Lacawac Sanctuary has a long history that reaches back to colonial times and touches on the forestry and coal industries of the early 19th century. The Sanctuary’s history began with the 1849 acquisition of a large tract of the Wallenpaupack Manor in Wayne County by Burton G. Morss, a sawmill and tannery owner in Ledgedale. William Connell, a self-made businessman who worked in the coal fields early in his life, bought the property for a summerestate called Connell Park. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives, and later died in 1909.
Colonel Louis A. Watres, a lawyer and businessman in Scranton, became involved with Lacawac through the development of the Wallenpaupack power project. In 1913, 15,000 acres of land were acquired along the river in order to create the dam, including the Connell property, which cost Watres $15,000.
In 1948, L. Arthur Watres, grandson of Colonel Watres, and his mother Mrs. Reyburn Watres moved to Lacawac. They immediately set about restoring the now-degraded estate. Through connections to prominent academics and conservationists, Arthur Watres helped identify Lacawac as the southernmost, unpolluted glacial lake in the United States, an invaluable resource to both conservationists and research scientists. Recognizing that it deserved long-term protection, in 1966, with the donation of 341 acres and several historic buildings, the Watres’ formed the Lacawac Sanctuary Foundation to administer and steward the wonderful resource that is the Sanctuary. In 1968, the Sanctuary was designated as a National Natural Landmark.
Presently the Sanctuary is 510 acres, including a mature second growth forest, Lake Lacawac, two ponds, several wetlands, and over a mile of shoreline along Lake Wallenpaupack. The highlight of the Sanctuary’s natural resources is the 52-acre, pristine glacial lake roughly in the middle of the property. The kidney-shaped lake is a globally unique resource both for the fact that it is one of the southernmost glacial lakes in the United States, as well as for the fact that it has remained nearly pristine and protected while so many similar lakes in the Northeastern United States have been impacted or otherwise affected by human hands.
The Sanctuary’s built infrastructure was established at the turn of the 20th century and today stands as a historically important estate. The suite of buildings include the main house or Lodge, an Ice House turned caretaker’s house, a carriage house, new restrooms and a trailer. The Lodge, the Ice House, and the Carriage House are all on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1966, the property was deeded to a non-profit organization and subsequently used as a nature preserve, ecological field research station and public environmental education facility.
It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Lake Lacawac was listed as a National Natural Landmark in 1968.