By Renée S. Gordon
“May your moccasins be dry, your path be free from logs and briars and may the sun shine on your lodges.”
— Native American Blessing
The Pocono Mountains are located in the northeastern portion of Pennsylvannia, cover roughly 24,000-sq. miles and extend over four counties. They are incredibly scenic, in a state renowned for its beauty, and offer an endless array of year round indoor and outdoor recreation.
When the first settlers arrived in the 18th-century in an area the Native Americans called “Pocohanne,” “water between the mountains,” they were warmly greeted with a blessing. Only a one-hour drive from Philadelphia, the Poconos is a perfect place to do everything, or nothing. Visitors have been making their way here since the beginning of the 20th Century, some for a few days, and some to spend a lifetime.
A top priority for visitors is always a selection of accommodations. Choices are based on comfort, proximity to activities, and cost. After careful consideration of these factors and adding my love of history, I found a great place that exceeded my expectations on every point. Snug in the bosom of the mountains is Pocono Pines and at its heart is the resort community of Lake Naomi Club.
In the early 1890s Frank and Rufus Miller purchased land on Tunkhannock Creek and established the Spring Water Ice Company. A 14-ft. dam was built across the creek in 1895, creating the 277-acre Lake Naomi, for the purpose of extracting blocks of ice for sale. The turn of the century saw a tourism boom and in 1902 a beach for bathing was formed and 19 years later a boathouse was erected where the current Lake Naomi Clubhouse stands. The Steele family purchased 3,000-acres that enclose the lake in 1963 and the resort community was founded. Timber Trails, an adjacent, 500 home, gated community was begun in 1973.
Homes within the two communities are privately owned with 85 percent of them being summer residences. All are designed so that they are in a woodland setting and architecturally and artfully blend with the surroundings. Homes average four bedrooms, are fully decorated and provide such accoutrements as fireplaces, flat screen televisions, WIFI, cathedral ceilings and private baths. Houses are available for purchase or rental. Rental rates are seasonal and average from $800 to $3,000 weekly making this an ideal choice for families, reunions, getaways or romantic trysts.
Guests can purchase a temporary membership to the $8.5-million Lake Naomi Club, one of only 235 five star Platinum Clubs of America. Multiple aspects of the club are considered and those rated as notable must achieve excellence in all categories. The Clubhouse offers Lakeview dining, dancing, entertainment and a plethora of scheduled and holiday events.
Additional amenities include seven private beaches, eighteen tennis courts, hiking trails, ice fishing, boating program and two heated pools, the largest lakeside heated pool in the state. The 48,000-sq. ft. Logan Steele Community Center boasts a state-of-the-art fitness center, pool, gymnasium and activity rooms.
Information on rental and purchase is available online. www.lakenaomiclub.com
Lake Naomi is within a 30-minute drive of the Big Boulder, Camelback, Jack Frost and Shawnee Mountain ski areas for a total of 96 slopes for levels from beginner to expert. Various areas offer activities including snowtubing, snowboarding, night skiing, and Snowsport Schools. Additional available area activities are stock-car driving lessons, sailing, kayaking, rafting, paintball, golf, eagle watching and retail therapy.
The Crossings Premium Designer Outlets are located 20 minutes away. The shops include the brands we have come to love, Michael Kors, Polo, Ann Taylor, J. Crew and Lacoste, as well as a number of specialty stores. There are three food courts and a playground. www.premiumoutlets.com
Stroudsburg, the oldest town in the region, was established in 1799. Peter LeBar, The first non-native settler, constructed a log home in 1730 on what is now Main Street. Jacob Stroud built a stone mansion in 1760. Once walls enclosed it it was known as Fort Penn. In 1772 Daniel Stroud was born there. He studied law in Philadelphia, married Elizabeth Shoemaker, and returned to the Pocono region. A newer stone residence was constructed in 1795 and upon the death of Jacob in 1810 Daniel laid out the city of Stroudsburg with streets named after his children. The Stroud Mansion still stands at 900 Main Street. The residence houses a research library, museum exhibits and gift shop. Guided tours are offered and walking tour brochures are available. www.monroehistorical.org
Stroudsburg played a significant role in Northeastern Pennsylvannia Underground Railroad history. There is documented evidence of Black residents in Stroudsburg in the 18th-century. In 1790 records indicate there were 64 Blacks, 37 were free, with the largest number held by an individual being three enslaved by John Van Campen.
People tend to think of all fugitives as escaping via Philadelphia into New York and then Canada. A number of those fleeing chose to use a route through Norristown, Quakertown and Bethlehem via a Native American trail. From Quakertown there are three identified routes, two of which went through Stroudsburg. Both routes made use of rail and canal services as well as assistance from Blacks and whites of all denominations. Interestingly many fugitives settled in the area rather than continuing on to Canada.
One of Stroudsburg’s most famous UGRR stationmasters was Quaker physician Dr. Sydenham Walton. Fugitives found safe haven in his home on Main Street. He was also instrumental in the founding of Little Bethel AME Church.
Little Bethel was established in 1855 and its walls sheltered fugitives. The extant, 1868, church is undergoing restoration and original windows and some interior plaster has been saved. The original church was a log structure across from the current site. www.little-bethel.org
The Plattenburg House, 825 Ann Street, is also a documented UGRR house. Fugitives were hidden in a secret portion of the cellar. The building may be viewed from the exterior only.
Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm is an educational facility that seeks to preserve and present the state’s agricultural history. The farm interprets Pennsylvannia German farm life from the 1760s until 1913. Tours include activities, structures, animals and authentically clad docents. School groups are encouraged and outstanding teacher resources are provided online. www.quietvalley.org
There is much to see and do in this land between the mountains. Lake Naomi Club makes a wonderful base from which to launch your winter wanderings or summer sojourns. Some things have changed in the 200 years since the Native Americans encountered the first European settlers but so much has remained pristine that this truly is a unique destination. A single tank of gas will open up a whole new world to you and yours. www.800poconos.com
I wish you smooth and easy travels!