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Stroudsburg History highlighted in walking tours

Haley O'Brien

It started with just a log cabin where the Monroe County Courthouse now stands. Since the borough of Stroudsburg came to be, there has been a lot of change and growth.

Dan McSweeney from the Monroe County Historical Association was my guide on a walking tour of Stroudsburg.

“This is a place of convergence,” he said. “Because of the Delaware Water Gap, roads converged here, and that has influenced the local culture and the local history.”

He grew up splitting his time between Stroudsburg and New York City.

“I remember when I was a kid, in the 80s, a lot of the attention shifted from downtown, the main street, to the Stroud Mall,” he said as our tour began. “And that was kind of seen as the center for culture and activity for young people, but if you go there now, I think it's kind of lost a lot of its allure. People are kind of over the malls, I feel. And so people are re-engaging with downtown business districts.”

Main Street houses your everyday businesses and some novelties - like an arcade, a comic store, and a 40-year-old sewing store.

The five and dime store chain J.J. Newberry Co. opened its first store in Stroudsburg.

“They don’t exist anymore, obviously, like many of the five and dimes," McSweeney said. "Those have been replaced, I guess you could say, by the dollar stores that we see.”

Other claims to fame include notable people, like Phoebe Palmer Flagler Hagenbuch.

She was in her 40s when she decided to go to medical school to become Monroe County’s first female doctor.

Jacob Stroud is the town's namesake. The streets surrounding Main Street - Sarah Street and Ann Street, for example - were named after Stroud's children. We saw A. Mitchell Palmer’s former home and McSweeney told us about the political unrest of 1920.

“People were mailed bombs, letter bombs or package bombs, and some of them went to very high officials. One of them happened to be the Attorney General of the United States, and that was A. Mitchell Palmer," he said. "So, in reaction to that, Palmer took a pretty, what I think many people would consider draconian stance.”

Palmer had radicals arrested or deported in what became known as the Palmer Raids. Because many were arrested unlawfully, the American Civil Liberties Union formed, also known as the ACLU.

Construction crews are building an addition to the Monroe County Courthouse.

Across the street, what were once brick houses have been converted into trendy businesses.

“It just kind of shows that Stroudsburg has evolved with the times, and is meeting the needs and desires of different kinds of populations over the decades," McSweeney said.

The next big change for the Historical Association is an addition being added to Stroud Mansion, to serve as a Heritage Center. That space will open next year.

Walking tours are on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 2 p.m., and Thursdays at 10:30 a.m. Reservations are encouraged and can be made by email at admin@monroehistorical.org or calling 570-421-7703.