Six generations of the Gamer family have walked past the pine trees and rhododendron, up porch steps, and under a 90-year-old sign to enter their summer retreat in the Poconos.
The sign, fashioned from twigs, shapes the word Waldesruhe — German for Woodland Rest. And that’s exactly what this home has been.
Robert Gamer, his sister, Susan Gamer, and cousin Linda Peterson now own the house, but the extended family visits every summer. To preserve the sign, Robert said, “I take it in every winter.”
The present owners’ grandfather Carl “Pop” Gamer was among Lutheran church members in Queens, N.Y., who purchased building lots in Lutherland in Monroe County. The vacation community, founded in the 1920s, would eventually feature three youth camps, a hotel, and a lake created by damming a creek. Pop Gamer built his house in 1929.
After World War II, the community name was changed to Pinecrest to broaden its appeal. The hotel and camps are long gone, but the lake is still enjoyed by owners of 30 original homes and owners of newer houses.
Pop, a widower, planned to summer in his house with his two daughters, two sons, and his German immigrant parents, Karl (known as Grandfather) and Wilhelmina. Grandfather, a master carpenter, oversaw the construction of the house. He and Pop finished the third floor themselves, using hand tools to craft tongue and groove pine paneling for the peaked ceiling space and laid parquet flooring. Grandfather also made the built-in drawers. In his attic hideaway, Pop could pull up the ladder and isolate from the hubbub below.
On the second floor, names over doors read “The Girls’ Room,” “The Boys’ Room” and “Grandfather’s Room.” Wilhelmina died just as the house was being completed, necessitating hiring a housekeeper, Mrs. Reusch, whose name is above her room.
In a history of Waldesruhe she wrote last year, Susan Gamer noted that “the house looks much the same now as always.” From the start, she said, there was indoor plumbing but no electricity. Kerosene lamps were used for lighting, and propane fueled the kitchen stove. There was an ice box. A treadle ran the sewing machine, still in the hall on the second floor.
Electricity arrived in the 1940s. “The antiquated kitchen was modernized in the 1960s,” Susan said, “and so it is antiquated again.”
Also in the 1960s, the side veranda was screened in by a family friend, and Robert laid down the rear flagstone patio, which faces the woods. The bathroom off the dining room was replaced eight years ago. Last year, the wood-sided house was painted gray with white trim.
Susan described the home’s décor as “summerhouse traditional style: a gallant assemblage of the cast-off and secondhand.” In the early days, she said, “Pop made the rounds of farmhouse sales picking up a dresser here, a nightstand there.”
The dark wood pieces in the boys’ and girls’ rooms match the trim on the original one-over-one windows.
Pop’s sons made the twig sign, and his daughters and their friends — two of whom became their sister-in-laws — stitched the embroidered map of Lutherland in the upstairs hall. Karl and Wilhelmina carried the cuckoo clock in the living room from Germany (“where possibly it worked better than it has since,” Susan said).
In the dining room and living room with their amber-textured plaster walls, the furniture — maple table and chairs, upright piano, hand-cranked Victrola, library table, and cushioned wooden chairs — has been in place as long as Robert’s wife, Bette, can remember. Her family had a vacation home across the road, and she has known Robert since they met at Pinecrest Lake when they were 14. They drifted apart and wed other people. Both were divorced when they reconnected in the Poconos. They married in 1984, keeping a tradition of Gamer men marrying women they met in Pinecrest.
Robert and Susan Gamer and Linda Peterson consider themselves custodians, caring for the house for future generations.
Unlike Pop, Robert doesn’t have to make the rounds of farmhouse sales to find items for the home. He discovered a poster, now hanging by the front door, of the ship that brought Karl and Wilhelmina to America on eBay.
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