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
Original 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.
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, 1872.
First 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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
join us as we make history!