*** ONLINE AS OF AUGUST 5, 2011 ***
    



Darlington Lake Park - Darlington PA

In the early 1920’s a swimming hole in Darlington, Pennsylvania, located on the North Fork of the Little Beaver River, was established when a dam was constructed across the river just near the bridge on Elmwood Road (Route 168). The swimming hole was upgraded with a small beach area, large wooden sliding board, and a diving platform, while a dance hall, a concession stand, a picnic grove, a campground, and athletic fields were added in the immediate area. Cottages, available for rent during the summer season, were also later constructed along the banks of the river. The area, known as the Darlington Lake Park, became a summer resort for folks from Pittsburgh and also a popular location for family reunions, church picnics, and other social gatherings.

In the late 1940’s, in the wake of World War II, many of the cottages were sold off to military veterans and others who all became part of the Darlington Lake Association. The popularity of the park slowly declined in the 1950’s and most of the non-swimming activities were closed down. In the early 1960’s the park’s owner, local resident John Matteo who also formerly owned the Darlington Hotel, dug a new landlocked lake just inland from the swimming hole on the river. This may have been in response to a flood management initiative, overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which saw the old dam removed and the swimming area generally filled in during the mid-1960’s. Admission was charged to access a beach built along the west side of the lake, which was also stocked with several species of fish.

Ownership of the property changed hands several times in the years after Matteo, at the young age of fifty-seven, passed away in February 1968. In 1987 Eddie Knott purchased the 35-acre property, made a few upgrades, and reopened the lake to public swimming the following summer. About a decade later the property was closed to the public, as the Knott family built a large rustic cabin as their private residence there. In about 2004 the Knott opened the facility to the public as the banquet hall and bed and breakfast. The “Gathering Place at Darlington Lake” continues the legacy of the once-popular swimming hole and is a picturesque setting for many local weddings.



To read about two incidents of men drowning in the Little Beaver River in the early 1920’s click on: DIVER STRIKES HEAD ARTICLE and VETERAN DROWNS ARTICLE. To learn more about a beauty contest held at the park in August 1924 click on: BATHING BEAUTY ARTICLE. To read a typical mention about activities at the park from the summer of 1927 click on: GRANGE PICNIC ARTICLE.


Patrons enjoy the “lower pool” of the swimming hole on the Little Beaver River. The dam is barely visible past the giant slide. The “upper pool” area, past the dam and before the bridge on Elmwood Road (Route 168), was apparently very deep and could be dangerous. (c1954) Full Size


I put this map together from an old aerial photo (taken in 1939) to show some detail of the layout at Darlington Lake Park. The camping area and athletic fields were located to the center of the left side of this photo. The new Darlington Lake, dug out and filled in the early 1960’s, is quite large and pretty covers much of the bottom left end of this photo. (1939) Full Size


Folks enjoying a summer day near the cottages at Darlington Lake Park. (c1930) Full Size


Darlington Lake Park. (c1946) Full Size


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The view from the new Route 168 bridge over the Little Beaver River, showing a modern-day view of the former location of Darlington Lake Park. You can see where the retaining walls were constructed in the mid-1960’s to contain flooding along the banks. A few of the old cabins, now fulltime residences, can be seen on the right. (May 2013) Full Size


The new concrete bridge across the Little Beaver River. (May 2013)


(May 2013)


The sign for The Gathering Place at Darlington Lake, a small resort area operated by the Knott family. (May 2013)


The Gathering Place, a bed & breakfast and banquet hall. (May 2013)


(May 2013) Full Size


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Comment

  1. The lake was once owned by my uncle. This web page brings back memories. Thank you.

    Scott Matteo · 05/03/2014 10:02 AM · #

  2. My grandfather, Charlie Maclane help John Matteo build Darlington lake, my grandfather was a pipe fitter from Monaca and center twp.thank you

    Jay linn · 09/30/2014 08:24 PM · #

  3. My uncle Ed Berresford ran the heavy equipment with Johnny Matteo. I remember watching him! My Mom, Nora Snyder, and Dad, Joe Snyder, were friends of John and Kate, his wife. My brothers and sister and I had free lifetime passes because Dad never took a payment when he helped work on the facility. We fished in the Lake, too, but over on the side! We lived in one of the Lake houses. Mom and Dad bought it after Dad came home from WW II. We swam right behind our house and in the front yard when it flooded. What a beautiful, carefree childhood we had there. Thanks so much for the pictures and the memories!

    Debbie Snyder Rousseau · 04/24/2015 08:24 PM · #

  4. I was surprised to find Darlington Lake info under Lawrence County. Darlington Lake is in Darlington Township, Beaver County.
    Don’t forget the Friday night Beach Parties!!

    Benois Walton · 12/27/2015 07:07 PM · #

  5. (EDITOR’S NOTE) Keep in mind anything marked with an red asterisk on the LCM Archives list is physically located outside the borders of Lawrence County. The subtitle of this website reads, “Historical Recollections from Lawrence County Pennsylvania and surrounding areas.” I love history and it’s hard to contain it within geographic boundaries!

    Jeff Bales (EDITOR) · 12/28/2015 05:41 AM · #