Historical Association of Tobyhanna Township

HATT | PO Box 2084 | Pocono Pines, PA 18350-2084

The Blakeslee Community Center

Contributed by the Blakeslee Community Association
The Blakeslee Community Center is historically significant for its association with the development of social, recreational, and civic life in the western portion of the Pocono Plateau in the early 1900s.

Since its construction in 1922, the center has been the hub and single most important structure for community affairs. It has served as a gathering place for community clubs such as the Dairymen’s League, Rotary, Women’s Club, Boy Scouts, Blakeslee Recreation Association, and many church clubs. For nearly 100 years, it has remained in use to host events such as plays, art shows, fashion shows, boxing matches, bingo, magic shows, Bible school, holiday parties for the community, fellowship dinners, dances, community fairs, and outdoor movies.

The center has also been used as a venue for family social occasions like birthday and graduation parties, showers, wedding receptions, and family reunions. Historically, the building has hosted local elections and stored voting equipment. In addition, more recently, Red Cross blood drives have been conducted at the center.

Located at the intersection of state routes 115 and 940, the “Gateway to the Poconos” as many call it, the Blakeslee Community Center is located on a wooded lot at the northwest corner of the intersection.

The village of Blakeslee was named after its founder, Jacob Blakeslee Jr. He was not only an extensive landowner, but served the community in many capacities including its first postmaster, township supervisor, justice of the peace, country store owner, and school director. It was his relatives, Robert and Eliza Blakeslee, who in 1922 donated the plot of land now occupied by the Blakeslee Community Center.

The deed itself stipulated that the property must always be used for community purposes. Therefore, the Blakeslee Community Association was formed to construct and operate a public gathering place for the local people in this relatively isolated area. It was, at that time, considered an extravagant building, costing $3,000 to construct in the trendy craftsman bungalow style of the early 1900s.

The architect was Austin Blakeslee Sr., grandson of founder Jacob Blakeslee Jr. The builder was a local gentleman named Jack Wildrick whose family had deep roots in the area. In fact, the original five members of the Blakeslee Community Association included Mella Blakeslee and JJ Wildrick, relatives of the center’s architect and builder.

Interestingly, upon construction, it was noted that a geodetic survey marker rests in the ground under the front porch of the building, where it is believed to remain as a historic geographic marker to this day.

Almost immediately upon completion, the building was used to host a chicken supper for the local people. The local Dairymen’s League met there soon after, followed by groups such as the Young Adult Fellowship Club, the local Women’s Club, and various church groups. In 1930, local businessmen met there to organize and plan the construction of the Blakeslee Airport and flying school.

By 1950, it was being used as the election site for residents of western Tobyhanna Township. As the years progressed, so did the function of the community center. It was used to host large community gatherings in the 1960s and 1970s including Easter, Christmas, and autumn parties. Even the front lawn area was the site of community fairs in the summer, and a few open-air movies more recently.

Today, the center continues to provide a place where local people gather in civic, recreational, and social settings.

Historically, the community center clearly demonstrates the growing role of civic associations in the early 20th century, as well as the cultural importance of social and recreational gathering places in the rural communities at that time. The fact that public donations and fundraising have kept the center operating for nearly 100 years speaks of the continued civic, social, and recreational significance of the building.

In fact, after extensive research, it appears that the Blakeslee Community Center is the oldest building constructed and used solely for the purpose of being a public meeting hall in Monroe County.

The legacy initiated by the Blakeslee family by fulfilling the need for a public gathering place so important in the early 20th century, continues in this present computer age. Where social media threatens to eliminate physical human interaction, the Blakeslee Community Center endures as the local gathering place, possibly demonstrating an everlasting need for companionship in our culture.