|Penn Lake is named after William Penn. The area
which was to become Penn Lake was part of the virgin forest around the White
Haven / Bear Creek area.
The Penn Lake
property was part of the Albert Lewis Estate. Albert Lewis' roots were
in the lumber business. Lewis' father and uncle were lumbermen who came to
PA from Maine.
During the early 1860's, Albert worked for the Lehigh Valley Railroad. He
was young, ambitious and a favored employee of Asa Packer. Packer was the
Railroad Magnet whose mansion can still be toured in the town of Jim Thorpe.
Lewis' relationship with Packer and others from the railroad would later
help him develop his ice interests in the Bear Creek area.
Lehigh River Ice Industry:
The development of the "ice box", and increased urbanization and consumer
demand, created a new, high growth, business venture...the Ice business. White
Haven was considered the hub of the Ice Industry due to it's plentiful
lakes, favorable winter climate, and railroad logistics. Rivers, and then
lakes, were used to freeze water into ice, which was then cut and shipped to
New York and New Jersey for profit.
Starting in 1880 Albert Lewis formed the Mountain Springs and Bear Creek Ice
Companies in Luzerne County. The Bear Creek Ice Company clears the
land and dams Wright Creek which creates Penn Lake. A minimum of 22
years of ice cutting generated a large amount of income for Lewis and his
1911 - 1912:
Bear Creek Company shipped 8,000 tons of ice from Penn Lake in the 1911-12
season. The Ice House at Penn Lake was located on what is now the Yeager's
property. The rail line was located on the top of the dam and the ice was
loaded onto the cars from the Ice House.
Severe weather conditions, including a hurricane in 1915 hit the area and
destroyed the ice plants. Coupled with these natural disasters was the
development of ammonia based cooling and refrigeration which allowed ice to
be manufactured within the cities and closer to the customers.
The Luzerne County ice plants were dismantled in October 1917 ending the ice
industry at Penn Lake and surrounding areas.
adapted from Albert Lewis:The Bear Creek Lumber and Ice King
by F. Charles Petrillo- 1998