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Neversink Mountains, Witch’s Hat Pavilion and ruins of its glorious past

5 min read

Neversink Mountain sits north of the city of Reading, Pennsylvania. Despite now the site of hiking trails is open to the public, it was once the site of a complex of exclusive hotels, multiple resorts and tourist attractions, and was originally inhabited by the Lenni Lenape, indigenous people of the Northeastern Woodlands, who lived in the United States and Canada.
The name “Neversink” in fact derives from the Lenape word “navasink”, meaning literally “at the promontory”.
Today, the mountain sits in solitude, and contains only the relics and ruins of its glorious past.

Neversink sits above the Schuylkill River, and is an ideal lookout and fishing spot.
This led to the multiple Lenape and colonial settlements along the river’s banks as well as high on the mountain.
Some of the mountain’s settlers were Quakers, a peaceful group of colonists who did not take part in the slaughter of Native Americans. However, they still had their own rules, and tensions between the natives and the white settlers were high.
As story goes, in the 1760s, a young Quaker woman named Sarah Wynne fell in love with Unalach, a Native American whose tribe had settled just near Neversink Mountain. The man shared her love wholeheartedly, and the two really wished to marry. However, both Sarah’s and Unalach’s people didn’t approved their relationship, and the two began to meet in secret, before finally deciding that if they could not be bound together in life, they would do so in death.
Thus they walked to Point Lookout, a steep cliff on Neversink that overlooked the Schuylkill, and leaped to their deaths.
Apparently, their spirits are felt as the rapids of the river and in the mountain winds.
The last descendant of the Neversink tribes, known to locals as “Indian Brown”, would often share this story.
He was laid to rest in an unmarked grave on the mountain in 1823. 

In any case, Neversink’s lush greenery, beautiful views, and good position over the Schuylkill led to it’s many tourist attractions in the late 1800s.
Its first hotel, the Highland House, was built in 1884 and contained rich architecture, a dance pavilion, and even a beer garden.
An incline railroad was built to reach the hotel.
The largest hotel was the Neversink Hotel, a massive resort built on 10 acres of land at the mountain’s highest point in 1892. Along with it’s multiple rooms and activities, there was also a lookout pavilion built on the west end of the property. Another hotel built in the same year was the Centennial Springs Hotel, known for its vineyards and hotel pond. Nearby, the Klapperthal Pavilion was also built, and it was the largest dance hall in the area at the time.
The last Neversink hotel was the Glen Hotel.
There, in warm months, wealthy vacationers arrived from New York and Philadelphia by a train that went right up the hillside, drawn by the prospect of escaping summer in the city for beautiful views, fresh breezes, music and dancing.
Along with the incline railroad to get up the mountain, Neversink also had a mountain railroad to take hotel guests up and around the mountain.
Interestingly, the eight miles of railroad, built in 1890, was the first mountain railroad to operate solely on hydroelectric power. 

However, over time, the age of the automobile destroyed the mountain’s status as a resort destination and, gradually, the buildings on Neversink either fell out of use or were destroyed by fire and arson.
In 1917, also the railroad shut down due to America’s growing use of trolleys and automobiles. Klapperthal was demolished in 1903 while, two years later, the Neversink Hotel was the subject of arson by three unidentified individuals, and the building burnt to the ground.
In 1907 the Centennial Springs Hotel, which was never a financial success, was purchased, by Reverend Monsignor George Bornemann, pastor of St. Paul’s Catholic Church of Reading, and donated to the Berks County Tuberculosis Association for use as a Tuberculosis Sanitarium. Tuberculosis was a huge problem at the time. With no cure for the disease many people opted to spend their final days in the resort, and this voluntary quarantining, more than any other factor, helped stem the spread of the disease. By 1932, as problems with tuberculosis diminished, the sanatorium was closed and the building was demolished too.
In 1930, the Highland House, that had been abandoned since 1915 was also the subject of arson, this time from someone setting off explosions in the basement. In 1931, the Glen Hotel was also destroyed by an unknown fire. 

Today, the mountain contains hiking and mountain biking trails. The stone foundation to the Neversink Hotel is still there, as well as “the Centennial Springs” famous pond and wine cellar, abandoned yet still intact.
Parts of the base for the mountain railroad are still strewn across the mountain’s landscape while, one of the only reminders of this history is a pavilion, built in honor of an avid hiker in 1892 at the Neversink Hotel.
The still-standing structure is known as the Witch’s Hat, due to its shape, and along with the abandoned foundations nearby, it often has a spooky appearance.
But on clear days it actually offers some of the best views in the area—the same views that inspired hikers to rest there in the 1800s.

Author’s notes: there are several access trails up to the top of the mountain, but the easiest being from the service road up to the cell towers and pavilion.

Images from web – Google Research

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