Harrison/Toby Park

Harrison Park was located along both sides of PA Route 115 on the banks of Tobyhanna Creek, about three quarters of a mile south of Blakeslee corners. Opened around 1930, the name was later changed to Toby Park (spelled Tobey in some sources), likely during or immediately after World War II. The park closed after a devastating flood in 1955.

The land the park would eventually occupy was owned by the Starner family, which built the house that is still standing on the eastern side of Route 115 today. The land for the park was sold to Les Harrison in the late 1920s.

The earliest reference uncovered so far is for July 4th, 1930, when the Wes Georgian Orchestra was scheduled to play modern dance music for park goers. Advertisements in 1931 for Decoration Day at Harrison Park called it “the Pocono’s beauty spot” and featured events including a clay pigeon shoot. A double header baseball game pitted the Blakeslee Giants against the Philadelphia Marines, and then Jack Tarutis and the Merchants.

A postcard with a copyright date of 1936 featured “A Winter Scene at Harrison Park” with several deer walking through the snow along the banks of the creek. The back of the postcard listed several amenities, including a large club house, two large swimming pools, and roller skating and dancing. Other concessions and amusements included a dining hall, several food stands, and various pieces of playground equipment. Other attractions that may have operated at the park include a Ferris Wheel and miniature railroad.


Photo of Mel
Undated postcard image of Harrison Park, courtesy of Stoddartsville Preservation Society.

In the 1940s the park was sold, and the name was changed to Toby Park. A carousel was purchased from Knoebels Amusement Resort in Elysburg, PA in 1947. The carousel was built by the E. Joy Morris Company of Philadelphia, the predecessor to the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC). The E. Joy Morris Company produced approximately 24 carousels between 1896 and 1903 before being sold to PTC. The carousel was originally steam powered, and featured two rows of hand carved horses, other menagerie animals, and chariots. The carousel was brought to Knoebels by Joe Gallagher of Philadelphia in 1926, where Gallagher operated it for several years. It was purchased by Knoebels in the 1930s, and operated at the park until 1941 when it was replaced by a larger carousel, which remains at the park today. Knoebels used the smaller carousel at local fairs and carnivals until it was sold to Toby Park.

An article in the Wilkes College Beacon in August of 1948 promoted the Intramural Softball League’s annual outing at Toby’s Park, noting it was formerly called Harrison’s Park. Events for the day included a softball game, clam bake, and dancing on an “air cooled” floor. Those attending could eat in comfort at the covered picnic tables, and spend some time in the Penny Arcade.


Photo of Mel
Undated postcard image of Harrison Park, courtesy of Stoddartsville Preservation Society.

The park met its end in 1955, when Tobyhanna Creek flooded in mid-August after Hurricanes Connie and Diane saturated the area with huge amounts of rain. Most of the park was heavily damaged, and several structures were completely destroyed. The Penny Arcade, which was located on the eastern side of Route 115, was pushed from its spot onto the highway during the flood. When the waters receded, crews cut the wooden structure in half, pushing one piece to each side of the roadway to allow traffic to pass.

The carousel was also destroyed, with the exception of one or two figures. One of the horses was restored by Mel Heavener, manager of Bushkill Park in Easton, PA, in 1975, and subsequently reacquired by Knoebels. Today, visitors to the Knoebels Carousel Museum can see the horse on display along with several photographs of the carousel from its operation at that park in the 1930s.


Photo of Mel
Photo of “Mel,” the only known surviving horse from the Toby Park carousel,
at Knoebels Carousel Museum. Photo taken by M. Hopkins V, used with permission.

Following the park’s closure, the grounds remained largely undeveloped and overgrown for over half a century. The portion of the park located on the west side of Route 115 is now part of the 122 acre Austin T. Blakeslee Natural Area, opened to the public several years ago. On the edge of the lower parking lot, near the creek, visitors can see the remains of the foundation of the stone building that housed the roller rink, which remained standing until being demolished in late 2010. The cost of restoring the building was deemed to be too high. The eastern portion of the park grounds remains privately owned.

Until 2009, research had suggested that Harrison Park was separate from Toby Park, which was listed as being in Tobyhanna, about 11 miles to the northeast. The research behind the above narrative shows that Harrison and Toby parks were one in the same. The reason for the confusion may be due to the fact that the village of Blakeslee is located in Tobyhanna Township. The town of Tobyhanna is actually located in neighboring Coolbaugh Township, which is completely separate from Tobyhanna Township. Being that the park was located in Tobyhanna Township on Tobyhanna Creek, one can see how the park may end up being listed in some sources as being located in Tobyhanna.

Sources

  • A History of Sans Souci Park, by C. Charles Ciesla
  • Austin T. Blakeslee Natural Area Brochure, October 2011
  • Wilkes College Beacon, August 27, 1948
  • Wilkes-Barre Record, August 22, 1955
  • Northeastern Pennsylvania, February 27, 1982
  • Times Leader, January 18, 2004
  • Pocono Record, August 26, 2010
  • Submissions by R. Boyer, R. Decker, B. Fox, and K. Kerrick
  • Knoebels Amusement Resort
  • Quassy Amusement Park Press Release, March 31 2003
Last updated: 6/22/2013

Fast Facts:

Name(s): Harrison Park, Toby Park, Tobey Park

Open: around 1930

Closed: 1955

Location: PA Route 115 in Blakeslee, PA 18610

Today: Part of Natural Area

Trolley Park: No

Railroad Park: No

Roller Coasters: None