One of the oldest historic landmarks, the old Fell House located at ther corner of Northampton and Washington streets, is to be torn down within a few days to give place to a modern three-story hotel.
The Old Fell House was built over one hundred years ago and has become far and wide as the first place where anthracite coal was burned. Thousands of persons, representing nearly every country in the world and almost every state in the union who have visited this city have been taken to the Old Fell House to see the antique grate, which is still there, in which Judge Fell burned the first anthracite coal ever burned in a grate.
This discovery of Judge Fell has done much to revolutionize the world. It has opened up a large industry which has made this state the wealthiest of the nation.
Judge Fell made his discovery in February, 1808, the exact date is not known, but old residents claim it was the 18th. Many stories are told concerning the discovery, but the most reliable is the one told by Judge Fell in a letter sent to his cousin, Jonathan Fell, which letter has been preserved as a historic relic. The TIMES procured a copy of the letter, which was as follows:
"Esteemed Cousin: When I saw thee last I promised to write thee and give some data about the first discovery of stone coal in our valley (I call it stone coal because everyone knows what is meant by that name).
"The late Judge Gore, in his lifetime, informed me that he and his brother, the late Capt. Daniel Gore, (both being blacksmiths, were the first that discovered and used this coal in their blacksmith fires, and found it to answer their purpose well. This was before the Revolutionary War, and, as near as I can collect information, about the year 1770 or 1771, and it has been in use ever since by the blacksmiths of this place.
"In the year 1788 I used it in nailery, and found it to be profitable in that business. The nails made with it would neat the weight of the rods, and frequently a balance over. But it was the opinion of those who worked it in their furnaces, that it would not due for fuel, because when a small parcel was left on their fires and not blown it would go out. Notwithstanding this opinion prevailed, I had for sometime entertained the idea that if a sufficient body was ignited it would burn. Accordingly in the month of February, 1808, I procured a grate made of small iron rods, ten inches in height, and set it up in my common room fireplace, and on first lighting I found it to burn excellently well. This was the first successful attempt to burn our stone coal in a grate so far as my knowledge extends. On it being put in operation my neighbors flocked to see the novelty, but many would not believe the fact until convinced by ocular demonstration. Such was the effect of this pleasing discovery that in a few days there were a number of grates put in operation. This brought the stone coal into popular notice. I need not mention the many uses to which it ma be applied, as you who are in the coal concern have the means of knowning its value.
"I am thy affectionate cousin,
A peculiar incident connected with the purchase of the property by present owner, Anthony Weiss, was that Mr. Weiss hasd a considerable sum of money deposited in Rockafellow's bank and when he purchased the property he drew all the money he had in the bank and paid for the property. The next day the bank failed. Mr. Weiss conducted the hotel from 1894 to 1900, when he leased it to his nephew, Nicholas Weiss, who conducts the hotel at present.
Mr. Weiss will give a farewell reception to his friends this afternoon and evening, preparatory to moving out which will take place Friday. Anthony Weiss, the owner, will erect a modern three-story brick hotel, facing on Northampton street. It will be of brick and will be 100 feet long by 25 feet wide. The grate, in which the first coal was burned, will be preserved and included in the new hotel.
The contract was given to Smith Brothers some time ago and it is the intention to commence tearing down the building this week The new proprietors of the hotel will be Anthony Weiss and his son, Philip Weiss.
Old Landmark to be Torn Down (News Article) Date: 1905-03-28; Paper: Wilkes-Barre Times