and boasted its property to be, “delightfully pleasant” with “perfect sanitary conditions.” Mrs. Widdoss ran The Casa Loma Cottage which held 20 guests and cost $1.50 per day in 1912. Unfortunately, many of these destinations burned down or were razed over the years.

As the town’s population began to grow, especially during the summer months, churches were erected to accommodate both the Mount Pocono residents and visitors. Construction of the St. Mary’s of the Mount Catholic Church began on April 5, 1909 and was completed when Bishop Hoban dedicated the church and blessed the cornerstone in 1912. The Mount Pocono Methodist Church began services in 1886, and the Lutheran Church offered a place of worship later in 1963 with Rev. Melvin Pingel serving as the first minister.

The first mayor of the Borough of Mount Pocono in 1927 was Lewis T. Smith. The first census taken for the Borough of Mount Pocono in 1930 recorded 568 individuals living within the Borough’s limits. According to the 2010 census reports, the number of residents increased to 3,170 people.