Perhaps the most widely known of the legends of the Schuylkill Valley is the romantic story of “Lover’s Leap.”
Near a high precipice along the banks of the river, there was once located an Indian village. The chief of that tribe had a lovely daughter whose beautiful features and sunny, affectionate disposition made her the joy and charm of her people.
When the Europeans first landed upon the shores of America the Indians were the owners of the land. New Jersey and a large portion of Pennsylvania were inhabited by a powerful tribe of Indians called Delawares, or Lenni Lenape, which in their language signified original people. Along the Schuylkill were many Indian huts or wigwams made of sticks joined together at the top and covered with the skins of animals or the bark of trees in the form of cones.
Many years ago, when the Schuylkill, or “hidden river,” flowed under the arched branches of tall sycamores and beeches, which grew in profusion along its banks, an Indian maiden loved and was loved in return.
Daughter of a chief, there was a rival to her affections in the person of a noted warrior of a neighboring tribe, who leading a war party of braves in one of their numerous forays, came upon them on the river. Pursued to the foot of the rock, her lover leaped to the shore with the maiden. Springing into the forest growth the war braves pursuing him, through briar and vine, over root and stone to the top of the mountain, when turning to flee down a forest path to safety, he was confronted by a party returning from the war-path.
Placing the maiden behind him, he sprang upon his enemies. His first onset carried all before him. When numbers closing on him and all hope lost, he sprang to the summit of a massive rock. The two Indian lovers, hand in hand, leaped over the cliff into the dark, rushing waters of the Schuylkill; and from that day to this, that place is known as “Lover’s Leap.”
The location of Lover’s Leap is difficult to pinpoint. A long time ago, the onetime promontory was obliterated when a portion of the hillside was cut away to allow for railroad track-work directly below. Its approximate location was somewhere along South 9th Street between the former White House Hotel and Scott’s Foundry proving grounds where army and navy cannons were fired and proved during the Civil War.
Below: We look southward, beyond city limits, to the White House hotel – seen on the right side of the road. Centermost is a Neversink Mountain trolley, which at this point could either make the full run around the mountain or (via the right-hand track in the photograph) proceed to its 9th and Penn Sts. terminal. On the left is the White House bottling works. This photo dates from about 1896.
A map showing the approximate location of Lover’s Leap appears below.
Prior to construction of the West Shore By-Pass, South 9th Street used to skirt the west side of Neversink Mountain, cross over the Poplar Neck Bridge, and connect with present-day Route 724 opposite the Animal Rescue League’s headquarters.
Below: South Ninth Street Road between the former White House Hotel and Lover’s Leap looking southward toward Comru Township, Schuylkill River on the right, 1880.
Many of the massive rocks, above and below “the 9th Street Road” were reduced considerably – in two stages – when the road was widened to two lanes and when boulder-clusters were removed to prevent rock-slides from landing on the train tracks down below.