It was love at first sight when Jim and Mary Joan Cleary saw the land that now hosts their log home away from home. Wild and untouched, the 611-acre gem tucked into the mountains of Northeast Pennsylvania was a rare find.
“I wasn’t looking to buy that much land, but when I saw it, I thought ‘My God, there’s no ground like this left in Pennsylvania,’” recalls Jim.
With several prime building plots on the expansive property, the Clearys had no trouble finding the picture perfect site for their vacation destination. A pristine lake and Sugarloaf Mountain, the lodge’s namesake, were chosen as the backdrop for their rustic retreat.
Anticipating frequent visits from three children and a growing brood of grandkids (eight, at last count), the Cleary’s drew up plans for a spacious-yet-welcoming abode comfortable enough for the whole Cleary clan.
With the help of Honesdale, Pennsylvania-based Estemerwalt Log Homes, it didn’t take long for Jim and Mary Joan’s vision to become a reality.
Initially drawn to Estemerwalt’s large-diameter logs, the Clearys stayed with the fifth-generation, family-owned company for their commitment to providing a solid product with a strong aesthetic appeal. Estemerwalt owner Kurt Propst, whose company manufactures around 40 homes each year, says the Cleary’s home is one of the most unique homes he has been involved with.
“To find that type of home with those types of logs, you’d usually have to go out West,” says Kurt. “So the fact that it was manufactured in Pennsylvania makes it pretty special.”
The eastern white pine, double tongue-and-groove logs used throughout the home range in size from 12 to 24 inches in diameter, giving Sugarloaf Lodge a dramatic aura befitting its setting. In the classic log-cabin tradition, the coutple used a round profile with saddle-notched corners. Topping it all off is an oil-based stain that allows the natural character of the grain to show through. “We didn’t want the house to have that ‘new’ look,” says Jim. “We wanted it to look like a cabin that was built a hundred years ago.”
From its lakeside perch, the house blends seamlessly with the scenery– a testament to the Cleary’s commitment to using only building materials indigenous to the area. “It was important to us to utilize the natural qualities of the place that we lived,” explains Jim. “We wanted the house to settle into the countryside rather than stand out.”
The result of the Cleary’s passion for all things local was a marriage of native logs and quarried stones that lends an authentic cabin feel with a twist. An impressive 4-inch thick stone slab doubles as a front porch floor and conversation piece.
Quarry rubble walls surrounding the base of the lodge highlights what is perhaps the home’s most distinctive design element – a 4-foot elevation meant to ensure an unobstructed view of Sugarloaf Mountain and the lake that Jim jokingly refers to as “the mud pond.”
As a fishing spot frequented each summer by Jim and Mary Joan’s family and friends, the lake is just one of the numerous recreational possibilities the lodge has to offer.
Other favorites include relaxing on the back porch and exploring the property with the Cleary’s all-terrain vehicles.
During the winter, Cleary tradition calls for the entire family to hit the neighboring slopes of Elks Mountain Ski Resort, one of the top-rated ski areas in the state.
But no matter how much fun is had in the great outdoors, all agree that the best tradition of all is coming back home to Sugarloaf Lodge, where the sweetest family memories are made.
Square footage: 3,132
Log Provider: Estemerwalt Log Homes