Luzerne County Dairy Farm
by Jeffrey Allen Federowicz
Revolution in the northeastern part of the state, creating captains of industry who assembled massive fortunes from local mining operations. William Conyngham was one of these industrialists and founder of this Victorian summer and agricultural estate, located in Shavertown, just north of Wilkes-Barre. Conyngham yearned for a summer camp where he and his family could relax and entertain in grand fashion while escaping the congestion and heat of the city.
The result was a stellar example of America’s Gilded Age, featuring a mansion-sized summer residence called the Cottage set high on a hill overlooking stone pedestrian bridges, a glass conservatory (one of only a handful like it in the country), gazebos, flower gardens, stables, paddocks, barns, meadows and dozens of service buildings, which housed everything from the family’s private chauffeur to a large number of farmhands, horses and livestock. However, as the gilt slowly faded from the Gilded Age and opulent leisure gave way to a world filled with war, the Great Depression and changing values, the grand farm slowly lost its luster.
BUILDING ON HISTORY Fast forward to 2005 — at what was once Conyngham’s summer “camp,” the flower beds are gone, the buildings are in dire need of repair and the opulent conservatory sits nearly abandoned and smothered in weeds. The farm, once home of award-winning Clydesdale and Belgian draft horses, Dorset sheep and dairy herds, is no longer a place of agricultural excellence. Sadly, it is also the last remaining processing dairy farm in Luzerne County and its future is uncertain — the idea of developing the farm’s land rears its head often.
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