Coolspring Power Museum: The History of the Bates & Edmonds Engine

The story of the Coolspring Power Museum’s 8 HP Bates & Edmonds engine

| June/July 2013

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.”


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