I would like to share with you the story of one of the Coolspring Power Museum’s finest engines, and its most unique history. The engine is our 8 HP Bates & Edmonds and direct-coupled generator. Its history reveals that it originally lit a hotel high on top of a mountain in eastern Pennsylvania. And so the story unfolds.
At the turn of the last century, the wealthy from Philadelphia and New York City were looking for summer retreats to get away from the hot and noisy cities, and a place to enjoy peace and solitude in the unspoiled country. The mountains provided lakes, forests and cool, refreshing air in the summers. This was considered medicinal at the time. The city visitors could relax and enjoy all the comforts the grand hotels provided. The Pocono Mountains provided some magnificent resorts, but so did the areas of northern Lycoming County and Sullivan County. Here, in the Endless Mountains, our engine found its first home.
A small lake, Highland Lake, at 2,550 feet elevation started to be developed about 1890. John F. Maginness, in his History of Lycoming County Pennsylvania, tells of three grand hotels already built. The first erected was the Highland House, which was shortly followed by the Grand View. The last and the biggest was the Essick, and this was the home of our engine.
Records reveal that Dr. Howard M. Essick started a practice in the village of Picture Rocks, Pa., on March 8, 1881. The village was along Muncy Creek and named for Native American glyphs carved into a local rock formation. North from there, the valley narrows and the mountains rise to the west. About 2 miles on, there is the small village of Tivoli, and from there a small road winds 7 miles up to Highland Lake. Little information is available about Dr. Essick, but apparently his interest turned to developing this area, and this is where he built the fabulous Essick Hotel. The entire mountain community was named Essick Heights, and many large summer cottages were built in the area. It was noted that his wife was postmaster for Essick Heights when it was open during the summer months. At that time, winter sports were not appreciated.
The area prospered in the early 1900s, but then the railroad was extended to Eagles Mere, which surpassed Essick Heights in popularity and was located just a bit farther north. The guests did not favor the 7-mile horse and carriage ride from Tivoli when they could ride the train to Eagles Mere. Eagles Mere still flourishes as the town that time forgot and has a beautiful lake and view.
In 1902, Dr. Essick brought electric light to his hotel. He purchased two Bates & Edmonds units and had them placed in a stone power house about 200 yards from his hotel. Each unit provided 5kw of direct current, so it is hard to imagine how well a four-story hotel could have been illuminated! An old newspaper clipping states that the hotel could be seen from Hughsville, located in the Muncy Valley, 8 miles south, and that the Essick was considered a “modern marvel.”
But the grand adventure was short lived, as Sherry A. Gardner in her book Around Picture Rocks states, the Essick Hotel opened on June 1, 1889, and was destroyed by fire on Nov. 15, 1916. This forced Dr. Essick into bankruptcy and ended any further development of Highland Lake. No further information can be found about Dr. Essick.
Luckily, the engines were located in a stone power house 200 yards distant and were not affected by the fire. One disappeared long ago with no record, but ours remained for an amazing 101 years. An ad in Lancaster Farming of May 2003 lists it for auction, and it was still in its original location. After going through two other collectors, it came to Coolspring in 2009. It had lived in its previous building from 1902 to 2003.
In 2009 I had the opportunity to visit the area and spent a day at Highland Lake. I met the local caretaker, Tom, and he pointed out the site of the Essick Hotel. A stone bench and a depression in the ground is all that remains. Standing on the bench, the view is spectacular, giving a 360-degree panorama of the distance. It was so quiet that I am sure the wind was singing the songs of happy voices of the past. Highland Lake was visible about 200 feet below and is still used for fishing. Then I drove on to the forest border and there remained the stone power house with the two engine foundations. I know that I drove out of Essick Heights on Park Avenue since the big trees were still there beside the dirt tracks in the snow. What an experience!
Our engine is a Bates & Edmonds built in Lansing, Mich., in 1902, which is consistent with its installation at the Essick Hotel. It is labeled a Fairbanks Improved, but this is the jobber that sold them. It is an interesting engine, with features like the “alligator link” valve motion and vertical governor design. The designer was Madison F. Bates, who also built the Bates automobile. He also worked with the Olds Motor Works and designed many of their early engines. His associate was a Mr. Edmonds, who managed the company and its progress. We are all familiar with the Bulldog engine, which is a later product. Several Bates & Edmonds engines are on display at the museum. According to my research, Madison Bates has one patent of May 26, 1903, number 729,254 for a gasoline mixer for his engines.
I hope that you have enjoyed this tour of the Essick Hotel and our engine.
Gas Engine Magazine would like to thank Coolspring Power Museum founder Paul Harvey for allowing us to reprint this article, which originally appeared in The Flywheel, Coolspring’s monthly newsletter.
Read more about this engine from Coolspring Power Museum in 1902 HP Bates & Edmonds Engine.
Contact the Coolspring Power Museum at PO Box 19, Coolspring, PA 15730 • (814) 649-6883 • Coolspring Power Museum website