Nanticoke Historical Society

Nanticoke Historical Society

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Bischwind Bed & Breakfast


   The Bischwind Bed and Breakfast is an elegant Colonial style retreat located in our backyard in the Poconos just outside of Wilkes-Barre, PA and just past the infamous Bear Creek Dam of Bear Creek Village.   It is the Albert Lewis Mansion and is an attraction for honeymooners seeking the retreat of the Poconos.  Of course you don’t have to be a honeymooner to enjoy the elegance and seclusion of the Pocono hideaway, it is nestled only a few feet from Rt. 115 just past the Bear Creek dam.  The Mansion hosts guest in up to eight rooms; the Master’s Room, the Beehive Room, the Blue Room, the Bears Den, the Autumn Room, the Wolf’s Den, the Green Suit and the Theodore Roosevelt’s Room.  The mansion's amenities include an outdoor swimming pool and Presidential Dining Room as well as an outdoor dining where guests such as Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft had stayed.  The mansion is located on 8 acres just off of Bear Creek Lake.  The Bed and Breakfast is owned by Billy Dykins-English, the daughter Ms. Barbara Von Dran.  Barbara is a was a resident and now resides at the mansion  She is also
the daughter of Dr. W. R. Dykins, who had a dentistry practice in Nanticoke, 120 E. Broad Street right off the square.  Barbara told us her father died 29 years ago this November (2015).  Amazingly, the Bed and Breakfast as large and stately that it is, is managed by only three people the English/Von Dran family.  Interestingly enough, Barbara explained that the mansion was built on a boulder foundation that would shift from time to time causing doors to swing and the mansion to creek.  Haunted?

The setting…
Let the web of history unwind. The origins of this story begins right here in Nanticoke and will follow its threads through Bear Creek Village, the coal industry, the lumber industry and ice harvesting industries of our area and even St. Augustine, FL.  The Nanticoke Historical Society was  a guest of Barbara Von Dran as well as Charles Petrillo author of  Albert Lewis the Bear Creek Lumber and Ice King  and Ann Lewis granddaughter of Albert Lewis and Larry Newman, director for the Diamond City Partnership Downtown Wilkes-Barre’s Management Organization.

 The dining area was already prepped for a wedding party booked for the weekend with bows and white linen seating trim. The dining room, adorned with a crystal glass chandelier, a Steinway baby grand piano and a soft cream white color scheme and mirrors and crystal abound, all elegantly accentuating the stories that we were about to hear.

 As guests we were treated to coffee and confections but with an unexpected twist.  Barbara, as a follower of history and a member of our
Historical Society had arranged an unexpected presentation for us by three guest speakers: our own Charles Petrillo, historian, Ann Lewis, granddaughter of the mansion’s namesake Albert Lewis and
Larry Newman Executive Director of the Diamond City Partnership.

Ann was asked by Barbara to speak about her visit down to St. Augustine, FL in 2013 and started her presentation with a history of her grandfather.  The Albert Lewis mansion was the summer home of Albert Lewis. He also had a winter home in St. Augustine, FL.  Her purpose down in Florida was to be present at a dedication of a historic plaque for a horse and mule watering trough. Her grandfather had a love for these animals, beasts of burden, and purchased a tract of land on the south end of St. Augustine where the South Dickson Highway comes in to town and built the trough back 1904.  The animals would water down when entering St. Augustine after long journeys into town.

 Back in March of 2013 Ann was contacted via numerous emails by a woman by the name of Sheila Greenlee.  Sheila is a lifelong resident of St. Augustine, she has deep community roots and she enjoys genealogy and local history.  She describes herself: A fun time for her is to poking around in dense overgrown cemeteries, old houses and dusty libraries.   Sheila is a member of the St. Augustine Historical Society, The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Sheila explained in her emails to Ann about the horse trough that she didn't realize the significances of it, on a photo of the trough that Sheila had, on the back it was marked trailer park.

Sheila’s email to Ann Lewis (paraphrased from audio notes)

“The Albert Lewis trough served in 1904 at 92 South Dixie Highway. Lewis was a wealthy lumber baron from Bear Creek, PA and a great benefactor to St. Augustine and St. John’s County, who wintered there in St. Augustine. Lewis was a great benefactor of St. Augustine and St. John's County .  Albert Lewis planted palms, trees and flowering shrubs in order beautify many streets and avenues.  In March 1904 Albert Lewis purchased a parcel of property along current South Dixie Highway and built a brick trough that would service animals that were coming in and out of the city from the south.  This trough was completed in December of that year. The Hotels in St. Augustine were in full swing. The fruits and vegetables brought in from Hastings and Watry satisfied the needs for fresh fruit and produce.  Watry was also busy with lumber milling and turpentine.  Horses and mules continued to enjoy the benefit of fresh water from the trough up into the 1940’s.  The property became the site of a trailer park community: San Juan trailer park, which was in existence for over 50 years.  The trough transitioned into a planter and the bold lettering on its back advertising the trailer park was a familiar icon to local people. Albert left his mark on the community with many trees and palms that still line the streets.  His donations to various causes and his participation in building the good roads lead are immeasurable.  Lewis Point Road, built by Lewis, lead picnickers to his picnic pavilion at Watry Point.  Lewis Field, no longer in existence was a ball field at the south end of Marine Street where Console On Aging is now located, that was named for him.  Lewis Boulevard and Lewis Speedway were other business ventures for Albert Lewis and still bear his name”

In additional notes from Sheila’s research: “Albert Lewis was a winter resident very active in promoting St. Augustine.  In 1902 he purchased 500 acres on the North side of Watry Creek, today St. Augustine South and constructed a shell roadway from Watry Road eastward to his property. A short section of this road, US 1, still retains the name Lewis Point Road. With the advent of the automobile Lewis Point became a popular driving destination for winter visitors. Albert Lewis built a palm thatched cabin for picnickers.  He was president of the East Florida Prim Rose Association and Lewis Speedway, Lewis Ballpark that all still bear his name.”

In one of Ann’s personal notes she had mentioned that her father’s love and devotion to animals was shared with her grandfather and that they believed that one should care for the animals above themselves, that before they showered or rested or had a cold drink after his hard day of work, that the animals were watered, and fed, sheltered and protected first.

The next guest speaker, to which we were no stranger to NHS, was Charles Petrillo. Charles on numerous occasions has given presentations on a variety of topics, most noteworthy are Charles’ works on the history of Harvey’s Lake.  Charles has been down to the Mill House on several occasions and perhaps you have seen his presentations. If you missed him we apologize. The limited seating capacity (approximately 30 people) has been antiquated due to your generous support and interest in NHS so we are in the process of moving our venue to St. Faustina’s Cultural Center as circumstances allow. 

 Charles enlightened us on some of the many accomplishments of Albert Lewis.  He started out by bringing our attention to the Ice Industry of the region.  Albert’s time between the 1870’s to 1920’s was when he was known as the Lumber King of the Wyoming Valley but was also known as the Ice King of the Wyoming Valley.  Lumber and ice harvesting were huge industries in the Wyoming Valley.  Albert, who was born in Canada was a lumberman as was his father who settled to Buck Township, the largest township in Luzerne County.  For a while Albert who was also a lumberman worked on the Lehigh Valley Railroad and married into Lehigh Valley Family that was headed by Acai Packard, a multi-millionaire railroad tycoon.  Charles sited some interest facts about Albert:

·         He largely lumbered in the 1870’s in Hickory Run and White Haven
·         He bought 10’s of thousands of acres in in Bear Creek
·         He built the Beer Creek branch of the Lehigh Valley Railroad
 that was necessary to get the lumber out.
·         He sold it to the Lehigh Valley Railroad
·         He was extremely charitable
·         He built churches for his workers.
·         The Alderson Methodist Church at Harvey’s Lake
·         The Lutheran Church in Noxen
·         Churches in Hickory Run
·         St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Eckley originally built in White Haven then moved with the creation of Eckley Village.
·         He built the original road from Wilkes-Barre to Beer Creek
·         Bear Creek Lake was used for Lewis’ ice harvesting.
·         The lumber used to build a series of dams gave out by the late 1880’s
·         He then converted the lumber ponds into ice harvesting ponds.
·         He acquired 10’s of thousands of acres on the Harvey’s Lake and Noxen Region.
·         He built the Harvey’s Lake Railroad, then later sold it to the Lehigh Valley Railroad.
·         He lumbered there with partners from Skull Family
·         1906 to 1908 he sold off all his Harvey’s Lake and Noxen properties.
·         He also had properties around Ricketts Glen where he also harvested ice.
·         By the late 1880’s he was largely out of lumbering and into ice harvesting.
·         He originally had an ice house called the White House on the other side of the dam.
·         He built the Lewis mansion in 1895.
·         He was extraordinary charitable unlike his competitor the Rickets of Ricketts Glen.
·         The Lewis mansion was substantially damaged in a fire around 1920.  It was rebuilt then Lewis died 6 months later.

All these facts and many more are in Charles’ book: Albert Lewis the Bear Creek Lumber and Ice King are well worth reading.

Barbara, before introducing our last guest speak interjected an amusing side story. While during a short break the subject came up about our former Governor John S. Fine.  Our President Julianna had stated that the Historical Society’s next project was to erect a historical marker for him.  The former Governor Fine had a home in Nanticoke and the High School was named after him. Governor Fine’s first wife Bunny was a shirttail relative of Barbara’s father. Her father, Dr. Dykins, during the time of prohibition used to go over to the Governor’s house and make gin in the bath tub. (LOL)

Larry Newman, our last speaker, is now the executive director for the Diamond City Partnership Downtown Wilkes-Barre’s Management Organization and in the late 1990’s Larry and Bob Janosov 
  had a private planning business in Wilkes-Barre and both at one time taught at Luzerne county Community College.  Bob spoke to Larry about how the residents of Bear Creek Village were looking for ways to get put on the National registry for Historic Places.  Larry, while addressing the residents said that he would also like to include the historic timber dam that had created the Albert Lewis mansion and had so much influence of the ice harvesting industry of Albert Lewis. The dam at that time had deteriorated and needed some significant restoration.  As a result the residents were looking for ways to get help with that work.  This was a community that was very interested in its own character, history and pride in their community. Bear Creek Village became the youngest municipality in Luzerne County when it separated from Bear Creek Township in 1991 to become the Borough of Bear Creek village. Larry had help significantly in getting Bear Creek Village put on the National Historic Register. Larry had worked with Bob Janosov on a national register nomination for the district that encompasses a large portion of the borough. Larry explained the importance of being placed on the National Historic Registry.  The National Register of Historic Places is the official Federal listing of those structures, sites districts and places that are significant in our Nation’s history.

He went to explain that being on registry was more like a badge of honor to be respected.  Being on the registry does not allow the Federal government to tell you what to do with your property. It does allow the registrant to take advantage of certain programs that are available. The only time the Federal Government will restrict demolition of a registered site is when public funds are invested in that site.

Larry and Bob started to work on nomination in the late 90’s. The district is about 222 acres. It comprises the historic area of operation of Lewis’ operations. The historic significances goes from 1880 to 1949 that would be the era of lumber and ice harvesting.  To be registered certain criteria must be met.

  • General Themes - Industry: Ice harvesting
  • Works of art or architecture 
  • Recreation- weekend destination and summer residences




1)      General Themes in the United States that are Significant to History
a)      Industry: The Lumber and Ice harvesting – more so ice harvesting that was unique to the are - Charles Petrillo’s extensive research
b)      Recreation: where Bear Creek became a weekend retreat
2)      People in the United States that are Significant to History
a)      Albert Lewis-National significances
i)        Theodore Roosevelt – Lewis’s acquaintance
3)      Works of art or architecture in the United States that are Significant to History
a)      The Lewis Mansion
b)      The original Lehigh Valley Railroad Station in Bear Creek Village
c)       Albert Lewis’ old bowling alley
d)      Lewis’s boat house
e)      Grace Chapel-Albert Lewis’  own place of worship


Of course this story was comprised of notes taken from the presentation. NHS is not the author of this material nor claims to be.  We were fortunate enough to have been enlightened by the brilliant contributors: Barbara Von Dran, Ann Lewis, Sheila Greenlee, Charles Petrillo and Larry Newman.  These people were thrilled to share their stories with us and will be honored to share them with you.  Thank you all for the wealth of knowledge. So many fascinating stories with their roots firmly planted here in Nanticoke.

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