Buck Hill Falls had its beginnings with a Philadelphia Quaker named Samuel Griscom, who had inherited 1,000 acres of some of the most beautiful woodlands in the northeastern United States. The property had rolling hills, a number of streams, a spectacular series of waterfalls and a glen filled with smaller waterfalls, rapids and an abundance of wildlife.
Samuel Griscom had a distinguished family background and history. His great-great-great grandfather, also named Samuel, had helped build the bell tower at the Pennsylvania State House. The elder Griscom and his wife Rebecca, both deeply religious Quakers, had a child named Elizabeth, the 8th of 17 children. Just prior to the Revolutionary War Elizabeth married a young Anglican named John Ross and, as a result, was expelled from her native Quaker church. Today we know Elizabeth Griscom as Betsy Ross, commissioned by George Washington and Robert Morris (the financier of the American Revolution) to sew the first American flag. Betsy Ross died in Philadelphia in 1836.
“Today we know Elizabeth Griscom as Betsy Ross”
The great-great nephew of Betsy Ross, Samuel Griscom, loved Buck Hill Falls and thought it would make a wonderful retreat. He was also getting on in years and found the property becoming a burden to him. At the turn of the 20th century the Poconos were a long way from Philadelphia, and traveling back and forth was not an easy task for the elderly. Samuel was a Quaker, just as all of his ancestors were, and was a man of true virtue. A substantial offer to purchase the property was made around 1900 by a New York hotelier, who wanted to develop a resort but also wanted to serve liquor. As a deeply religious Quaker, Griscom refused to sell.
He eventually persuaded his good friend and fellow Philadelphia Quaker Howard Jenkins to visit the 1,000 acre parcel in August of 1900. Charles Jenkins, three of his children and a family friend, Henry Paiste, made the trek up to Buck Hill Falls. It was a harrowing trip by modern standards. There was a number of different train rides first to Trenton and then to Mauch Chunk (now the town of Jim Thorpe) and finally to Cresco. The Jenkins party then took a mountain wagon drawn by two horses to the property. The next day they all went out to view the waterfalls and surrounding property. It was difficult for them not to be impressed. The acreage was spectacular, and many Pocono resorts at the Delaware Water Gap were already some of the most popular tourist destinations in the East. By 1900 more than 500,000 people were traveling to the Delaware Water Gap and the Pocono region. (www.DelawareWaterGap.org)
The Kittatinny Hotel alone could accommodate more than 500 guests. The Water Gap House, Buckwood Inn, The Delaware House and more than twenty other Water Gap resorts were extremely popular.
Buck Hill Falls was not only one thousand acres of magnificent woodlands but was also more than a 1,000 feet higher in elevation than the Delaware Water Gap. The Cresco train station was just a mile or so away - so access was convenient. It was a perfect property in a perfect location at a perfect time. It was truly “God’s Country.” A corporation was organized with the incorporators being Howard M. Jenkins, Charles F. Jenkins, William W. Speakman, Henry T. Paiste, Morgan Bunting. The investors planned to build a retreat and sanctuary for their families. Their plans called for a low-key lifestyle, the construction of an inn and the sale of properties to build cottages for their families and friends.
“The Company was capitalized with $20,000.”
The Buck Hill Falls Company was incorporated on December 31, 1900. The Company was capitalized with $20,000. One of the important early decisions was to determine the exact location to construct the Inn. Should it be near the falls, on top of Buck Hill or on the shoulder of the mountain where it could draw a breeze from three directions? The latter was chosen.
The Inn was designed by the Philadelphia architectural firm of Bunting & Shrigley, and the general contractor was the Shiffer Brothers of Stroudsburg. The Inn opened on Saturday, June 22, 1901, with twenty rooms with no private baths, no heat and lit with kerosene lamps. The Inn was modest in nature, but Quakers loved the resort for its simplicity. The Company purchased additional unimproved property at two dollars per acre. The property was surveyed with roads and lots, substantially as it is today. Guests had the option of purchasing building lots starting at one hundred to one hundred fifty dollars and within two years Buck Hill had seventeen cottages. By the beginning of the 1st World War Buck Hill had more than 125 cottages.
The early Buck Hillers were a nature-loving group. They loved fishing and hiking and relished the splendors of the woodlands and sparkling streams. In a matter of just a few years, expansion of the Inn was underway, a nine hole golf course built in 1907, a swimming pool dedicated in 1909 and six grass tennis courts in place by 1913. The beautiful Hunter’s Notch Bridge was built in 1914. In 1922 Donald Ross designed the Blue & White courses of what today is a 27-hole golf course and complex that includes a driving range, putting green and clubhouse.
Winter sports, such as skiing, cross-country skiing and tobogganing gained popularity. Horseback riding was popular and later so was lawn bowling, established in 1933. In 1936 the shareholders built the pool that stands today. It is 165 feet long and 65 feet wide, with an attached 50-foot-wide wing with diving boards in an offset circular area. At one end is a separate half-moon wading pool.
The Buck Hill Falls Ski Area was a historic and long-running ski area that was started in 1913. In 1934, the first rope tow in Pennsylvania was installed, and in 1961 the Poconos’ first poma lift was put in. Snowmaking was installed in 1959. In the late 1970’s the ski area fell victim to the huge new ski slopes built in the surrounding area with much higher vertical drops.
The great success and popularity of the inn led to almost annual additions and attractions to the resort, including the 1923 construction of the four story hotel of native Pennsylvania stone in the Mission Revival Style, again designed by Bunting and Shrigley.
The “Anniversary Gates” (the entrance to Buck Hill Falls and depicted as our website logo) were dedicated in 1921 on the resort’s 20th anniversary. By 1930 the Inn began to take its final shape with the completion of the east wing.
By the 1930’s one of the most popular winter activities was dog-sledding with Alaskan huskies. Buck Hill even had Sled Dog Derbies that featured competition with other resorts including Skytop and Pocono Manor. The huskies were also used in search and rescue missions and other humanitarian missions.
“Buck Hillers have always been involved in cultural activities.”
Buck Hillers have always been involved in cultural activities. In 1924 the Foxhowe Association started its series of current-event lectures and is still active today. In 1933 the Buck Hill Art Association was established to promote art appreciation. Today the association is “dedicated to fostering, inspiring and promoting an appreciation of all aspects of the cultural arts in the community and maintaining the traditions of our past linked with the opportunities of the future.”
Another important function at Buck Hill is the Youth Activity programs for children of all ages, including Camp Club and Senior Camp. In addition there is junior tennis, junior golf, a swim team and educational programs.
Times were changing and no one could deny that traditions at Buck Hill were changing as well, for better or worse. In 1958 the dining room at Buck Hill began serving liquor and four years later they opened a cocktail lounge.
Many believe this was a turning point in the resort. The Inn did continue to prosper for a few more years and another addition to the Inn was built in 1964 with the construction of the west wing. Architecturally, the building was not compatible with the Mission Revival Style of the existing building.
Profits were in decline by the mid 1960’s and early 1970’s. In the late 1970’s the Board of Directors of the Buck Hill Falls Company decided it would be in the best interests of the stockholders to sell off the Inn with 134 acres but continue to own and maintain all the amenities, including the 21 miles of roads, the water system and sewage treatment plant, the 27-hole golf course, Olympic size-pool, 10 Har-Tru tennis courts, lawn bowling, 2 paddle tennis courts, 2 miles of pristine trout fishing streams, miles of hiking trails, and 4,500 acres of land and surrounding buildings. The spectacular upper and lower waterfalls are part of the “Jenkins Woods” conservation easement and will be “forever protected.”
Buck Hill has always had a keen interest in environmental issues. As far back as 1918, Buck Hill planted over 60,000 trees. Today the Buck Hill Conservation Foundation is committed to the “preservation and protection of land through acquisition or conservation easement, stewardship and education. The primary focus is on land in close proximity to Buck Hill and Barrett Township.” Today, the Buck Hill Falls Company has more than 4,500 acres that are managed and nurtured with impeccable care.
“Today the Buck Hill Falls Company has more than 4,500 acres that are managed and nurtured with impeccable care.”
The village of Buck Hill Falls is a vibrant settlement of approximately 300 cottages, whose residents believe that they are “a community of the future with roots planted in the past.”
The Buck Hill Falls Company can be contacted at their administrative office at P.O. Box 426, Buck Hill Falls, Pennsylvania 18323, 570-595-7511.