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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  •  Local History: The Silk Mill boarding houseLater known as the Colonial Inn

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  •  By Peter BeckerManaging EditorHAWLEY- Landmarks can be so fleeting. Some of us remember impressive buildings or natural features removed a long time back, and we are glad to inform a new generation - if they care to hear. Going further back, a few long lost landmarks have been preserved by the camera to tantalize our imagination and make us yearn to understand a little more, even where this was.One of the precious glass photographic plates taken by the venerable Hawley camera man Ludolph (Louis) Hensel shows a towering building on the Bellemonte Avenue hill, which must have had a commanding view of the Eddy section of town, the Lackawaxen River and the canal and Hudson Street section beyond. At the bend of on Welwood Avenue- previously called Erie Avenue, where it turns left up the hill and Atkinson joins to the right, we can see a winding path to the building high up the embankment.We are looking at the back of this structure, which fronted on Bellemonte Avenue- what we also know today as US Route 6. The back shows it to be three stories, with four-story towers on either end. Each tower is capped with a pyramid-style roof. the main roof of the building had three dormers in the back.The backyard was steep, with the winding trail meandering around trees and through a grass lawn.What we are looking at was the Bellemonte Hotel, a boarding house for the largest manufacturer in town, Dexter, Lambert & Company, which built the Bellemonte Silk Mill in 1880.A news article from the period said the boarding house was under construction in September 1882. It was being laid out 37 by 74 feet, and three stories high.The hotel stood here for for 80 years. Some still remember it as the Colonial Inn. The building was razed when the state rerouted Route 6 in 1963, requiring Bellemonte Avenue to be widened.Sanborn Fire Insurance maps for Hawley, published in several editions, show that by 1897 the back corner towers were lowered. It was called the "Bellemonte Hotel" on the maps for 1885, 1892, 1897 and 1903, but the 1912 map lists it simply as a "dwelling."There was a separate laundry building to the left, as seen from Bellemonte Avenue.Welwood Silk Mill took over at the Bellemonte plant in 1914, and continued use of the boarding house. Hundreds of people- mostly women- worked at the factory. In those days, few people would drive. The boarding house gave those who didn’t live in Hawley a place to stay, right near their work. There was also a recreation hall for the employees, built to the right of the great bluestone factory.Art Glantz recalled the place was vacant when he was growing up in Hawley in the 1930's.Shirley (Bea) Gumble of Paupack said she worked there when it was the Colonial Inn when she was probably a freshman, in the 1940's. This was during the summer. She would walk from her house on Chestnut Street in the early morning, to prepare for breakfast. She and a friend from school, Helen Grant, waited on tables.After breakfast, they went upstairs and cleaned and made up the guest rooms, and went back down and organized for lunch. In the afternoon, she would back home and change, and be back for the evening meal. She also washed dishes, and sometimes was there until after 10 p.m.Walking from downtown up that hill kept her healthy, she said. On rare occasions, when her parents were available, she would get a ride in the car.PP&L workers were staying there. "They were good tippers," she said.Shirley also recalled going to the Colonial Inn during 7th or 8th grade with the Methodist Youth Fellowship. The kids played games downstairs in the basement level and came back up to eat. She and her family also went there for her 16th birthday dinner.Shirley said it was a very nice place. The owner's name was Mrs. Sutton, she recalled.After graduating from Hawley High School in 1948, Shirley went on to college, and is unaware of what became of the business.Richard Murphy lived diagonally across from it; he described the Colonial Inn as a "tea room." He said in an earlier interview that the building, when it was a boarding house, had small rooms with sparse furnishings: a bed, chair and dresser. There was a huge, common kitchen in the basement.Murphy's parents Olive and Warren Murphy were still living across the street when their house had to be taken down for the state road project. Shirley added she remembers one time riding Dick Murphy's pony. "It threw me," she said, laughing.---Anyone wishing to share their memories of the local area for another story, or has pictures to share, is welcome to contact Managing Editor Peter Becker at 226-4547 or news@neagle.com. Photos will be copied and gladly returned.
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