Step back in time to discover the glamour of Victorian vacations in the Pocono Mountains at the Antoine Dutot Museum & Gallery in Delaware Water Gap!
Joan Powlus remembers when her daughter was a student at this schoolhouse, which served first through fourth graders from Delaware Water Gap for 99 years. “They'd go home for lunch and walk back, so it was very much a community-minded school,” she recalls.
When the schoolhouse eventually closed, the borough of Delaware Water Gap saved the building from possible demolition. Joan was part of the original team that decided it should remain a place of learning through donated artifacts, instead of textbooks. Soon after, the Antoine Dutot Museum & Gallery was born, named after the borough's founder.
“You don’t have to live in the area to really enjoy what the museum has to offer. It gives a glimpse into an earlier time,” said Terrence Fagan, president.
While today's Pocono resorts include water slides, slots and spas, the booming resort scene in Delaware Water Gap was once much simpler, although modern for the times. “The biggest hotels had top of the line conveniences around 1910 with running water, private bathrooms, telegraph, and features you would find in bigger cities,” Fagan explained.
Following the Civil War, Delaware Water Gap became the country's second most popular inland tourist destination thanks to the train and trolley and close proximity to New York City and Philadelphia. Vacationers traded their crowded cities for the clean, mountain air. Between 1870 and 1920, they had about 50 different hotel and inn options.
“There were people who would live in a tent in their yard and rent out their house because they'd make a good deal of money over the summer. It was like the forerunner of Airbnb,” Fagan said.
The famous destination had famous guests including Chic Young, creator of the Blondie comic strip. He mailed original Christmas cards to one of the resorts where he spent summers with his family. A ledger, also on display at the museum, shows actresses Katherine Hepburn and Bette Davis checked into that same resort for a girl’s weekend. Fred Astaire and his sister as well as President Roosevelt are also pictured enjoying the local scenery.
While most of the original hotels and inns no longer exist, The Castle Inn does. You can visit the restored ice cream emporium, take a guided walking tour, or board the trolley for a ride down history lane.
Back at the Antoine Dutot, there's also a thriving art gallery featuring local artists. Jack and Jill Swersie recently rented the space for their Cars and Guitars show. “There’s just something about the vibe here that feels right,” Jack Swersie explained.
Although Joan's daughter only attended first grade here before the schoolhouse closed, she's thankful class is still in session. “A lot of people are interested in knowing what went on here many years ago,” she added.
The Antoine Dutot Museum & Gallery is open seasonally May – October, weekends or by special appointment. A $2 dollar donation is requested so history can continue living on.