Lost History Found : Croop’s Glen Amusement Park, Hunlock Creek, Pennsylvania

Sometimes, history gets lost.  And I don’t mean long ago, far away history like those places or events that are ancient, but the history of less than a hundred years ago, right outside your own front door.   History, like the generation of people who share an experience or memory, begins to fade away if people don’t document and share it.

I first became aware of this fact while looking for information about an abandoned zoo  in my own hometown in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.  The Kirby Park Zoo  (1932-1936)  was wiped out by the flood of 1936.  Now a little less than 80 years later, all that I can find about this local attraction are little bits and pieces of conflicting and incomplete information.

The generation of people who would have visited the Kirby Park  Zoo as children is quickly dwindling in numbers, and unless someone happens to come across photos while cleaning out a deceased relative’s house and decides to donate them to one of the local Historical Societies, I fear that the Kirby Park Zoo and its Olmsted Brother designed bridal/walking path that wound through that area of the park just a few decades ago, will fade away as part of Luzerne County’s lost history.

Luckily for another Luzerne County attraction, Ellen Geisel of Honey Brook, Pennsylvania, has generously come forward to share pictures that will save Croop’s Glen, a long abandoned amusement park along Route 11 in Hunlock Creek, from the threat of fading into oblivion.

Abandoned Pennsylvania: Croop's Glen (24), Luzerne County, Route 11
I first became aware of Croop’s Glen  last spring.   I was amazed to look down into the little valley where the park is situated to see remains of buildings being swallowed up by time and Mother Nature.  In a quest discover more about the park, I first went to Defunct Parks.com and found a few lines of information along with three pictures of a rollercoaster.

Next, I visited both the Plymouth Historical Society and the Luzerne County Historical Society and found very little additional information in their collections—a newspaper article about the collapse of a pavilion on the property during a picnic and some pictures of members of the Croop family standing next to a car.  Neither organization had ever received any pictures of the park to add to their resources.

I know it seems hard to believe that an amusement park that closed during the ‘40s because of WWII, but was used for the picnic grounds (possibly, and dance hall until early 1950’s), didn’t seem to have one image available less than 70 years later.

All of that changed when I found the following comment on my blog post about abandoned
Croop’s Glen:

“Would you like some pictures from the park from 1912 to about 1930? A relative of mine just passed away at the age of 99. Her father owned the the rides at Croop’s Glen while B. Frank Croop owned the park. My relative used to sell tickets at the park as a teenager. I also have
photos of her as a baby in 1912 sitting on a carousel horse. Please let me know how I can post them for you.”

The following information and pictures were sent to me from Ellen Geisel:

“I was so excited to find these pictures. I have all the originals and all but one is an old original. The one looks like it was a photo of a photo and I do not know where it came from. I also found out that Charles Shelley built the roller coaster and the Shoot-the-Chute at Harvey’s Lake. see http://harveyslake.org/stories/amusements/story_picnicgrounds_02.htm. Enjoy! ”–Ellen

Croop 1 – My cousin Jean (2nd from left) and some friends in front of the Pop Corn stand (Croop’s Glen)

Croop 2 - carousel – photo by Croop’s Glen Art Studio (Croop’s Glen)

Croop 3 – My cousin Jean selling tickets (Croop’s Glen)

Croop 4 – My cousin Jean as a baby on a carousel horse

A little history. Charles Shelley apparently worked at Harvey’s Lake and built the roller coaster and Shoot-the-Chute. They opened in 1910. He then married Luella Britton (not sure of the exact date). My cousin, Jean was born in March 1912. In 1913, Luella died giving birth to Jean’s little brother (the baby also died). Charles, not knowing how to raise a toddler daughter, hired a live in housekeeper/nanny to help raise Jean. Charles then hooked up with B. Frank Croop and they opened Croop’s Glen and stayed there until it closed in 1940?. Charles Shelley died in 1941 and I think B. Frank Croop died in the next year or two. I know Jean told me she used to sell tickets at the park and worked there as a teenager. Several years ago, we took
her to Knoebel’s and she rode the merry-go-round. She died this past July at the age of 99”–Ellen

Croop 6 – Charles Shelley (Croop’s Glen)

Croop 7 – Jean and Charles Shelley at Harvey’s Lake

Croop 8 – Jean and Charles

Croop 9 – The Whip (Note:  Ellen does not know if this is Croop’s Glen or Harvey’s Lake)

Croop 10 – Jean and unknown man at Harvey’s Lake

Croop 12 - Charles Shelley (Croop’s Glen)

Croop 13 – Jean as a baby on the carousel horse

Croop 14 – dance hall? Not sure (Croop’s Glen)

Croop 15 – 4 men working on mechanics of a ride. I think Charles Shelley may be the one
kneeling on the left. This is the photo of a photo and I do not know where it came from. (Could be Croop’s Glen or Harvey’s Lake)

Croop16 – roller coaster. I believe Charles Shelley is pictured in the center looking up (Croop’s Glen)

Croop 50- carousel – Again Charles is in the center looking at the camera.

These images have been forwarded to the Plymouth Historical Society and the Luzerne
County Historical Society
.

If you can positively identify pictures 9 and 15, please let me or one of the
historical societies know!

I am also seeking information about what is going on with the property today.  I did hear that it was up for sale, but I cannot find any information.

Thank you Ellen for making our history a little more complete!

To see pictures of Croop’s Glen as it looks today visit:

http://cherisundra.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/abandoned-luzerne-county-pa-croops-glen/

For More Lost History Found from Croop’s Glen, you can get the update here:

http://cherisundra.wordpress.com/2011/09/29/new-updates-for-%e2%80%9clost-history-found-croop%e2%80%99s-glen-amusement-park-hunlock-creek-pennsylvania%e2%80%9d/

Purchase Croop’s Glen Photos on RedBubble!

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  1. wow…… really neat!

  2. Fascinating.

    There is a large gear or cog of some sort corroding away on the north side of Route 11 near Hunlock Creek. I’ve always wondered why it’s there and where it came from. I wonder if it could be a part of a ride from this park?

    Don Williams posted a piece on the flood of 1936 that icluded images of bears in a cage at the Kirby Park Zoo. Which raises the question: why would you have bears in a local zoo? Might as well have deer, skunks, and rabbits, too! You want to see a bear around these parts, just wait a while.

    http://srs444.blogspot.com/2011/09/million-dollar-dump-flood-of-1936.html

    You probably know about this entry I did on the flood of 1936:

    http://anothermonkey.blogspot.com/2010/02/sterling-hotel-and-market-street-bridge.html

    • Who knows? ! I found all kinds of mechanical stuff in and around the property. There was some farming equipment on the property too….so I guess it could be from anything.

      I’ve seen a picture of the Kirby Park Zoo bears during the flood in one of the local papers….But that picture posted by Don Williams shows much more detail. And that structure looks like nothing that is left in Kirby Park that people keep referring to as zoo remains (myself included)…..It’s become this mystery that I feel compelled to solve!

      According to the bits of information that I could find, the zoo had monkeys, bears, deer, buffalo, wild game birds, and several other small animals….The concept kind of reminds me of that zoo at Hershey Park—they have black bears and wild turkeys, too! It’s funny; I’ve talk to more than a handful of people who have told me that they remember the elephants in Kirby Park! They must be confusing that zoo with Nay Aug Park—I don’t think any elephants ever loved next to the Susquehanna River! ;-) The Kirby Park Zoo was small…. The path that it was on is historically significant also—The Olmsted Brothers designed Kirby Park. They also did places like Central Park and the Vanderbilt Estate in addition to much of the landscape of the entire nation. One of their hallmarks was the concept of a path that could be used to walk or drive through a natural—a parkway for vehicles on a tour of nature. I would love to find pictures of what we now call The Olmsted Trail in Kirby Park back when the park was completed!

    • Brenda
    • September 16th, 2011

    Property was just sold contact me if you want to know who bought it

    • Amy
    • September 17th, 2011

    how wonderful you wrote this! My mother told us stories of kirby park zoo and there were amusement rides there too… saw a picture once..not sure if I can find it again, but will look. I wish my mother was still alive :( you would have enjoyed the history you could learn from her.

    • Linda H.
    • September 17th, 2011

    I drive by there all the time. I didn’t believe it when people told me that Croops Glen was an amusement park. I could not imagine that it was so. Now I don’t have to imagine. Great pictures.

  3. What a wonderful post and comments! I have often wondered about Croop’s Glen, and have photographed the site (without really knowing where I was – it’s just a nice place with a gate to nowhere!), and I grew up and still live at Harveys Lake, so Hanson’s has always been on my radar screen.
    THANKS ALL!

    • Frank Polanowski
    • September 26th, 2011

    Very nice article, Cheri!
    I’m glad to see that many people from our area are getting involved in preserving what we can of our not-so-distant past! I wish more people would comb through their old pictures, scrapbooks, etc., in an effort to retreive as much as we can about our past before it is forgotten. I’d like to see someone delve into the various locations of those “Dance Halls” that dotted the hillsides in the various town in our valley. I’m ever hopeful that someone will eventually come up with a picture of those unique wooden “troughs” that the mining operations built to prevent water from the streams on the mountain from seeping into the mines!

    • Garth Davidson
    • January 11th, 2012

    Hi Sheri,

    Back again to your very interesting site. You have been busy ! I saw the photos posted of a woman named Jean and her father, the builder & keeper, it seems, of the two parks: Hanson’s and Croop’s Glen. He looks just like Spencer Tracy staring out of history at us. I lived in Plymouth in the late 1950′s and we used to hitchhike down Route 11 to Croop’s Glen to go swimming. No one said anything about an old park. We went for the cold water, sliding off the waterfalls into the deep basin, sunning out on the rocks – and we met other people there doing the same thing. No one ever bothered us. We even camped there, with campfires and hooting & shouting in the woods. I don’t know if we disturbed any neighbors or not, but we never saw another soul. We discovered the ruins of the old coasters overgrown in the woods, just as your photos show the extant buildings. Being impressionable kids, we thought they were the ruins of a lost city ! It took us a while to put together the idea that someone had actually built a roller coaster out here in the woods, next to the creek where we went swimming. That just really seemed like a delicious mystery. I came back in the 70′s and, again, enjoyed swimming, lying out on the rocks – brought some friends with me, we explored the place thoroughly. I’ve been back there as recently at 2010, and the only difference in 40 years was the “jungle” swallowed up more of the wood – it may have been washed away in mini-flood events – kids might have taken the dry boards and made fires with them. It was an abandoned ghost-town, just as you said, and anyone could go there to discover what they wanted to.

    Your articles, and the responses from people who lived there, have opened up the mystery so much more. No one else on the web seems aware of it ( Croop’s Glen ) – and what a big deal it was back in the day. Congratulations – I’ll keep reading. It really is a worth-while pursuit. Oh, and we did run into the mill owners once or twice. They had dogs, were threatening to shoot us if we didn’t get off their property and stay off – they really tried to put a scare into us. I guess they’d had it with vandals and kids like us trespassing on their property. But it was such an irresistible place. The water was the thing – the old ruins were just a curiosity. I guess what real estate people call, an ‘attractive nuisance’. Loved your idea of somehow restoring the place – rebuilding the park as a park, with an education center – photos, recordings – like a small museum – and some care taken of the beautiful natural features. I can easily imagine it being a place where the original natives came for hunting, camping, and ceremonial meetings. Who wouldn’t ?

    Garth Davidson

    • Brian
    • February 12th, 2012

    I also want to point out that on the same property of Croops Glen is a cemetary that has the family they named Hunlock Creek, PA after burried in it , Jonathon Hunlock and his wife Mary Hunlock. The entire property is extreamly historical. I have photos taken in 2012 of the cemetary and the head stones, contact me if you want the pictures or info on where to find this hard to find cemetary on the property. Just be careful because the property is marked no tresspassing and I also heard as of Sept of 2011 it is owned by new people who cleared alot of the items off the property and from the train station across the highway.

    • Mary Virtue Hartman
    • February 21st, 2012

    I Grew up in the hotel across the street from Croops Glen. I know the layout of the park like a book. We played there for years after it closed,even got the rides running onetime.picked flowers at the old cemetary for my teachers.It was covered in Lillies of the Valley.There was also the remains of an old iron furnace up the creek from the sawmill. I would think it is gone from all the flooding.I have a photo of B.F.Croop taken at the park’s photo stand. It was run by Pat Garrick(or Garratt) and his wife ,they also ran the kiddyrides.Last time I was there(8 or 9 years ago0the only thing left was the refreshment stand and roller rink.The roller rink opersted for several years after the park closed.Would be glad to give you more information. It is a shame they demolished the whole neighborhood,it was the hub of Hunlocks.

      • Tom Kupp
      • March 15th, 2013

      My father’s 5th or 6th grade class photo from Hanover twp. (1932) has “P.V(?) Garick, Croop’s Glen” written sideways along the side.

        • Anonymous
        • May 29th, 2013

        please post that photo:-)

    • susan madl
    • February 23rd, 2012

    I WOULD LOVE TO SEE AND HEAR MORE ABOUT THE PARKS AND THE ZOO..MY HUSBAND TOLD ME ABOUT CROOPS PARK, BUT IVE BEEN AT HANSON AS A KID..

    • Alex
    • March 20th, 2012

    WOW. I live in this area (Hunlock Creek), just up the road (not even a Minuit away). I have only herd stories of it and have explored the area various times. Still i was unaware of how far back in history it goes. What stuns me even more are those pictures! It’s really cool to see things that I’m aware of now, In it’s original condition. I know that part of the park is somewhat being used by people as there is an area up above the main area that is a perfect swimming hole. it’s locally known as “the Falls” or “Hunlock Creek Falls”. Up there you do see some holes in the rocks that look like they were not done naturally. It’s a great area and it’s interesting that something from the past (even if it’s indirectly) is still being used. My only gripe with this is often people pollute the area.

  4. I have a question not a comment. How would I get in touch with someone to get permission to go on to the property to hunt with a metal detector for lost items

      • Charlene
      • May 10th, 2013

      Albert I have been trying to locate the person that now owns the property but have not been able to do so. It is one of the areas that I have been interested in hunting. There are many ways to preserve history and metal detecting provides one of the ways to do this. Uncovering the past out of layers of dirt and thinking of who touched it before or what they did with it.
      Would love to be able to hunt Croops and the old train station.

      From what I understand from talking to people there use to be a hotel that set on the corner that the old Hunlock Post Office is on.

    • Anonymous
    • July 1st, 2012

    I grew up in Hunlock Creek and did some historical research of the area for a College paper. I was told by some long time residents that the park closed when the bandstand collapsed injuring or killing several people and the park shut down when they lost the case in court so the Croop family didn’t have the money to pay the judgment. I read elsewhere that Knobles Grove still uses part or all of the carousel from Croops Glen. I was also told that Mr. Hunlock’s grave is located elsewhere, a small cemetary a few miles south of the Hunlock Creek Road between the river and Route 11. Another site has some post cards of the Park with people swimming below the falls.

  5. My dad was born and raised in shickshinny. He remembers hitting his head on a cross beam on one of the coasters.

    • Mike
    • February 26th, 2013

    The cemetary where Hunlock’s grave is 3/4 up to top of hill above the saw mill. I cleaned the brush out and bilt a fence around it and havent been back to see it since 1982 or 83. Jim Croop told me that the big gears were from the iron works down stream from the park at the river.

    • Andrea
    • April 4th, 2013

    Pretty sure #9 is the “Dodgem’s” (sp) from Hanson’s. #14 also looks like Hanson’s, however the background on the left looks like there may be a building. The dance floor is on the 2nd floor and you would not have seen a building there. I have photos I would have to find of Hanson’s right before they started work on the amphitheater. I grew up down the road, my family owns The Sportsman’s Bar.

    • Pam Castellani
    • April 5th, 2013

    I also live not too far from Croop’s Glen. I have always been interested in the mystique of this park and always disappointed to not be able to find out much about it. I am originally from Kingston and I never knew anything about the park until I married and moved to Sweet Valley. I worked in Plymouth at the time which meant that I would drive past the brick pillars and old metal sign (which was still readable at the time, in the 80′s). This prompted me to ask my family members about the park. My father has owned property at North Lake since the early 60′s. We vacationed at the lake every year and never recalled hearing any mention of the old park. And yes, as with most area residents, Hanson’s was “all the rage.”
    So I asked my mother about Croop’s Glen one day. What a surprise! She told me that her uncle often took she and her cousins there for picnics. Now this made sense. My mother was born in Wilkes-Barre but was raised by her Aunt in Benton. Sad to say, I have never known of any photos but if I find any, I’ll be sure to let you know!
    Also it is true that the carousel from Croop’s is at Knoebel’s and is in the kiddie section of the park. They also have a candy apple or cotton candy stand (it’s near the giant swing ride) and an old fashioned Wurlitzer organ that plays back by the roller coaster.

    • Marv
    • April 21st, 2013

    Cool!

    • Anonymous
    • May 29th, 2013

    I too moved to the area within the last 10 yrs and purchased land once owned by one of the Croops. I am obesessed with finding more photos and info on this park!!!! It is wonderful to see that some others are as excited and interested in preserving a very interesting part of our nepa history! !!Kudos to Knoebels for purchasing items from Croops Glen as well as Rocky Glen…I am enjoying reading these- let’s keep the info coming!!! :-) Ali. P.

    • pete
    • November 11th, 2013

    any updated info,for The property or owners of Croops Glen park,please foreward.

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