Delaware Water Gap: A Brief History

Delaware Water Gap: A Brief History

As a sunflower seed needs fertile earth, an adequate supply of water, mild temperatures, and plenty of sunlight to grow, so too, a resort community, in order to flower, requires specific conditions.

For Delaware Water Gap, those conditions existed during the last half of the nineteenth, and the first third of the twentieth centuries. During that period, America’s vacation habits and the limitations of transportation, coupled with the scenic beauty of the area and the entrepreneurial spirit of some local residents, conspired to transform the tiny borough into the heart of one of the most popular inland resort areas in the eastern United States. Each summer during that period its year-round population of about 400 was augmented by approximately 2500 visitors, many of whom stayed the entire season.

Life before indoor plumbing, super highways, and air-conditioning is hard to imagine for those of us who did not experience it. Summer, for city dwellers especially, must have been unpleasant and even unhealthful.

Depending on individual economic circumstances, urbanites responded to unbearable summer heat in a number of ways. The wealthiest escaped for the entire season to Bar Harbor, Newport, or to other playgrounds of the rich. Working class and lower middle class Philadelphians traveled to Atlantic City to enjoy the cool sea breezes and the ever-present holiday atmosphere. For New Yorkers, Coney Island served as the destination of choice every year. Not everyone, though, preferred the excitement and noise of these two seaside playgrounds.

Many more prosperous middle-class city dwellers opted for the refreshing mountain air and the scenic beauty of America’s inland resort areas, one of which was Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania.

The Settlement of Delaware Water Gap

In 1793, when Antoine Dutot arrived in the area with the intention of founding a city, the vicinity just north of the geological formation known as the Delaware Water Gap, had been the site of human habitation for thousands of years. Known as the Minisink by the Lenni-Lenapes, it is estimated that the area was first inhabited by the Paleo-Indians as early as 10,000 to 12,000 B.C. When the first white men reached the region in 1614, they encountered the Minsi tribe of the Wolf Clan of the Lenni-Lenape Nation (the Lenni-Lenape were commonly referred to as the Delaware Indians because they ranged from the headwaters of the Delaware River to the shores of the Delaware Bay).

The Minisink was first explored by Europeans in 1614 by three travelers from New Amsterdam who descended from the Hudson River. They were followed in 1620 by a second group of Dutchmen who, in their report, referred to mineral deposits, especially copper, present in the region. At some point subsequent to the 1620 visit, the Dutch started to mine the copper (a reference to copper ore mined in the Minisink appeared in a 1641 journal article originating in the New Netherlands). In order to get the ore from the mines (which still exist about three miles north of the gap on the New Jersey side of the river) to Esopus (Kingston, New York), the mining company built a road connecting the two. It was along this one hundred mile-long road that the first settlers reached the Minisink.

Copper mining ceased in 1664 when the Dutch surrendered New York to the English. The Copper Mine Road continued to be used, though, by Dutch, English, French, and even some Spanish and German settlers who colonized the eastern side of the river north of the Gap. The first settler on the west bank of the Delaware River in the Minisink was Nicolas Depui who, in 1727, moved his family from the Hudson Valley to present day Shawnee.

Due to the difficulty of travel through the Gap (the mountains reached right down to the river leaving no room for a road or path), settlers in the Minisink knew little or nothing of settlements to the south. In 1730, Thomas Penn, son of William, sent Nicholas Scull on an expedition from Philadelphia to the Minisink to investigate rumors of settlements there. As a result of Scull’s visit, Depui was required to repurchase land from William Allen (who had obtained it from Penn) that he had previously bought from the Indians. After Scull’s sojourn, settlers from south of the mountains began to travel into the area. (Northern-bound settlers reached the area via Wind Gap.) It was not until the end of the eighteenth century, however, that the flow from the south eclipsed that of the north.


A settler from present-day Albany, Daniel Brodhead, moved his family to the area in 1737. Settling in present-day East Stroudsburg, Brodhead lent his name to the new town of Dansbury. The Indian wars of mid-eighteenth century led to a thinning of settlers as many moved away to avoid hostilities. By the time another settler, Jacob Stroud, returned to the area after the Revolutionary War, the Indian threat had been eliminated. Stroud was able to acquired several abandoned farms at very little cost. By 1806, he owned so much land that the area in which he lived began to be called Stroudsburg.

Delaware Water Gap remained unsettled long after settlements nearby had grown. In 1793, Antoine Dutot, a French plantation owner in Santa Domingo, fled the slave uprising there and headed toward Philadelphia. Upon arriving in the Quaker city, Dutot was advised to travel up the Delaware River to the Gap, where he purchased a large tract of land and began to lay out an inland city. He erected a dozen or more wooden buildings, designated a triangular piece of ground for a market, and named the new town after himself. Dutotsburg never became the bustling city its founder had envisioned, however. People moving into the tiny borough built their own houses and Dutot’s structures fell into disrepair. Eventually Dutotsburg became known as the borough of Delaware Water Gap, probably in order to benefit from the inherent advertising benefits associated with the well-known geological formation.

Early Growth of the Resorts

The natural beauty of the Delaware Water Gap proved to be an attraction to people traveling through the area. As early as 1820, visitors began staying in the small town where they roomed with local families in order to enjoy the scenery. Conscious of the possibilities, Dutot began constructing a small hotel overlooking the Delaware River in 1829. By 1832, however, he had run out of money and sold the incomplete building to Samuel Snyder. Snyder enlarged and completed the hotel which he named the Kittatinny. The new structure could accommodate twenty-five people and was filled the first season it opened. William A. Brodhead rented the Kittatinny from 1841 to 1851, when he bought it and increased its capacity to sixty. Over the next fifteen years the Kittatinny’s size was increased on four separate occasions, first under William Brodhead, and, after 1857, under its new manager, Luke W. Brodhead. By 1860, the hotel could accommodate two hundred and fifty guests.

The success of the Kittatinny led to the establishment of other hotels. In addition, families opened their homes to visitors as a means of augmenting their income. At least one private home gradually grew into a full-fledged resort (the River Farm). By the Civil War, Delaware Water Gap’s popularity as a resort area was becoming well-known throughout the northeastern United States. The strained economy of the war years led to a decline in the budding resort industry, but the reconstruction period found city dwellers once again traveling to the Gap. By 1867, the Brainerd, the Lenape, the Glenwood, the River Farm, and the Arlington, had joined the Kittatinny in offering accommodations to visitors. On June 20th, 1872, a new hotel that rivaled the Kittatinny in size and splendor, the Water Gap House, opened its doors.

Water Gap’s Popularity

“Delaware Water Gap was the second largest inland resort town in the United States after the Civil War (ranking behind Saratoga Springs, N.Y.), and its clientele were the upper classes of Philadelphia and New York.” So says one writer about the area. Although such rankings are hard to quantify, it is clear that the Gap enjoyed a national reputation for its resorts and drew prominent financiers, politicians, and society people from the time of the Civil War until World War I. Even a United States President visited the town (Theodore Roosevelt visited the Water Gap House on August 2, 1910). A publisher of world famous guide books in the nineteenth century included Delaware Water Gap among the fifteen scenic marvels of the United States. In 1906, an advertising pamphlet estimated that over one-half million people visited the Gap annually.

Unlike today’s vacationer who may stay at a hotel for only one night or perhaps a week, Victorian Americans would often spend an entire season at their favorite resort — no doubt as a means of escaping the insufferable summer heat in the city. It was the custom among those families who could afford it to pack mom and the kids off to a hotel in the country for the entire summer where the father would join them on weekends. Summer visitors returned to the same resort year after year, calling it their second home.

What did the Gap have that attracted city visitors? According to Luke W. Brodhead, one of the managers of the Kittatinny and author of a book about the history and legends of the Gap:

The principal sources of amusement and recreation are the rambles over miles of mountain paths with vistas of great beauty opening at frequent intervals; carriage drives in many directions over a picturesque and interesting country; steamboat and rowboat service, and good bass fishing on the river in season and trout fishing in the adjacent streams.

“Perhaps the featuring asset of the Gap, aside from its beautiful gorge, through which flows the placid Delaware, is its health giving atmosphere, which permeates everywhere and which in itself has given the region much of its charm and popularity.” This claim was made by an author extolling the beauty of the area in a book published in 1897. Whether the “atmosphere” in the region is any more healthful than anywhere else is, of course, open to debate. Nevertheless, that theme was played repeatedly in advertisements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. “The atmosphere is pure and dry, always cool evenings, and even at mid-day seldom so warm as to be uncomfortable. The whole region is free from mosquitoes or malaria.” (This from an 1895 book.) As early as 1866, the local newspaper, The Jeffersonian Republican , ran a story reporting that the hotels and boarding houses were full; thus city people were escaping the danger of cholera. In 1873, Doctor F. Wilson Hurd decided that Monroe County would be an ideal spot for his Wesley Water Cure. The Water Cure of Experiment Mills (later the Water Gap Sanitarium) was built near the present Quality Inn just off the Marshall’s Creek exit of Rt. 80, and was instrumental in increasing the influx of visitors to the area.

For the last quarter of the nineteenth century the Gap’s popularity earned it repeated mention in The New York Times . During the summer season, four to five articles a month appeared in that paper written by a correspondent in the town.

In order for families to take advantage of Delaware Water Gap as a vacation spot, good transportation was needed to insure that the patriarch could travel back to the city for the week’s labor. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, good transportation (inland) meant railroads.

Transportation to the Gap


As we have seen, the natural barrier of the Blue Mountains led to early settlement of the area by people moving south from the Hudson River valley instead of north from Philadelphia. Prior to 1800, when Abram B. Giles constructed a wagon road through it, the Delaware Water Gap was not considered a practical passage north or south. Only rough Indian trails wound round the base of the mountains on both sides of the river. (A main Indian trail, upon which a road was later built by colonists, wound through what is now called the Wind Gap as it passed over the mountains.) Shortly after Giles completed his road, a visitor traveled the route and described it as a:

wagon road leading between the mountain’s edge & the river & which all the labour of the inhabitants have been ineffectual to make more than about 8 feet wide or to clear from excessive roughness as it leads over one rough hillock to another the whole distance.

Around 1799, in anticipation of the completion of the road, Benjamin Bonham constructed a small inn along it — the first in a town later to become famous for its hotels.

Antoine Dutot built a road in 1798 from his saw mill, below where the Kittatinny once stood, to the site of his planned city. A few years later he obtained a charter for a toll-road and extended his existing road to the River Farm where it connected with one running from Shawnee to Tatamy Gap. Although he set up a toll-gate along the way, he had trouble collecting tolls. In 1823, his road was superseded by one built by the state.

In order to meet the needs of the growing county, roads were widen and improved, and stagecoach lines began to operate. By 1846, a passenger and mail stagecoach stopped in Stroudsburg on the way to Milford from Easton three times a week. By that time, the road through the Gap was sufficiently improved to carry stagecoach travel.


A common ingredient in the success of the towns of Delaware Water Gap, Atlantic City, and Coney Island as resorts was the existence of railroads. The introduction of rail service to these areas resulted in their increased popularity (in fact, Atlantic City did not exist until a rail line was built to the New Jersey shore).

In the early nineteenth century, Henry Drinker, owner of large tracts of land in northeastern Pennsylvania, dreamed of a rail line between the coal fields of Lackawanna County and the Delaware Water Gap. Drinker hoped to connect his line with one into New York, thus improving the marketability of the anthracite coal that had been discovered in the valley. It was not until March 11, 1853, however, that the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad was formed from the consolidation of two smaller lines. On January 21, 1856, the first train ran from Scranton to the Delaware River five miles below the Gap. It could go no further because the Warren Railroad in New Jersey was not yet open. By May 13 of that year, though, trains could travel from Great Bend (north of Scranton) to New York (actually the route terminated at Elizabethport, New Jersey, opposite the northwest tip of Staten Island). The Southern Division of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad was officially opened on May 27, 1856. A train leaving New York at 7:30 in the morning arrived in Delaware Water Gap at 1:15 that afternoon, a trip of almost six hours.

With the intention of gaining access to a terminal closer to Manhattan, the D.L.& W. signed a lease with the Morris & Essex Railroad on December 10, 1868. The lease provided that the D.L.& W. would take over the Morris and Essex on December 31, 1868; thus Hoboken, right across the Hudson from New York City, became the D.L.& W.’s New York station. A ferry ran from the Hoboken terminal to the foot of Christopher Street, directly across the river in Manhattan, and to the foot of Barclay Street which is further downtown. The changes cut over an hour from the trip to the Water Gap.

In 1900, William Truesdale, president of the D.L.& W., perceived that a new route was needed across New Jersey to forestall competitors from gaining the upper hand in passenger traffic. During 1906 and 1907, three studies were conducted to examine the feasibility of shortening the trip from New York to the Gap. It was decided to build a new route from Lake Hopatcong to Slateford, Pennsylvania. The following account, published in a history of the D.L.& W., illustrates the enormity of the new line (commonly called the New Jersey Cut-Off):

The country to be crossed was anything but level. Valleys and roads ran north and south; the railroad ran east and west. There were to be no grade crossings. The new route would require 28.5 miles of new track, two large viaducts, and a fill three miles long and from 75 to 140 feet high. West of the Pequest fill, as it was named, were six miles of continuous cuts and fills. There were thirteen fills, most of which were about fifty feet high, and with fifteen cuts with the big Cut west of Johnsonburg being a maximum of one hundred feet deep and a mile long.

Truesdale staked the future of his railroad on the success of the new line. Finished on December 24, 1911, at a cost of $11,065,511.43, the new route was a fast and smooth downhill run of twenty-eight miles. It cut eleven miles and twenty-seven minutes off the trip from New York.

In 1895, it cost $2.55 for a ticket from New York to the Gap. Ten years later, it cost twenty cents less. By 1933, the price was up to $2.82. With faster trains and more efficient scheduling, the time it took the train to reach Water Gap from Barclay Street gradually decreased. In 1959, it took just under three hours. Passenger service on the D.L.& W. ended on January 5, 1970.

Another railroad company, the New York, Susquehanna & Western, provided passenger service to the area. Starting on October 24, 1882, the N.Y.,S.& W. ran from Weehawken, New Jersey and stopped in North Water Gap (Minisink Hills), and in Stroudsburg (near the present V.F.W.). The line crossed the Delaware just north of the Route 80 toll bridge (its stone supports can still be seen in the river). N.Y.,S.& W. service to the Poconos ended in 1940.

Passenger service from Philadelphia to the Gap was available on the Belvidere-Delaware Railroad (Trenton to Belvidere). Sometime around 1850, the Belvidere-Delaware extended its track to Manuka Chunk where it connected with the Warren Railroad. Passenger service was provided until October 4, 1947. (The line had earlier been absorbed by the Pennsylvania Railroad.)


On July 10, 1907, The Mountain View Line, connecting Delaware Water Gap with existing trolley lines in Stroudsburg, began operations. During the school year, the trolley served as a school bus, charging students fifteen cents each way.

Meanwhile, trackage was being laid south of the Blue Mountain by the Lehigh Valley Traction Company that would eventually reach the Water Gap resorts. In connection with that company, on August 28, 1905, the Bangor and Portland Traction Company entered Portland from the west, having underpassed the Delaware, Lackawanna and Delaware tracks after a three year conflict. Railroad companies were reluctant to allow trolleys, their competitors, to cross rail lines. The plan was to continue the line into Stroudsburg, but the Lehigh and New England Railroad Company refused permission for trolley tracks to be laid across their rails, and the extension to the resorts was abandoned. Tourists from Philadelphia could travel north on the trolley to Nazareth where they had to change cars. From Nazareth they traveled on the Slate Belt Electric Railway Company’s cars to Bangor where they switched cars again to those of the Bangor and Portland Traction Company. At Portland, passengers could ride a bus into Water Gap, or they could take the D.L.& W. The first “Delaware Water Gap Limited” left Chestnut Hill at 9:30 on the morning of July 17, 1908, and reached the Gap six hours and forty minutes later.

Wanting to gain access to the resorts at Water Gap for their “Liberty Bell” route, the Lehigh Valley Traction Company invested $50,000 in the Water Gap and Portland Street Railway Company. On February 21, 1911, portions of the mountain at the narrowest part of the Gap were dynamited to permit space for the tracks. By October, trolleys were running between Stroudsburg and Portland on the newly created Stroudsburg, Water Gap and Portland Railway Company. Open, screen-sided double truck cars painted lemon-yellow were in service in the summer and enclosed cars were used the rest of the year.

On April 1, 1910, the Lehigh Valley Traction Company announced an arrangement with the Philadelphia and Western Railway Company to use part of its line. The use of this track with its terminal at the 69th Street Station in Upper Darby was part of a larger upgrading of the entire rail system. By 1912, passengers could make the entire trip from Upper Darby to Portland without changing cars. Passengers dined during scheduled dinner stops at hotels in either Allentown, Rittersville, Bethlehem, or Nazareth. Alterations made to the cars on the Water Gap route for the comfort of passengers on the long ride included black leather seats with arm rests; baggage racks; carpeted floors; iced drinking water facilities; a uniformed “tour guide” who pointed out points of interest along the way; and a flashy, newly painted Liberty Bell Limited sign. At Portland, where the Lehigh and New England still refused a right-of-way to the trolley, passengers had to pick up their bags, get off one trolley and walk across the L.N.& E. tracks, and then board another trolley for the ride into Delaware Water Gap.

Direct service to Portland was short-lived. Before the 1913 vacation season opened, continuous service on the Water Gap route was canceled. Passengers had to change cars in Allentown.

In addition to the Liberty Bell Route, the Delaware Valley Route of the Philadelphia and Easton Transit company ran a trolley from Philadelphia to the Gap between the years 1908 to 1915. The journey took six hours and cost $2.40 round-trip. North of Easton the line was called the Blue Mountain Route and continued in service until November 25, 1926. From Bangor to Portland the route shared L.V.T. Company’s tracks.

In 1917, the Stroudsburg, Water Gap and Portland Railway Company became the Stroudsburg Traction Company. The growing popularity of the automobile, however, rang the death-knell of the trolleys. On March 20, 1926, the Bangor-Portland was abandoned and the right-of-way was sold to Northhampton County for construction of a new highway between Portland and Mount Bethel. In November of the same year, the lease of the right-of-way between Portland and Water Gap, which was owned by the D.L.& W., was canceled thus ending service between the two towns. Stroudsburg Traction Company ceased operations in 1928 after trying unsuccessfully to compete with growing bus lines. The last trolley in Stroudsburg ran on September 8. In commemoration several hundred people turned out to witness the end of an era. A local band played “The Old Grey Mare Ain’t What She Used To Be.”

The Mountain Echo

For a time, beginning in 1879, Delaware Water Gap had its own newspaper. Called The Mountain Echo , the small, seasonal paper focused on activities at the hotels and on local places of interest. The editor was local photographer Jesse A. Graves. One of the services dutifully carried out by the periodical was the listing of all the guests staying at the various resorts.

The Hotels

A 1909 guide to summer resorts in the area had this to say about Delaware Water Gap:

Its quota of hotels is second to none in the Unites States. They compare favorably with those in any other section of the country in size and attractiveness and are comparable only to the very finest in the matter or cuisine.

It is difficult to accurately determine how many hotels operated in the Gap. A search in surviving pamphlets and newspapers for advertisements reveal evidence of only the larger establishments. In addition, as some hotels changed owners, they also changed names, further clouding the issue. Nevertheless, it is estimated that the town of 400 permanent residents could accommodate over 2500 people. Long-time Water Gap resident Casey Drake remembers that, as a boy, the town was so crowded in the summer that it was often difficult to walk down the street.

The two largest and perhaps best known of the hotels were the Kittatinny and the Water Gap House. The Kittatinny was located at the present site of the overlook along Rt. 611 just south of the borough. Part of its foundation still stands beneath the spot from which visitors look out at the Delaware River and the Rt. 80 bridge. The same view was enjoyed by guests of the Kittatinny as they stood on the hotel’s large veranda. In 1874, the Brodhead brothers increased the hotel’s capacity to 275. Then, in 1892, the building was razed to make room for a larger, more elegant New Kittatinny. Able to accommodate 500 guests, the hotel boasted, in addition to spectacular views and cool breezes, the following:

Electric lights, elevators, steam heat, running mountain spring water in rooms [and a mountain stream running under the kitchen — which can still be seen from the Rt. 80 bridge], private baths, etc. Noted for its cuisine and service, and the hotel’s farm gives to the table products “par Excellence.” …Bell phone 92; telegraph office in hotel, orchestra, social diversions.

A 1908 advertisement lists G. Frank Cope as proprietor. Similarly, one from 1917 lists John Purdy Cope as owner.

The Water Gap House was located above the Kittatinny on Sunset Hill (so named because when one stands facing east on the hill one can see the shadows on the mountain across the Delaware slowly rise as the sun sets in the West). Opened by Luke W. Brodhead on June 20, 1872, the Water Gap House had first and second story piazzas twelve to fifteen feet wide and 650 feet long looking out over one of the finest views in the area. In keeping with the mores of the times, Brodhead built the hotel with no bar.

In 1908, the Water Gap House was completely rebuilt at a cost of over $100,000. John Purdy Cope, its new owner, advertised its attractions in the June 14, 1908 edition of The New York Times:

Capacity, 300. A MOUNTAIN PARADISE; highest altitude, coolest location, always a breeze, no humidity…. Commanding views for 30 miles in every direction of the grandest scenery east of the Rockies. Hotel is surrounded by its magnificent park of Old Shades, Rhododendron, Wild Flowers, Rare Plants, and Fine Lawns. …entertaining refined, high-class patronage. Running mountain spring water and stationery stands in all rooms. Fifty private tile bats, also public baths. …Telephones and telegraphs. Solariums and balconies on all floors. Steam heat, open log fireplaces. Electric lights. Hydraulic elevator. Most modern sanitary arrangements. …Hotel supplied from own greenhouse and farm with early vegetables and poultry. Milk from our own dairy of registered cows. Every outdoor sport and indoor amusement. Orchestra and frequent social functions. Private riding academy with high-class saddle horses and instructors; nine-hole golf links; garage and livery — all within the grounds. Coaches meet all trains.

The Glenwood House opened its doors to summer visitors in 1862 after serving for a while as a boy’s academy. In 1897, it was catering to 200 guests, was opened from May to November, and could boast private balconies on the second floor. A 1909 advertisement claimed a capacity of 400. The Glenwood also supplied its tables with fresh fruits and vegetables from its own farm. Of the old resort-hotels, the Glenwood is the only one still operating as a resort today. (The Central House, now the Deer Head Inn, still functions as a rooming house and its bar enjoys a reputation as something of a jazz mecca.)

The Castle Inn opened for business in 1909, and was the last of the great hotels built in the Gap. When it opened it had 112 guest rooms, a ball room, recreation rooms, its own power plant, and its own freezing plant.

The Bellevue was known by two other names over the years. First it was the Juniper Grove House, and later it was called the Arlington. As the Bellevue, it could sleep 150 guests and claimed to be the popular hotel for young people. A big selling point for this and some of the other hotels was their proximity to the train station.

The hotel located closest to the station was the Delaware House, which was situated just across the street. Open all year, the Delaware House could accommodate 50 people and offered, in addition to the normal activities such as fishing, boating, and bathing, also bowling, pool, and billiards.

The Riverview, also located near the station, had a capacity of 250. The Mountain House could hold eighty guests, and the Forest House could hold 100.

These are just some of the hotels located in the Gap (a list follows). Many hotels, while not located in Delaware Water Gap, nevertheless maintained an address in town in hopes of benefiting from the Gap’s popularity. The Karamac, for instance, was located across the river in New Jersey, and yet advertised its Delaware Water Gap address.

The End of an Era

At five o’clock in the afternoon of Thursday, November 11, 1915, workmen, helping to close the Water Gap House for the winter, discovered a fire which had broken out in one of the guest rooms of the hotel. An alarm was sounded and several fire companies responded; but their efforts were in vain. Though a light rain was falling at the time, the entire structure was leveled in only a matter of hours. The loss was estimated at between $150,000 and $200,000. Four days after the fire, it was announced that a new hotel, as large as the Water Gap House, would be built on the same site. The planned hotel was to be fire-proof and, hopefully, would be open for some of the 1916 season. The hotel was never built.

Cope experienced another disaster in 1931, when the Kittatinny burned to the ground. He and his family were awakened at four o’clock on the morning of October 30, by a passing motorist who had seen flames coming from the Kittatinny. By six o’clock, the entire structure was engulfed — a loss of between $500,000 and $750,000.

Why was neither hotel rebuilt? Over the years the Poconos have continued to be a major resort region. Delaware Water Gap, however, has steadily declined as a resort community. Part of the answer for the Gap’s decline as a resort lay with changing transportation trends; there was a clear symbiotic relationship between the resort and transportation industries in the town and surrounding area. The large hotels were in an ideal location to benefit from the easy access that the rail lines and trolleys provided. The hotels also furnished the varied transportation companies with a “draw” or need for transportation which the various companies were eager to fulfill. As the business of travel matured into the automobile oriented industry of today, however, the demand for the large hotels located on rail lines diminished. The popularity of the automobile after World War I, in part, changed the way people took vacations. No longer tied to the rail system for transportation, a whole new concept of vacationing developed. In 1909, a story in The New York Times anticipated this trend when it reported that a weekend outing with the entire family, stopping for a night’s lodging at some comfortable but not too expensive hotel, was superseding the summer-long separation of the father from his family.

The automobile was only part of the answer though. Tough economic times of the 1930’s erected a hurdle that, in combination with other factors mentioned, proved too high for Water Gap’s resorts to overcome. When the resort industry began to expand after World War II, Delaware Water Gap seemed, for the most part, content to let the resurgence pass the town by. Many of the small boarding houses were converted into private residences. Most of the old hotels were either destroyed by fire, were closed, or continued to operate as best they could under changed conditions. Water Gap’s heyday as a resort had come to an end.

Written by Martin W. Wilson, Ph.D.
Postcards Courtesy of Lucy Kosmerl

Pocono Perspectives with Dr. Martin Wilson
Pocono Perspectives with Dr. Martin Wilson