Features appear in each issue of Pennsylvania Heritage showcasing a variety of subjects from various periods and geographic locations in Pennsylvania.

Hidden high in the mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania­ – about a dozen miles north of Hazleton and less than half that distance south of Wilkes­-Barre – lies a small late nineteenth century retreat known to very few. Developed by coal barons and the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company in 1882, the hamlet’s fifty distinctive “summer cottages,” with equally distinctive names such as Stony Croft, El Nido, Oakwold, Breezy Top, Graystone Terrace, and Cnoc Tara, are commodious, ii not grand. In dramatic contrast to what most may envision for the hardscrabble, hard coal region, a modest cottage may have sixteen rooms, including servants’ quarters, furnished with marble fireplaces, massive chandeliers, and the finest woodwork. Others once boasted carriage houses, extensive gardens, gazebos, children’s playhouses, and bridle paths. Nearly all of the cottages were built with sweeping verandahs from which owners can handily survey the vista from the picturesque mountain retreat, rising more than seventeen hundred feet above sea level.

John Emmett Patterson (1838-1925), a Wilkes-Barre businessman, hiked the forests and happened upon a glen with several springs and brooks. An entrepreneur at heart, he envisioned a hotel and restaurant atop the mountain, where Lehigh Valley Railroad trains would stop, rather than at White Haven, about twelve miles to the southeast. Patterson’s idea, as well as his glowing report of abundant water, intrigued the railroad’s board of direc­tors, which purchased several hundred acres and organized the Glen Summit Hotel and Land Company on December 22, 1882. The company’s shareholders would later become summer colonists of what Patterson’s wife Julia had christened Glen Summit Springs.

Since one of the railroad company’s tracks skirted the lower portion of the proposed mountain resort, it provided ready access to the otherwise remote area. The Glen Summit Hotel and Land Company’s first undertaking was the construction of a sprawling hotel which could accommo­date two hundred and fifty guests. Begun in 1883 under Patterson’s supervision and completed the following year, the Glen Summit Hotel housed a Viennese cafe, a large dining room, a dance hall, and reception, reading, and writing rooms. A grand hotel in every sense of the word, the Glen Summit Hotel was the site of many parties and galas during the season, including masquer­ade balls, dinner parties, dances, a spirited “Farmer Dance,” and a lavish “Toboggan Carnival and Costume Ball.” Not only did the hotel attract the affluent of Wilkes-Barre and neighboring Luzerne County communities, but it became a summer haven for wealthy New Yorkers and Philadelphians for nearly five decades.

“The railroad really started the whole thing when it built the hotel to house people who wanted to get out of the city to a place where the air was good and the water excellent,” recalls Dr. Samuel Buckman, a resident of Glen Summit Springs and a former Glen Summit Company board member and president.

But the Glen Summit Hotel was only the beginning of improvements launched by the hotel and land company. Adjacent to the Glen Summit Hotel the company built a restaurant, as well as recre­ational buildings that housed a bowling alley, shuffleboard area, and billiard facilities. In addition to the hotel and early attractions, the Glen Summit Hotel and Land Company in 1888 excavated a field and dammed Indian Spring to feed it, thus creating Fountain Lake, located about one mile from the hotel. The lake was so named by company officials for a fountain placed in its center. In 1899, the first boathouse and bathhouses, designed by Thomas Podmore, were built on the shores of Fountain Lake. For many years the boathouse was the site of elaborate teas and parties given by the summer colony’s hostesses.

Recognizing the abundance of the resort’s natural spring water, Glen Summit Springs’ founders constructed several reservoirs for both aesthetics and commerce. Along a road near Fountain Lake two gazebos were constructed around springs ringed with cement to form pools. On warm summer afternoons hotel guests and resort residents would laze about the ornate Victorian period structures. Near the hotel, the Glen Summit Land Company erected a wooden foot bridge above a stream, not far from a twenty-five foot waterfall, reportedly the inspiration for Julia Patterson’s naming it Glen Summit Springs. There were also tennis courts, croquet grounds, and a children’s wading pool, christened “Kid Wallow” by one of the settlement’s earliest residents. In 1934-1935, a Tennis House was built by the Colony Club, a women’s group which sponsored golf and tennis tournaments, teas, garden parties, outdoor plays, lawn bazaars, and dances in the casino. The year after its construction, Benjamin Harold Carpenter, author of The History of Glen Summit Springs, wrote that the Tennis House, built at a cost of thirty-eight hundred dollars, was entirely funded by voluntary contribu­tions. He also recalled its ambiance. “As we sit on the flagstone terrace under the gaily striped awning watching a game of tennis or enjoying a buffet lunch served in the tastefully furnished living room, we wonder how we ever got along without this Tennis House, the gathering place of the whole settlement.”

The summer retreat’s founders bottled water for distribution throughout the Keystone State. To this day, the Glen Summit Water Company markets its acclaimed “natural spring water.”

Property owners sensed the importance of their surround­ings and, like the company, approached the building and landscaping of their cottages with care. One residence, high atop the peak of the mountain and named The Windmill, is constructed with three-tiered porches facing westward to capture the sunset. Another is landscaped with a rustic rock garden which includes terraces, fountains, and gazebos. The most striking house in Glen Summit Springs is Graystone Terrace, designed by the architectural firm of McCormick and French and built in 1914-1915 by Fred M. Kirby, a founder and vice president of the F. W. Woolworth Company and a director of the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company.

Kirby’s palatial stone house, which retains its swimming pool, tennis court, and formal gardens, was built of conglomerate rock exca­vated at Rocky Glen in Lackawanna County. On his return in 1924 from a trip around the world, Kirby engaged Japanese gardeners to design a Japanese garden, replete with lily ponds, bamboo tea houses, Oriental statuary and traditional Eastern garden decorations, plantings and paths of red shale. Until 1925, when the Pennsylvania Power and Light Company inaugurated service to Glen Summit Springs, a windmill on the grounds of Graystone Terrace helped pump water from a well driven six hundred feet below the surface.

“The landscaping in the residential section of Glen Summit Springs was all man­made,” recalls Buckman. “Early pictures show only low scrub oak and huckleberry bushes next to these newly-­built homes. Property owners planted all the trees as well as flower and vegetable gar­dens.” In 1930, three thousand pine seedlings were purchased from the Commonwealth for the princely sum of thirty dollars and planted near Fountain Lake and throughout Glen Summit Springs. Martha A. Maffet, who occupied Oakwold, leased land on Kirby Avenue for a tree nursery, from which she sold thou­sands of evergreens to fellow cottage owners to beautify their mountainside properties. Indeed, the grounds of the cottages reflected the perva­sive power and wealth – as well as the creativity – of the summer colonists.

Not only were the residents of Glen Summit Springs concerned with the pursuit of leisure, but they prided themselves on their intellectual development and religious endeavors, to which they donated considerable amounts of both money and time. Prompted by Cornelia Hillman, cottage owners organized to erect a cedar­-shingled chapel, complete with bell tower and organ, for residents and hotel guests. Financed completely by donations, the Glen Summit Chapel – built in 1888 in what Benjamin Harold Carpenter described in 1936 as “a rustic type of architecture suitable for a mountain colony”­offered a place for religious services, which had previously been conducted in the music room of the hotel.

“Early, when transportation was not so easy to go to Wilkes-Barre for church,” remembers Samuel Buckman, “residents attended twelve services – four Methodist, four Presbyterian, and four Episcopalian – here in Glen Summit Springs during the summer months. Each preacher was usually from a church in Wilkes-Barre. He came for the service, stayed for Sunday dinner, and then either went home or stayed the night at the hotel.” Among those who led worship services were Episcopalian Bishop Frank W. Sterrett and Methodist Bishop William F. Anderson. For several years a Sunday School, including a Bible class taught by Philadelphian Mary Schott, was held in the Glen Summit Chapel. In 1895, residents formed the Glen Summit Chapel Association to care for the building and grounds, and to schedule visiting ministers for Sunday services. During the late 1890s, ministers received twenty-five dollars for each Sunday they spent conducting services in Glen Summit Springs. Although marriage ceremonies were performed in the chapel, many were conducted on the lawns and in the picturesque gardens of the cottages. J. F. Glasby of Elizabeth, New Jersey, and Sally Stull were the first couple married in the Glen Summit Hotel in 1892.

For decades Glen Summit Springs was, in every sense of the word, a retreat. Far from the rigors of business obliga­tions, charitable works, and civic duties of everyday life in the city, summer colonists could indulge themselves with a variety of “entertainments.” In addition to attending concerts and recitals at the hotel, residents gave a seem­ingly endless round of dinners and lavish parties. John and Jennie Haddock transformed the verandah of their Glen Side Road cottage, Cnoc Tara, into the S.S. Merrytimeia for “a cruise to the Friendly Islands on Wednesday afternoon, September the tenth, 1913, at five o’clock.” And what a cruise it was!

In his 1936 history of Glen Summit Springs, Ben­jamin Harold Carpenter captured the exuberance of one of the resort’s most memorable “amusements.”

As it was a long delayed ocean trip, Mr. and Mrs. Haddock wished to make it an event, and they succeeded uncommonly well.

The gangplank ran from the port side porch of the Merrytimeia to the dock below.

Standing on the dock inter­rupting all the passengers as they tried to get to the gangplank was Mrs. Mabel Haddock Jones, dressed as an Irish immigrant woman, selling to whoever would buy, laces, beads, ribbons, etc., and those who would not buy received her blessings in not too polite language.

Miss Juliet Hollenback, dressed as an Italian immigrant, was also trying to sell to the passengers, with indifferent success, each girl with a crowd of children hanging on to her skirt, all dressed for the part.

Dr. Clive Smith, Charles Waller and Phil Hand were dressed as Customs Officers in full uniform, and did their duty.

Jack Haddock, impersonating a large fat woman, tried to smuggle goods, dresses and silks aboard which he had sewn up under his hoopskirts, and there were several scraps between him and the Customs Officers, who found it necessary to search him.

Captain John C. Haddock and his First Mate, Jennie S. Haddock, standing on the deck, received the passengers, all being in nautical costume, as they were arriving by horse and carriage or by automo­biles of the day.

All the lower windows of the house were transformed into portholes, refreshments were served at the long tables in the dining salon, and the ship’s concert, held on the starboard side of the house, with the porch for a stage, was delightful, with Captain Haddock singing a solo in the most entertaining manner, and Miss Elizabeth Dickson impersonating Mary (Vegetable) Garden, also delighting the passengers.

The trip was a grand success; everybody wished for a return voyage.

There was, however, one unpleasant event which might have had a sad ending and was probably caused by the quantity and quality of the punch which was being served. Mr. H. H. Harvey fell overboard and might have drowned had not quick work been done by Dr. Clive Smith in getting a life preserver to him, and with a rope he was soon safely drawn on board, with no more bad results than being somewhat shaken up.

Although Glen Summit Springs was founded as a summer colony, its residents were not purely self-indulgent; they also demonstrated a sense of community responsibility. For nearly thirty years, Jennie Haddock decorated the chapel with flowers from her garden, and her daughter Mabel directed a children’s choir and served as organist for many years. At about the turn of the century, Mabel (who married Carlton C. Jones in the chapel in 1906) also published a weekly newspaper, the Glen Summit Breeze, which was distributed throughout the resort. Mabel’s daughter, Katharine Buckman, served for forty-five years as secretary of the Glen Summit Company, a post held for many years by her father until his death in 1945.

As throughout the world, the march of time never ceases, and change came slowly – but nevertheless steadily – to Glen Summit Springs. With the exception of the Kirby family’s baronial Graystone Terrace property, no formal gardens exist today. Fewer residents volunteer less money or time to nurturing the colony’s cultural development. And through the years, the great cottages have changed hands as the old anthracite aristoc­racy has died out.

Perhaps the greatest shift in the fortunes of Glen Summit Springs occurred when automobiles began replacing trains. The hotel, once a playground for the affluent on a popular line of the Lehigh Valley Railroad, steadily lost business. In 1910, a charter was granted for the creation of the Glen Summit Company, to which the hotel was trans­ferred by the Glen Summit Hotel and Land Company. The following year, the hotel was leased to two individuals who continued to lose even more money. By 1912, the directors of the Glen Summit Company discussed ways to satisfy the mortgage on the sprawling structure. Although John E. Patterson tendered several offers to the board to take over the property, his proposals were rejected and in June the following year, the directors voted to allow the Sisters of Mercy, a Catholic religious order, to occupy the hotel for the summer months. But the beginning of the end for the grand hotel was at hand.

In 1915, a contract was let by the Glen Summit Company to Clark Brothers and Com­pany of Plymouth, Luzerne County, for the demolition of several sections of the Glen Summit Hotel, including the bowling alley and the ice house, among others. It was not long before company directors and cottage owners realized that they could no longer afford to maintain the sprawling structure. The only solution was to tear it down and replace it with a smaller, more manageable clubhouse.

“With the coming of the automobile, the railroad lost a lot of commuter trade and stopped picking up people at Glen Summit Springs, as well as discharging them,” says Samuel Buckman. “After the railroads were abandoned, it became much quieter and cleaner. The houses could be painted white instead of the standard gray because there was less soot. l don’t think the trains themselves were missed by the residents.”

As the original families of Glen Summit Springs died, moved, or stopped summering at the mountain retreat, their properties were eventually sold to new owners. Carriage houses were converted into residences. Original cottages were modernized for year-round living. Large wooded tracts were sub­divided. Unlike the old days, property ownership now changes frequently.

The new owners of proper­ties at Glen Summit Springs are primarily managers of nearby corporations, and not owners or executives of venerable Wyoming Valley family enterprises. For many newcomers, Glen Summit Springs is their primary residence. “Originally, the area was settled by people who had the means to maintain an additional country home for the summer,” Buckman recalls wistfully. “Later, with the popularity of the automobile, many residents winterized their homes and lived here year-round. When we first bought our house in 1939, only six or seven families lived here throughout the year!”

Today, the residents of Glen Summit Springs are struggling with fast-paced social and economic developments that threaten to obliterate the very charm for which the summer colony has been a well-kept secret. Because costs of maintaining the mountain retreat have spiraled over the years, especially with the strain of year-round resi­dences, the Glen Summit Company operates with little capital. Roads are riddled with potholes. The gazebos at the Twin Springs near Fountain Lake are crumbling. Gardens are overgrown with weeds. The winding, romantic paths are strangled with fallen trees and bushes.

Samuel Buckman notes, too, the change in residents’ attitudes. “The governing of the community has changed because of the difference in the use of the properties and the change in economies in general. Early financial support was based on volun­tary giving. With properties being used only in the sum­mer, there was no need for a lot of money. Because these homes are now occupied all year, maintenance becomes a bigger problem. I do not remember the actual year it happened,but it became obvious that more money was needed to maintain the place. It was then that the company began to charge a fee to each property owner, a fact which made the organization more significant. The amount is still not enough to run the place properly, but certain restrict­ing clauses in the lease agreement the company has with property owners do not allow increases without a great effort.”

According to Buckman, the community’s interest in the Glen Summit Chapel is waning. “Chapel attendance has gradually declined …. Last year we had only one ser­vice – the traditional annuual meeting to elect one board member for a seven year hitch.” Long gone are the days when some of northeastern Pennsylvania’s most promi­nent businessmen – including Fred M. Kirby, who served as president of the chapel association for two decades – ­took such an active role in Glen Summit Springs.

If apathy and neglect weren’t enough, a bitter dispute over sewer responsibilities is menacing Glen Summit Springs. Demanding changes in the way the hamlet is managed, some residents are suing the Glen Summit Company, arguing that the company must fulfill its contractual agreement with lease-holders by maintaining the sewer system. In addition to this issue, several of the newer, year-round residents, disgruntled because the majority of the Glen Summit Company’s shareholders are not living in or near the summer colony, want the company dissolved. “Community decisions should be made the democratic way­ – one vote for each household,” voiced a former resident during a recent meeting of the company stockholders.

Can the vestiges of one of Pennsylvania’s most notable summer colonies be spared? More importantly, can the tranquillity of this little summer place – this mountaintop retreat to which generations of families flocked to seek contentment among the glens and glades – be preserved? Will Glen Summit Springs become little more than a footnote in the annals of the Keystone State’s history?


For Further Reading

Archer, Robert F. The History of the Lehigh Valley Railroad. Berkeley: Howell-North Books, 1978.

Carpenter, Benjamin Harold. The History of Glen Summit Springs. Wilkes-Barre: T. L. Printery, 1936.

Folsom, Jr., Burton W. Urban Capitalists: Entrepreneurs and Growth in Pennsylvania’s Lackawanna and Lehigh Regions, 1800-1920. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981.

Harvey, Oscar Jewell. A History of Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. Wilkes­-Barre: N. P., 1930.

Greenberg, Jr., William T. et al. The Handsomest Trains in the World: Passenger Service on the Lehigh Valley Railroad. Westfield, N. J.: Bells and Whistles, 1978.

Metz, Lance E. Robert H. Sayre, Engineer, Entrepreneur, Humanist, 1824-1907. Easton: Hugh Moore Historical Park and Museums, 1985.


The editor wishes to thank Mary Ruth Kelly, executive director of the Wyoming Historical and Geological Society, Wilkes-Barre, for her assistance in researching and providing historic images for this article.


Kurt A. Topfer has been a resident of Glen Summit Springs for thirty-two years. A journalist specializing in international chemical industry-related topics, he is editor of PLASPEC, a daily electronic newswire service. His articles are carried by other electronic information services, such as NEWSNET and STN, and appear in European Chemical News. The author previously served as staff editor for Chemical Marketing News, an international trade publica­tion. His articles have also been featured in The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, and the Northeastern Pennsylvania Business Journal, headquartered in Bloomsburg.