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Bed Bug Cave

  • Susan Layland/Special to the Times News
    Susan Layland/Special to the Times News
Published June 10. 2011 05:01PM

Whenever you mention the Bed Bug Cave, it will undoubtedly raise an eyebrow.

The cave, well known in Slatington because of its history and its unique geological structure, is an alcove nestled along the Slate Heritage Trail.

The property is owned by the Northern Lehigh Historical Society (NLHS) and is being upgraded to a small park by several community volunteers.

In 1848, Nelson Labar opened the New York Tunnel Quarry. Each tunnel was named after a famous street in New York City.

Later, the tunnels were purchased by Robert McDowell, who changed the names of the tunnels and renamed it the Mantle Quarry. Slate products were loaded onto the Lehigh Valley Railroad, including school black boards, and the products were shipped nationwide.

Reduced demands for slate caused an economic shift. A factory opened in front of the quarry entrance in 1898, and a second factory was erected next to the first that produced mattresses and umbrella handles.

Both factories burned to the ground in 1923, but the nickname Bed Bug Cave remained. The Bed Bug Cave is currently undergoing rejuvenation.

David Papay, a retired biology teacher, took on the task, along with volunteers Kelly Kester and Fred Phillips, of planting flowers and ferns to beautify the area.

After a year of planting, Papay invited the community to gather to discuss the plants and future plans for the cave.

Papay's hobby is gardening, and his expertise was crucial to yield a successful garden crop because the cave area is very well-shaded. All of the plantings were selected because of their ability to thrive in shade.

The cave is filled with red azaleas, lilies, Iris, spruce, hemlock and several fern gardens.

Many volunteers, including a group of community service students, helped to plant. Because the garden will require a lot of maintenance, Papay is always looking for volunteers. He said it's an ideal project for the Eagle Scouts.

Slate benches have been added, but Papay, along with Phillips and Kester have a bigger plan in mind.

They would like to see water and electricity brought into the area in order to make maintaining the gardens easier, and would also like to see a gazebo and a stage erected.

The acoustical potential of the cave make entertaining the idea of holding future concerts there a perfect fit.

All of the plants were donated. Papay hopes that funds will become available so they can continue the revitalization project and come closer to their vision.

If connecting bed bugs with mattresses and caves piques your interest, take a stroll along the Slate Heritage Trail, then stop at the Bed Bug Cave to smell the flowers.

Additional information on the Bed Bug Cave can be found on a sign in front of the cave, or by contacting Papay at (484) 623-4117.

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