Around 1888, this long-timed tradition was launched on the Lake. Before electricity, it was called “A Magic Lantern Carnival.” At that time, there was a brilliant display of magic lanterns on every boat and at every landing at dusk, making one blaze of light. Gowers and Shaw Orchestra played the evening’s music. Now, it continues to symbolize the end of Summer Season on the lake, or a water celebration. Based on an annual theme, floats are designed to compete for prizes, and prizes awarded for beauty, originality, humor and theme.
Lewis Glass Suite
Eagles Mere was founded based on high quality glass production. George Lewis was an Englishman, living in New York City at the time, and heard about the Lake’s natural white sand on the north end. He had previously purchased some 10,000 acres from the descendants of William Penn and later formed a community in 1803 known as “Lewis Lake”, building a glass factory on the south end of the Lake. Including orchards and farms, the town reached a population of up to 250 people. Glass was shipped for sale, primarily to Philadelphia, over harsh country roads by horse and wagon. Transportation losses given Eagles Mere’s distance from markets were severe. After the War of 1812, the impracticality of the manufacturing and shipping closed the business of the Lewis Glass Works. The original housing and barns remained for many years.
In 1885, the Hotel Allegheny opened. This hotel hosted the largest and most fashionable social gathering of that year. Music was performed by the Gowers and Shaw Orchestra of Muncy. The hotel’s unique feature was obtaining a liquor license (many of the other hotels had a Quaker influence and were “dry”). The Allegheny thus catered to vacationers who enjoyed dancing and drinking. In 1913, it lost its license due to complaints by the neighbors, and survived as a hotel into the 1960’s. Eventually it was converted to a youth center, then torn down, and a new building was rebuilt on the site. Now the replacement is known as the DeWire Center.
Representing the Eagles Mere Country Club. Originally Captain Chase (the engineer who designed much of Eagles Mere) laid out a six-hole golf course along both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue in the 1800’s. In 1911, a new 18-hole links course was designed by William Flynn (of Merion Golf Club fame). Prior to the Depression the 18 holes were expanded to 36 (and after reduced again to 18). The current clubhouse was once the main building of the Avery family farm and dates to 1878. Besides golf, the club hosted receptions, private parties, and luncheons for the socially prominent. Back in 1934, greens fees were $45 for the season, or $9 per week.
A landmark eatery from the late 1800’s, this ice cream shop in the village center once served baked goods, home-made candies, fountain drawn sodas and much more. Starting in 1938, it had award-winning chocolate covered marshmallows when town personality Bert Fiester was in charge. The Sweet Shop has been a central gathering place in the village forever and a highlight of summering families. Often the employees were a mixture of full-time residents and the children of summer vacationers. All it cost was 5 cents for an ice cream sundae back then! In 2004, the Sweet Shop sold to the nonprofit Eagles Mere Historic Village Inc. (a 501C3 preservation foundation) as part of a plan to restore the entire town center. In 2021, the entire building, which remains essentially unchanged since its earliest years, underwent a sensitive full restoration so that a full daily menu can be served and many future generations can continue to enjoy its unique character and history.
The Flora Villa Inn was a home in the center of town, originally built in 1890 and converted to a guest house in 1930. Built by A. Dunham, it was named after his love of the flowers that he grew and sold. He had flowers of almost every kind in his greenhouse. His son Clarence, and his son’s wife Mary through three generations managed the Inn. It was the only inn open during the winter for many years. The Inn was purchased and retired from commercial use about 10 years ago and restored to its former elegance by one of the owners of the Eagles Mere Inn. At times it is used to house visiting graduate students doing research work for the town’s museum, the Eagles Mere Museum, which is next door.
Long an important part of Eagles Mere lore, Lover’s Leap is a prominent flat rock projecting from the Lake’s southern shoreline. Local lore suggests a young couple had a quarrel. The woman jumped into the Lake, to never return. Upon a visit to the rock, her lover saw her reflection, jumped into the Lake after her, and lost his own life in the process. While the story is sad (but just a myth), the story feeds the mystery of the 53’ deep spring-fed lake and the site has often been a calm visitation point to view the Lake in all of its splendor.
Eagles Mere town center features a magnificent multi-acre “Green” which once housed an early hotel, of which little remains except some sidewalk. This Green situated between the Sweet Shop and the Old General Store (which now houses the town museum and retail shops) overlooks Eagles Mere Lake. It is in constant use and is often the site of weddings. Annually, the town hosts antique and art and craft shows on the Green, and it is also home in the summer months to outdoor concerts and movies. A prominent feature of the Green is its large white, ornate gazebo. For decades, the gazebo has been photographed for post cards and as a signature feature of the village center.
The Raymond was one of the original large lake hotels having opened in 1887. It was located prominently above the Lake on the west side. It was built to accommodate up to 100 guests. It was named after the owner’s son, Raymond Laird (father was William). William had originally purchased a lakeside cottage to avoid permit fees for his guests use of boats on the Lake. It had one of the finest views of the Lake. It was the first of the hotels to have telephones in every room and was the closest to the golf links. The hotel burned to the ground in an uncontrollable fire on Memorial Day weekend in 1941 at the start of the summer vacation season.
The casino figured prominently in Eagles Mere life. It was once a recreation hall, and later an amusement hall on the grounds of the Forest Inn. This was a two-story building, with the first floor containing two bowling alleys, shuffleboard courts, and pool/billiard tables. The highest bowling score recorded was 267(Von Hagen-1918, Ted Gardner- 1925). Charges to bowl were 25 cents per game. Upstairs included a large dance floor, stage and bar. On Saturday nights the nearby theatre shut down for the infamous Saturday night dance, the “Eagles Mere Dance.” Hotels would buy tables for the night. Besides the dance, the “Hamburg Show” featured local talent, and the “Carnival Ball” featured the winners of the Water Carnival and its seasonal celebration.
This was the last of the major hotels to be built in the area. It opened in 1900 with 110 rooms. William Warner built this hotel on top of the highest point in Eagles Mere with 200 workmen. There were two fires during its construction. Tennis was a long-standing tradition here, and Warner and his family ran it for 71 years. An unusual feature was a distribution of pears to the tennis tournament spectators. This hotel had the most scheduled activities, including horse-drawn carriage rides to Fulmer’s view (bring a picnic basket). The Eagles Mere Tennis Championships were among the top tennis competitions on the East Coast by 1915. $15/week was the special for a single room, and $25/week for a deluxe two-person suite. Employees were housed in the Evergreen Lodge built as an on-site dormitory. In the first half of the nineteenth century Eagles Mere was widely advertised as a vacation paradise. The Crestmont also featured its own 9-hole, par three golf course in later years.
Built in 1898, then called the Chatauqua Inn, it was originally the headquarters of a religious themed colony. By 1906, the religious colony was phased out and the area became more of a recreational community with the surrounding cottage colony being called Eagles Mere Park. It was one of the more modern inns back in the early 1900’s, with an amusement hall (later named the Casino) containing a bowling alley, pool, billiard tables and live orchestra music for dancing. Edgar Kiess was responsible for many innovations, including a car garage in the early part of the century to host auto parties, a putting green, its own post office and a gift shop. Eventually, like all the large hotels, vacation patterns changed, and the limited season forced abandonment of the physical buildings.
The “Beach” has always been the magic of Eagles Mere. With fine grained sand and a view of the entire Lake, it is the place to be on a fine summer day. Originally cultivated to make glass, for the last 170 years it has delivered swimming, boating, sports programs, and competitions. The physical presence looks relatively unchanged from that of the early 1900’s and features bathhouses, a central beach house, docks, and boat storage. Floats, diving boards and docks have been in various positions over the years; the earliest diving board built was a separate structure requiring a swim to get to it. Originally no benches existed; socialization took place from the use of broad rowboats. Before 11:00AM and after 3:00PM, ladies would carry parasols when not swimming to have the least amount of sun to avoid tanning and perspiration. In 1910, the beach house was moved to its present position. Houckie’s Dock and Hiram’s Landing were names given to the beach dock, honoring Hiram Humphrey and Maurice Houck, who were responsible for the maintenance of the docks, boats, beach and path.
The Iroquois was a 60-foot steamboat that made scheduled trips around the Lake. When this steamboat was built in 1889, the hotel owners constructed docks to permit passengers to be picked up. The Iroquois also became a sightseeing boat, and Eagles Mere’s only form of public transportation. When the tourists would ride up on the railroad to the Outlet Pond Station, the Iroquois would pick them up near-by giving them a delightful ride on the water and taking them to their hotel landings. It ran for 11 years and was then replaced with the Iroquois II, running every half hour for 5 cents between docks, 10 cents around the lake, or $2 for 25 trips.
The Hardly Able is a unique feature of Eagles Mere that remains from the early years of the resort. For 100 years the present boat has been navigating the Lake (since 1921). Previously it was an old Navy launch. It still runs a regular schedule today (Memorial Day through Labor Day). The engine of the little canopy covered 26-foot launch required many repairs, which together with its slow speed is what prompted people to call it the “Hardly Able.” It travels in a counterclockwise route, changing the norm, probably because it had a pully system on the righthand side, making it easier for the one-man crew to attach the boat to the docks on the right side. Hiram Humphrey was the skipper, and the boathouse where it is stored out of season is named “Hiram’s Landing.” Only homeowners and guests of the Inn may take rides on the launch.
The Lakeside was a massive family-owned hotel along the southern end of the Lake. This hotel had an extensive lawn including tennis courts, shuffle boards, docks and flower gardens. It was built as a residence in 1878 for the ailing John Kirk, who was advised to move to Colorado due to his severe asthma but ended up settling in Eagles Mere after staying as a guest and finding the mountain air settling to his condition. What started out as a six-person boarding house to accommodate his guests, by 1890 had grown into a massive and fine hotel. The Lakeside also owned 4 cottages which remain today (Fitch Cottage, Ryan Cottage, Mountain Top and the “Little Cottage”). At one point, there was a dance and skating hall that was built but eventually burned. Descendants of the Kirk family still occupy a nearby lake cottage.
E.S. Chase designed this thrilling ice slide which opened in 1903 on Lake Avenue and projected riders onto the frozen Eagles Mere Lake at high speed. It takes about 900 blocks of ice, 44” long, 15 ½” wide, and no less than 12” thick, weighing in at 250 pounds each. These are hand cut with special machinery from the Lake, using the original equipment and hauled to the road top. In the early days this was done by horse and wagon teams, today it is done by area firemen working as teams with modern equipment. The blocks are then meticulously hand-laid side by side down the hill and ultimately grooved with special equipment for purpose-built lake taboggans. Dependent upon appropriate winter conditions, the slide still operates today and the thrill of speed is no different than 120 years ago.