Friday, March 11, 2016

Over a century ago, the site Nestle is planning to use was developed by millionaires, resulting in property condemnation, bankruptcy and some positive outcomes

In 1898, a group of millionaires including J.P. Morgan got the bright idea to develop the Chestnut Ridge.  They formed Chestnut Ridge Development Corporation, and their plans included constructing a brick factory on the site that Nestle plans to extract water from.  To support the brick factory, a railroad would be constructed along the creek between Palmerton and Kunkletown.  Another part of the plan was to create a resort on the Blue Ridge near the Monroe/Carbon county line.
Kunkletown Station at terminus of Chestnut Ridge Railway
Property today owned by Gower Estates, LLC

The last part of the plan might be considered "visionary" from the viewpoint of 1970, considering the development that was about to commence.  But alas, the resort never came to fruition, and that the tourist trade has passed Kunkletown by may be a good thing.  However, a 35-room lodge with luxury appointments overlooking the brick factory was constructed along Chestnut Ridge Drive to host corporation executives when they were in town - first things first.

Chestnut Ridge Lodge, Chestnut Ridge Dr Kunkletown
Property owned today by Gower Estates, LLC

The Chestnut Ridge Railroad was built within two years, and the New York and Philadelphia Brick Tile and Terra Cotta Company opened in 1900.  In only two or three years, the brick company failed, and the railroad sold and renamed Chestnut Ridge Railway.  The brick company was replaced by the Chestnut Ridge White Brick Company, and this company also went bankrupt within a few years.  The railroad was sold in 1907 to The New Jersey Zinc Company.  By 1929, the brick company was defunct.  To this day, the Chestnut Ridge Railway name survives.

Twin 90' tall kiln stacks of brick factory at center; Chestnut Ridge Lodge top right
Site of factory and lodge owned today by Gower Estates, LLC

A side benefit was that Kunkletown residents could use the railroad to commute to the zinc company and other jobs in and near Palmerton, which they did until passenger service ceased in 1935.  The Kunkletown railway station became a hub for the bulk shipment of products to and from the area, with freight service continuing into the 1960's.

Chestnut Ridge Railway
Today mostly converted to a recreational rail trail

Passenger service fit for commoners - C.R.R. Railbus #51 ca. about 1930
Restored by and in possession of the Phillipsburg RR Historians

C.R.R. Railbus #51, converted to a maintenance vehicle ca. about 1960

The site of the Chestnut Ridge Lodge now has an unfoliated patch where the foundation once was.  Most of the railroad has been torn up today - leaving a 35' wide ribbon as a right of way for a recreational rail trail.  It leads one to consider the future and ponder, could there be any potential fringe benefits for the residents of Kunkletown of Nestle's development of the same site 5 or 15 years down the road, after the $750,000 payoff has been expended?  Continuous diesel exhaust, road degradation, truck noise, slowed traffic stuck behind 40-ton trucks going 10mph up hills, reduced property values.  Not a single job, no benefit to the tax base.  These are the only  "benefits".

Click the image to see the location of the Chestnut Ridge Corporation's improvements
and Nestle's planned operation on the Gower Estates LLC lot

Here is an article from a publication titled "Poconos Today", which recounts from Kunkletown resident Levi Smith's perspective the manner in which Kunkletown and its residents responded to and were affected by development associated with the Chestnut Ridge Corporation that commenced in 1898.


  1. Development that provides jobs for a community is one thing, but development that brings no jobs just doesn't make sense.

  2. Bingo. Usually the argument is that a handful or 20 or 30 jobs will come with a nuisance business, and often towns will look the other way. Zero jobs is a nonstarter - especially when the business doesn't belong on the site in the first place. This is a commercial zone, intended for businesses that benefit the public, not a company's bank balance sheet.