History of Crystal Cave

A dark narrow hole leading into the side of a steep hill was accidentally discovered by William Merkel and John Gehret while they were blasting for limestone on a Sunday morning, November 12, 1871.

After the smoke cleared and the surrounding dirt was removed, they realized that the opening was large enough to enter.

Curiosity led them inside, but total darkness and fear of the unknown kept them from going any further...

Crystal Cave Timeline

follow the fascinating timeline arrow pointing to map

  • Original Cave Door

    1872

    picture of the original wooden cave door

    After purchasing Crystal Cave property for $5000, Samuel D. F. Kohler quickly built a rustic wooden door to stop unwanted trespassers from vandalizing and stealing specimens from the cave. From that pont on, no one was allowed to enter the cave without him accompanying them.

  • Grand Illumination

    1872

    picture of the newspaper ad for the Grand Illumination

    Samuel Kohler spent the next four months preparing for the "Grand Illumination" of Crystal Cave. He distributed bulletins and placed an ad in the "Reading Times and Dispatch" inviting the public to see the beautiful cave. Crystal Cave became "The First Show Cave in Pennsylvania" on May 25, 1972.

  • First Guide Books

    1873

    picture of the first souvenir guide books

    The first guide books were printed and sold as souvenirs in 1873. There were no photos in these books, so the text had to be very descriptive. The formations in the cave were described with grandious embellishments and profound terms.

  • Stagecoach Transportation

    1874

    picture of the stagecoach used in early tranportation

    Since traveling all the way to Crystal Cave by coach was time consuming, Samuel Kohler purchased a new horse-drawn stagecoach and met tourists at the local train stations to transport them the few miles to the cave. His son, David Kohler, would also assist with the stagecoach duties as well as drivers from livery stables in Kutztown.

  • Inn Construction

    1874

    picture of the construction of the Kohler Hotel

    By the spring of 1874, Samuel Kohler had also completed the construction of a hotel on the property to service the ever-growing number of tourists coming to see Crystal Cave. This two and a half story addition to the already existing farmhouse was referred to as the "Kohler Hotel" or the "Cave House" and provided overnight accomodations and meals to travelers.

  • David Kohler

    1886

    picture of David Kohler and his wife as the new owners

    Samuel Kohler sold the cave to his son on November 2, 1886 for $4300, and David Kohler and his wife became the new owners. David purchased a liquor license that same year and held dances and hoe-downs in the Crystal Cave "Ballroom" where live bands entertained the guests staying overnight in the "Cave Hotel".

  • First Cave Marriage

    1919

    picture of the first cave marriage

    Marion I. Kurtz and Francis J. Finley were united in marriage by Reverend A. L. Brumbach on October 15, 1919, while standing next to a floral decorated natural "altar" inside of Crystal Cave. Professor Preston A. Metzger played "Bridal Chorus" on a piano that was brought inside the cave for the occasion.

  • Crystal Cave, Inc. is Formed

    1922

    picture of the Crystal Cave Inn

    On October 25, 1922, David Kohler, now 57 years old, sold Crystal Cave to J. Douglas Kaufman and attorney Edwin L. DeLong. The new investors applied to the state to incorporate the business, and the new Crystal Cave Company, Inc. was formed. The new company made many improvements during the next few years, and by 1929, attendance had reached 93,122 people and merchandise were $14,784. Many cars filled the parking lot.

  • Hotel and Cave Renovations

    1927

    picture of the Crystal Cave getting rewired for electricity

    The Company instituted a massive revitalization effort both below and above ground. Tons of concrete rebuild steps and pathways inside the cave. Railings and metal bridges were also installed. In 1927, a massive lead cable connected to metal reflectors with large dome lampshades replaced the delco battery pack lighting system.

  • Stone Entrance Constructed

    1935

    picture of the new stone entrance

    After surviving the depression, where a number of newly formed show caves had closed, other improvements to the property were made, including: building and macadamizing roads, creating parking lots, planting several hundred thousand evergreen trees, creating a picnic park, and constructing a prominent stone entrance to the cave.

  • First Baptism

    1949

    picture of the first baptism

    On December 4, 1949, a baby's christening became the first baptism in a cave in Pennsylvania. Water taken from a small natural pool in the cave was used to perform the ceremony as four generations of the family were present. The baby's grandfather had been a tour guide at Crystal Cave since 1907.

  • Tour Buses

    1952

    picture of early tour buses

    Charter bus excursions from New York, New Jersey, Deleware and Pennsylvania were popular in 1952, and records show that 32 busses had came to Crystal Cave in a single day!

  • 1970 to Present Day

    1970

    picture of the present day Inn

    Since 1970, several attractions and improvements were made to advance Crystal Cave to the historic attraction it is today, including: a restaurant/café, ice cream parlor, a second gift shop, the re-electrification and illumination of the cave, an 18-hole miniature golf course, a theater, nature trail, and a gemstone panning attraction completed in 2003.

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