Serving mostly as a place for picnics & group outings, Gracedale Park in Mountain Top also featured some mechanical amusements for several summer seasons during its existence.
Name(s): Gracedale Park
Opened: circa 1922
Closed: circa 1960
Location: Off Gracedale Avenue, Mountain Top, PA 18707
Today: Several homes built on the property
Trolley/Railroad Park: No, but located near railroad tracks
Roller Coasters: None
Gracedale Park was located along Gracedale Avenue, near the Central Railroad of New Jersey (CRNJ) and Lehigh Valley Railroad (LVRR) tracks in Mountain Top (Fairview Township). The earliest mention of the park found is in 1922 when it opened on July 4th, likely as picnic grounds as a retreat for residents of the Wyoming Valley. Excursions were held to the park during the summer months, as evidenced by newspaper articles and advertisements in 1922 and 1923.
An advertisement from a local paper on July 3rd, 1922 for Independence Day lists that dancing in the afternoon and evening will be held at the park, with music provided by Castle’s Bell Hop Orchestra of Freeland. All CRNJ trains would be stopping at the picnic grounds, and local trains on LVRR would stop at the Mountain Top station for park-goers as well. Busses were scheduled to leave from Ashley, at the base of the mountain, every half hour.
Independence Day of 1923 was rainy, though Gracedale Park still saw several thousand visitors for St. Catherine’s Church Picnic. The church advertised a “chicken dinner served by the ladies, dancing in the afternoon and evening, and amusements for children young and old.” Trains were scheduled to leave from the Wilkes-Barre station of CRNJ at several points during the day, with the last train leaving Gracedale Park at 8:55 p.m. Busses were again running from Ashley every half hour.
Gracedale Park may have closed or fallen into disuse during the Great Depression, as no information has yet been uncovered for these years. The park was in use by the late 1930s and was purchased by Edward and Lottie Sledziewski in 1940 from the Slater family, who had owned and lived within the park at that point in time. Under the Sledziewskis, the park continued to flourish, holding popular square and farmer dances, clam bakes, and five-dollar lobster dinners in the main pavilion. The pavilion was also rented out for private functions like wedding receptions.
The grounds remained primarily a picnic park, with the dance pavilion serving as the main attraction. For several summers, carnival rides were brought to the park for children’s amusement and to increase revenue. A large pond located across the street, property of the railroad and used to refill the steam locomotives, was a popular spot for park-goers to fish. It was reportedly stocked with freshwater trout.
At some point, likely in the late 1950s or 1960s, the park was closed, and the dance pavilion was converted to a tavern, known as the Gracedale Park Inn. The pavilion was torn down in the 1980s, with some of the lumber being used to rebuild a home, possibly in Bear Creek. Today, the former picnic grounds are now occupied by several homes built in the last few decades.
- Wilkes-Barre Record Almanac – 1923
- Pieces of the Past: A History of the Mountain Top Area
- Unidentified newspaper articles/advertisements from 1922 & 1923, submitted by C. Charles Ciesla
Last research update: December 11, 2009
Last page update: March 11, 2021