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Historic Great Camp Walking Tour - Lake Ariel, PA

Walking Tour
The porch of the historic Watres Lodge – Lacawac Sanctuary

In addition to its position as an outstanding nature preserve and ecological research station, Lacawac is notable for its beautiful old group of historic buildings built in 1903 with an interesting history and some fascinating architectural features.

You may ask to visit the exterior of the buildings anytime the sanctuary Visitor’s Center is open or at any time there is an event or program scheduled. Regular tours of the complex including the interiors are also available – check with us for current schedule. Groups and schools may request a personalized tour by appointment.

Lacawac’s buildings are on the National Historic Registry. Built in 1903, it’s widely regarded as the first of the original Pocono Mountain vacation homes. The buildings are in a rustic style popular at the turn of the last century and similar to the large country estates owned by wealthy industrialists in the Adirondack and Berkshire Mountains. This rustic natural wood style is known as “The Great Camp” school of architecture.

History of Lacawac

When you tour the Lodge at Lacawac you will be surprised at the astonishing quality of workmanship for this building in the middle of the woods. The property was originally owned by the family of William Penn, who sold the land to Burton G. Morss of Ledgedale. Morss cut timber, fished, and cut ice from the lake. His nearby mill and tannery burned in 1895, and the family sold the Lacawac lands to William Connell. Connell was a very wealthy coal mine operator who also ran several industrial mills in Scranton. He was deeply involved in politics and served as a congressman and lieutenant governor.

Connell built the original complex which included the lodge, carriage house/barn, ice house, coachman’s house, boathouse, spring/pump house and a deer house (the boat house and deer house were removed in 1947). During his years here the estate was called “Connell Park.”

After Connell’s death the family sold the property in 1913, to Col. Louis A. Watres. Watres was a state senator who also served as lieutenant governor. A very ambitious, self made man he rose from poverty to own banks, newspapers, insurance companies and ultimately organized the infant electric utility company which built Lake Wallenpuapack.

At first the Watres family used Connell Park as a summer home, but later his daughter and grandson, Isabel and Arthur Watres lived here full time. It was Arthur and Isabel – pioneers in the conservation and land preservation movement - who created Lacawac Sanctuary. In 1966 they established a non-profit entity to manage the preserve and donated the estate to it.

Accessibility Notes


Best Starting Point

Lacawac Coulter Visitor Center with a 1/2 mile walk/hike to the great camp complex.

Length of Walking Tour

45 minutes

Pet Friendly Notes

Pets welcome on tour

Nearby Places