A trip to Delaware Water Gap to relive the history of the Poconos

We live in a region steeped in history. Virtually every place in the Poconos has an interesting story about it. The Borough of Delaware Water Gap is one with its own great history.

Although not the oldest of Monroe County’s boroughs, it was the birthplace of the resort industry in the Poconos.

The “water hole” was often called the “eighth wonder of the world”known for its fresh air and scenic beauty.

Delaware Water Gap was laid out by its founder, Antoine Dutot in 1793. A French refugee, Dutot had come from Santo Domingo around 1790. He originally named the settlement, Dutotsburg, but of course today it is known as of Delaware Water Gap. (There was a short period when it was also called Monroe Square.)

In its early days, Delaware Water Gap was the border of Indian Territory. Due to its location along the Delaware River, it was a major stopping point for loggers who floated giant rafts down the river with lumber from the forests further upstream. The final destination of the “Forks of the Delaware” was in Easton. Rumor has it that the tavern located in the Gap had some of the most monumental fights between lumberjacks in the history of the Pennsylvania rivers.

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Dutot built a “boarding house” in the Poconos in 1829, which he named Kittatinny House. This was the beginning of the resort industry in the Poconos. During the years of the 19th century, the Kittatinny House became one of the largest resort hotels, and as a result, Delaware Water Gap became one of the best-known resort towns, second only to Saratoga.

As the railway industry grew, so did the holiday industry in the Gap. The construction of the Delaware Lackawanna and Western Railroad before the Civil War benefited the entire Pocono region.

Other hotels that attracted visitors to Gap were places such as the Glenwood (1854/55) – which was built as a boys’ boarding school by the Reverend Horatio S. Howell, who was chaplain to the 19th Pennsylvania Volunteers during the war civil. He was killed by a Confederate sniper on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg while tending to the wounded in a field hospital.

The Water Gap House (1872), which was visited by Theodore Roosevelt among other famous guests, was also among the now numerous hotels in the Gap.

The last of the major hotels to be built in the Delaware Water Gap was the Castle Inn. It was built in 1906 by Dimmick Drake. The chateau had all the latest amenities such as an ice cream parlor, 1600 electric lights and running spring water in every room.

The Castle Inn operated as a hotel until 1952 when it was purchased by Big Band leader Fred Waring, known as the leader of the famous Waring and the Pennsylvanians and the creator of the Waring mixer.

A vintage snapshot of the historic Castle Inn in the Delaware Water Gap Borough.

Beginning July 3, 1907, the Stroudsburg and Water Gap Railway began streetcar service from Gap to South Stroudsburg. The tram company changed its name to “Mountain View Line” because of the scenic views its route traveled. To reach Stroudsburg, it was necessary to build a bridge over the railroad tracks and the McMichael Creek. On June 25, 1908, the first Delaware Water Gap wagon crossed the bridge to arrive in Stroudsburg at Courthouse Square. The tram company operated until 1928 when service on the line was discontinued and in the 1930s the tracks were torn up.

Today, the historic Delaware Water Gap trolley stop is back at the Castle Inn. The modern version of the trolley is available by taking advantage of the Pocono Historic Trolley Tour (570-977-7731 for reservations and information). Learn more about the history of Castle Inn by visiting it. Tours take place on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. (570-730-0547 for more information and reservations). Finally, revisit the history of the founder by visiting the Dutot museum, located in the heart of Gap. (570-476-4240 for information and opening hours).

Long-time resident or new, if you’re a history buff (or not), taking a trip through local history will be time well spent!

Debbie Kulick writes a weekly column for Pocono Record and Tri-County Independent. She is on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic as an EMT.

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