Stroudsburg stands on the site of Fort Hamilton, built in 1756 at the direction of Benjamin Franklin. It was one of a chain of frontier forts built to protect European settlers from Indian attacks. In 1760, Jacob Stroud, a former indentured servant, settled on land along the Pocono, McMichaels, and Brodhead Creeks, which later powered his grist and sawmills. Following the bloody Wyoming Valley Massacre in 1778, Stroud built a stockade around his house and substantial land holdings. The Stroud compound later became known as Fort Penn, which stood on what is today the 500 block of Main Street.
Stroudsburg is the oldest town in the region, founded a generation before Monroe County was created. Jacob Stroud advertised the subdivision of his property on October 17, 1799 in the American Eagle, a newspaper published in Easton, then the county seat for the entire area, thusly: “Looking to dispose on very reasonable terms to mechanics and others, who will build upon the lots. A condition of building within three years will be part of every contract, and therefore no person need apply for a lot unless he is determined to become an improver of the town which will hence forward be called Stroudsburg.”
The streets were named for his relatives, and lots sold quickly. Stroudsburg had attracted enough people and commerce by 1815 to incorporate as a borough and it was a popular choice for a county seat when Monroe County was created in 1836. Still, real growth did not come until it rode into town on the rails of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad that linked Stroudsburg to New York City in 1856. The population would triple over the remainder of the 19th century.
Lumber mills, tanneries, and textile mills along McMichaels Creek powered the early economy. About 1853, Ephram Culver built a grist mill, only to see it burned by Indians. Later, more mills were built. Many were destroyed by floods. The present dam, believed to be built before 1884, diverted water to mills and factories along lower Main Street via a mill race which has long since been buried. Eventually all would cede importance to the tourist trade in the Pocono Mountains.
Our walking tour will start at the house of the man who started the town...
900 Main Street
The historic 1795 Stroud Mansion is acknowledged as the finest example of Georgian-style architecture in Monroe County. It features such classical details as a symmetrical facade, flat-arch window lintels with pronounced keystones, simulated stone walls and quoins that accentuate the corners, plus tooth-like dentils beneath the cornice. Built by Jacob Stroud, founder of Stroudsburg and a Revolutionary War colonel, as a home for his eldest son, John, the 12-room house was an imposing structure in tis day. John lived here for only a few years before moving to another home outside of town; the property remained in the Stroud family until 1893. It did time as the town library and since 1921 has been home to the Monroe County Historical Association.
CROSS THE STREET, TURN RIGHT AND WALK UP HALF-A-BLOCK.
Monroe County Bar Association
913 Main Street
This building was built in the early 1900s for John Kern, a transitional house between the Queen Anne and Colonial Revival styles. Starting in 1947, the building was used for the Monroe County Public Library, and was renovated to become home to the Monroe County Bar Association. Several features in the house are original, including leaded glass windows, stained glass windows and shutters, and pocket doors.
RETRACE YOUR STEPS, WALKING EAST ON MAIN STREET, TOWARDS THE TOWN CENTER. STAY ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE STREET.
George Tillotson House
905 Main Street
This picturesque house was built around 1880 for Judge Samuel and Sallie Dreher. Dreher gained national recognition at the the time as one of the presiding judges in a series of sensational murder trials between 1875 and 1877 involving the radical group of Irish mine workers known as the Molly Maguires. The workers engaged in sporadic collective violent protest characteristic in rural areas and Dreher’s rulings helped break the society. Before his election as judge, he served as president of the Stroudsburg National Bank. It is the only survivor of three similar mansions located along Main Street in the late 1800s and is the finest example of Second Empire architecture in Monroe County. George Tillotson purchased the house in 1892 when he arrived in Stroudsburg to supervise the Ryle Silk Mill that operated in East Stroudsburg. After a century of residential service the house was converted into a restaurant in the 1980s and retains most of its stylistic features, including a patterned mansard roof, porthole dormers, decorative window hoods and brackets and a central pavilion.
Stroudsburg National Bank
southeast corner of Main Street and 7th Street
Until this century, a bank had occupied this prominent corner in Stroudsburg for over 140 years. In the 1850s the Stroudsburg National Bank was organized; one of its original directors was Jay Gould, then in his early 20s. Gould would soon amass one of America’s great fortunes in railroads. when he died in 1892, he left $77 million to his heirs. An appropriately somber, temple-fronted vault was built here for the bank in 1857. In 1893 this Richardsonian Romanesque-style building replaced the first bank. In the 1920s the bank expanded along both Main and Seventh streets and its first floor facade received a classical makeover with columns and smooth-faced stone. The bank is gone but the original vault remains in the rear of the retail store.
585 Main Street
Dunkelberger’s Sports Outfitter started as a one man shop on North 6th Street in February 1972. Since moving to Main Street, a series of expansions has united diverse buildings under a single retail banner. The eastern section was once the store and residence of Darius Dreher, dating to 1865. A four-bay Italianate addition came along a few years later, now the center section of the retail operation. Architects T.I. Lacey & Son created the corner edifice as a lodge for the Freemason Society in 1890. The Masonic Building featured a commercial storefront on the ground floor and meeting space upstairs. Th building features elements of the Romanesque Revival style such as an arcaded corbel table and terra cotta panels above the third-story windows.
First Presbyterian Church
575 Main Street
Moravian Brethren from the Bethlehem area came into the community in 1743. The Presbyterians also responded to the call of the “Great Awakening” in 1744 with the arrival of David Brainerd of Connecticut. The Brainerd Presbyterian Church in Snydersville bears his name. from these seed sprung the Presbyterian church in Monroe County.
565 Main Street
The Malta Temple was built in 1904 for a fraternal society known as the Knights of Malta but is best known as the former home of the L’homemedieu Music publishing company. The storefront has been altered but the stone ornamentation and columns flanking the windows remain as evidence of its original Romanesque Revival architectural style.
Stroudsburg United Methodist Church
547 Main Street
Circuit riding preachers first visited Stroudsburg in 1788 and held Methodist services in private homes. The first Methodist house of worship appeared around 1830 on Eighth Street. The Main Street church was dedicated in 1854 and enlarged in 1871. This church building, with stonework imitating English Gothic Revival church architecture, dates to 1915.
CROSS THE STREET TO THE SHERMAN THEATER.
524 Main Street
A proud tradition of entertainment on this site began in 1776 when Jacob Stroud had an orchestra perform for guests at his large mansion here. Later, a stockade was constructed, and the Stroud mansion became Fort Penn. The Sherman Theater opened on January 7, 1929 with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy headlining. Daily matinees were offered at 2:30 p.m. and evening shows at 7:00 and 9:00. The Sherman continued to offer vaudeville until touring acts disappeared from the American landscape, after which it became a movie house. Like many of its cousins across America, the Sherman struggled in the face of suburban flight in the 1960s and 1970s. To stave off the inevitable the theater was twinned and even took to screening X-rated adult fare. The Sherman closed its doors on December 28, 1983. The Sherman was kept alive when a small group of East Stroudsburg University students campaigned to save the theater and transform it into a performing arts center in the late 1980s. Despite non-existent maintenance and sporadic bookings the theater soldiered on until it was burglarized in November 1993. It went mostly dark for a decade before it was renovated and re-opened in 2005 and is once again a premier performance venue.
WALK BACK WEST ON MAIN STREET.
Wyckoff Department Store
564 Main Street
The Wyckoff Department Store began in 1875 as “The New york Store, Wyckoff, Cooke and Bell.” It would remain a downtown Stroudsburg icon for more than a century. Amzi Wyckoff, the store’s founder, became its sole owner in 1892. Wyckoff’s closed in 1981, not long after the Stroud Mall opened north of town.
636 Main Street
Although it was altered into a flat-roofed box in the 1930s, this building, known as the Hollinshead Block, has anchored one of the prime corners of downtown Stroudsburg for over 100 years. Some of the original Romanesque Revival details remain from its construction in the early 1890s such as heavy stone window arches and decorative terra cotta panels beneath the belt course. In its early days it housed a grocery store, clothing store and law offices.
TURN RIGHT ON 7TH STREET.
west side of Courthouse Square
The Metzgar Buildings, built circa 1870, were once owned by local physicians Thomas and Marshall Metzgar. Note the paired, pointed arch windows in the dormers, a Gothic Revival stylistic detail.
Monroe County Court House
Here once stood the original brick courthouse of Monroe County, built in 1836 when it was created out of Northampton, Pike and Wayne counties. In 1890 it was demolished, the bricks carted away and a new native sandstone courthouse in the Richardsonian Romanesque style was created by T.I. Lacey, Stroudsburg’s architect of choice. A 1934 addition to the rear mimics the building’s original features. The courthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places.
STAY ON 7TH STREET, WALKING ON THE WEST SIDE OF COURTHOUSE SQUARE (THE COURTHOUSE IS ON YOUR RIGHT).
Stroudsburg Fire Department
700 Sarah Street
The Stroudsburg Chemical and Hook and Ladder Company #1 was formed in 1909 and the 40 members set about raising funds for the purchase of a truck and equipment. The first apparatus would be a hand-drawn Kanawha system chemical and hose cart, costing $1200 fully equipped. The next year arrangements were made with the borough to lease the old County House, which was completely remodeled. Also that year the borough created The Stroudsburg Fire Department, combining the Chemical Company #1 and Phoenix Fire Company #2. Phoenix had been the first fire company of Stroudsburg, organized in 1845.
TURN LEFT ON SARAH STREET.
Academy Hill Historic District
north of Sarah Street, between 8th Street and 5th Street
Sarah Street is the southern boundary of the Academy Hill Historic District, a residential area that reflects the tremendous growth in Stroudsburg in the latter decades f the 1800s. Most of the high-style homes were not architect-designed but were the product of big city influences filtered through pattern books and executed by the talents of local carpenter-builders. Thomas Street, one block to the north, developed into the finest residential street in town, noted for its shade trees and well-kept lawns. This block of Sarah Street exhibits none of the picturesque attributes of the Italianate and Gothic and Queen Anne styles in the rest of the neighborhood. Instead, they represent a conservative folk-building tradition that produced boxy structures built on the end gables.
TURN LEFT ON 8TH STREET.
800 Monroe Street
It was not unusual for rural dwellers to come into town to spend winters in the late 1700s and early 1800s. This early 19th-century townhouse is a good example of such a house that could have served up needed comfort and convenience. The two-story Federal townhouse is similar to those found in Philadelphia and New York City with large windows surmounted by flat lintels, a fanlight above the front door and quarter-circular windows in the gable end. The Federal style of architecture, also known as Adamesque, was the dominant American building style from 1790 to 1820.
Zion United Church of Christ
14 North 8th Street
In 1882, Zion’s Reformed Church was founded in Stroudsburg as a mission congregation of the German Reformed Church.
TURN RIGHT ON MAIN STREET.
800-804 Main Street
This row of high-design eclectic houses recall a time of prominence in Stroudsburg at the beginning of the 20th century. Joseph H. Shull, a physician and attorney, commissioned T.I. Lacey & Son of Binghamton, New York to design his house at No. 800 in 1890. The Stick Style house features a two-story front porch and terra cotta panels on the east facade. Robert Bixler, owner of the venerable Bixler Hardware store, blended elements of the Colonial (classical columns) and Tudor (half-timbering) revival styles for his house at No. 802. Next door, the stylish tower dominates the 1910-era home. It was subdivided into apartments in the 1950s; the other two buildings found new life as law offices, a common fate of large, older Stroudsburg homes.
CONTINUE WALKING ONE-HALF BLOCK BACK TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT AT THE CORNER OF 9TH STREET AND MAIN STREET.