May 30, 2023


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The Good Old Summertime (1803): Healing waters turned Doubling Gap into a mountain resort | History


Doubling Gap

Members of the Cumberland Valley Historical Club gather in front of the hotel in Doubling Gap in early October 1914.

Legend has it the outlaw had an arrangement with Nicholas Howard.

If the woods were clear of lawmen, the innkeeper would raise a flag from an upper window of the Doubling Gap Sulphur Springs Hotel.

When Lewis the Robber caught a glimpse of the signal from his hideout in a nearby cave, he knew that it was safe to roam the countryside at will.

But his notoriety was brief and localized compared to other guests of the mountain resort that relied on the therapeutic effects of spring water to fuel its prosperity.

The Good Old Summertime (1792): Carlisle Springs once hosted popular health resort

The story of Doubling Gap is rooted in the geology where Blue Mountain curves back on itself to form double gaps in the mountain range, according to a history posted online at the Gardner Digital Library of the Cumberland County Historical Society.

The Doubling Gap hotel building is now part of the Doubling Gap center at 1550 Doubling Gap Road, Newville, home of Camp Yolijwa.

“Early European settlers would come to the springs and carry water away for consumption at home,” the history reads. “On January 1, 1789, Sherman Barnes, a resident of Cumberland County, made application to purchase the Sulphur Spring tract of about 150 acres along what is today state route 233 north of Newville.”

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The first known improvement to the property was a boarding house that allowed visitors to stay while they drew water from the spring. “Jonathan Wallace was granted a hotel license in 1803 and the … Hotel came into business,” the history reads. “Guests from Philadelphia and Baltimore frequented the hotel. They came for the curative powers of the water, but also enjoyed the quiet and the seclusion offered by the remote location.”

Popular healing water brought masses to site of Doubling Gap Hotel

The hotel had mixed success until September 1848 when Scott Coyle became the owner. A member of the Doubling Gap Springs Association, Coyle built a three-story addition and the hotel flourished as a full-fledged resort under his management. The building offered rooms for up to 250 guests at a time and accommodated as many as 1,000 guests in a season. The second and third floors offered a view of the mountains and its front piazza became famous for its rocking chairs that were popular on cool summer evenings.

Guests arrived by train to visit the hotel. While there, they could spend time walking the tree-lined paths, using lawn ten-pin alleys, swimming, boating, horseback riding and blackberry picking.

At one point, Doubling Gap was selected as the site for a select academy for boys, The Sentinel reported in a Feb. 25, 1989, story. “A Mr. Huston opened the school to not only educate the lads but also give the hotel some year-round usage. But the school lasted only one year. Huston was a man of ‘delicate health and the energies of his pupils may have been too taxing,’ wrote one of his contemporaries.”

Resort turns Church Camp

George A. Freyer of Philadelphia purchased the hotel in 1894 and had the most success with it. The online history reported that Freyer not only assumed personal management, but enlarged and improved the facility to the point where it attracted such guests as John Wanamaker and the DuPont family.

Freyer kept up with progress when he had a telephone line installed in 1895. But he encountered resistance from Newville borough officials after he petitioned the local post office for Sunday delivery. The town fathers did not want to break the sanctity of the Sabbath.

“Sometime after the turn of the century, an elegant coach named the ‘Tally-ho’ was purchased to transport VIP guests from the Newville Railroad Station,” the 1989 story reads. “Mrs. Freyer would frequently make the trip, attracting the attention of the men, who doffed their hats. A demur but knowing ‘Gentlemen’ would come from her lips, accepting the homage due her. A nod to the ladies on the sidewalks was also part of the unofficial ceremony.”

After her husband died in 1912, she took over ownership of the hotel. But, in 1935, the hotel closed after the property was purchased by Holbert Myers, who was more interested in harvesting timber than in running a tourist destination. In 1946, the hotel was purchased by the East Pennsylvania Conference Churches of God, which made it part of the Doubling Gap Center, site of the Camp Yolijwa Christian summer camp program.

Joseph Cress is a reporter for The Sentinel covering education and history. You can reach him at [email protected] or by calling 717-218-0022.


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