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2.28.2014

Great News for the former Neuweiler Brewery in Allentown

The unthinkable has happened. The Neuweiler Brewery, an early 20th century brewery in Allentown, was purchased after having sat abandoned for 46 years. This cool building is something I have always looked over in wonder at. The plans are for it to be converted into a microbrewery called Ruckus Brewing and a restaurant along with other mixed uses. I still will not believe it until it happens. The brewery has nearly been closed as long as it was open and this is really a cool looking building. I wish the best to those involved in the project.
Drive-by shot!

Check out the full Morning Call article here.

1920 to now: Oakland, Pittsburgh, Forbes intersecting with Semple and McKee

The coolest thing about these old cities is the strange way in which the road alignments stay pretty much the same but the stuff occupying the spots has long since changed. Looking at old photos is a favorite pastime of mine. I could stare at them for hours, just analyzing and imagining them. They have a strange familiarity because even though you have never seen the sight for yourself, there is still a strange familiarity to them. This is a sight I see almost daily.
A panoramic does not work too well when you have a moving target like a car :-)

Circa 1920, once again compared to now below. I pieced together these circa 1920 pictures. I accidentally flipped the streets. Both of the middle photos are pictures looking down Semple if my information is correct. Aside from the view of McKee from the left hand side of the mansion on the right, I do not know of any other old photos of McKee at that intersection.
Versus
1920
This is the C. Burleigh house. This mansion was located on the southwest corner of McKee Place on the exact corner where the hotel tower is on the right side of the top photographs. This photo is from the Historic Pittsburgh Archive from the University of Pittsburgh. Two fascinating links to check out old photos like this are at www.retrographer.com and images.pitt.library.edu
1920
This mansion was located exactly where the parking garage and bank is now located. This was the mansion of Mary McKee of the family in which the street one street over was named for. There is one mansion remaining out of this cluster of mansions that once called this immediate area home. This mansion was run down and purchased by Family House, a non-profit that provides an inexpensive place for folks to stay that are seeking out medical care for loved ones at the nearby world class UPMC Presbyterian hospital. They fixed up the old mansion and now it serves a great purpose for the community. This reuse is something we need to study and work to preserve the historical buildings that remain. The two mansions above represented the old money, wealth and affluence that the bulk of Oakland once represented. Now the neighborhood is a largely student and working class place. With this transition, many of these mansions no longer had a use in their form. Family House found a use to benefit the community, but sadly these other architectural works are now gone. Is the addition of a parking garage, gas station and hotel progress? They are all useful and represent the shifting of our society and car ownership. If you look in these old photos, you can see the primary transportation through the area was by way of trolley. Those tracks actually still remain under several layers of asphalt. The ugly Pittsburgh winter this year actually created a pothole large enough, about 5 inches deep, to see the old tracks that still remain. Watching and studying this old neighborhood, my neighborhood, is really interesting and lots of fun. 
1920 - A view down wooded Semple Street, the street that is now lined up with that beautiful peach colored car wash building, parking garage and lots of concrete. 
I am not sure what was going on in this picture, but this is Semple with the mansion there on the left. Now the left side of this photo is the location of the parking garage and that large tree is where the gas station's car wash is. 

Is this progress? I guess. Is is pleasant? No, not really. We lost two mansions and a nice wooded street at these two corners and gained a hotel, gas station and parking garage.

2.26.2014

Our visit to Linn Run State Park, the weekend of February 21st-23rd

Linn Run State Park! This state park is one of a few that borders the area in Southwestern PA known as Forbes State Forest, a place where visionary Pennsylvania governors Robert Pattison, the guy who is the namesake for Pattison Ave in Philadelphia, Edwin Stewart and Daniel Hastings saw land that was fully decimated by logging and started efforts to revamp these dead lands. Folks told them that they were "crazy" for having purchased logged wasteland like this, but these guys saw the importance of keeping forest land. Forbes State Forest and the surrounding state parks are all large second growth forests now. At the time of purchase, the lands consisted of nothing more than destruction. Everything was cut from the trees except for the tree tops. The large logs would become lumber, the hemlock bark tannin was utilized for tanneries and the small logs were used to prop up the plenitude of coal mines throughout the area. Only dead tree tops were left from this once first growth forest.

The competent state legislature and executives at the time saw the wisdom of revitalizing this forest, and I am glad they did. The place is truly spectacular. Linn Run State Park is simply magnificent. It is a relatively small state park at just over 600 acres if I recall correctly. It has only a few hiking trails, but it has powerful mountain creeks running through it, even including a small waterfall. The most spectacular historical aspect of the park is the preservation of CCC, Civilian Conservation Corps, built cabins.

 If you are unfamiliar with the CCC, it is an organization that was founded under the New Deal Programs created by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt that helped to pull the country out of the Great Depression. The goal of the CCC was to replenish forests and create affordable destinations for folks to visit, especially to visit utilizing the relatively new contraption, the automobile. The ultimate goal of the program was to instill a work ethic in young men between the ages of 18 and 25. In nine years over 3 million young men built cabins, infrastructure like roads and forest fire protection and planted 3 billion trees. If you visit an area and see straight lines of trees, there is a good chance that it was part of a CCC project.

After roughly 80 years, the spectacular CCC built cabins remain at Linn Run State Park. They are part of a National Historic District. These cabins feature a sleeping area, kitchen area and a wonderful fireplace to heat the place. Most importantly, these cabins helped instill a work ethic in young men that would help make the later end of workers part of the Greatest Generation that won World War II and ushered in a period of economic expansion that our nation never saw prior or after that point. The cabins are beautiful and all built along a roaring mountain creek.

The cabins are simply wonderful. They have also been recently updated to include a modern oven and stovetop along with a refrigerator. The best part of all is how affordable these cabins are. You can make reservations on the Pennsylvania State Parks website. Because of the affordability of these cabins, even us with our limited incomes were able to afford to spend a weekend there. 
 Nothing refreshes quite like fresh and cold mountain spring water! It does not exactly look appetizing in this photo, but trust me that it is amazing. 
The scenery is completely spectacular. It was a great weekend because the snow pack was all still remaining, but the temperatures were in the 40s. Additionally, the snow pack enabled me to do a little hiking with a walking stick on one of their very nice and even hiking trails. It hurt quite a bit in my condition but it was bearable. Some things are worth the pain. 
Just looking at the pictures I can almost hear the roar of the mountain creek. 
A little bit of melting happening with the creek cutting into the snow mounds. 

Here is a small waterfall, Adams Falls.
I highly recommend taking the trip to check out this park. The cabins are also located within 20 minutes of Idlewild and the ski areas, making for a nice place to stay for year round thrills. 
I saw these classic gas pumps on the way out and had to take a picture of them. 
Ski time!
Just kidding, I can't ski anymore anyways. DCNR, please do not let Seven Springs continue to sit on the lease for the ski area. Laurel Mountain has the steepest ski slopes in Western PA. Why does the state let Seven Springs sit on the lease and not reopen the ski area?
Anyways, we had a great weekend and I hope you go and check out Linn Run for yourselves!

2.18.2014

Interesting Pennsylvania

We have created this blog as a place for more in depth analysis about the places that make our state interesting. We have lost many places over the years that preserve the fabric of our communities such as amusement parks like the late Willow Grove Park, San Souci Park, West View Park and others.



We are on the verge of losing another great place, Conneaut Lake Park, if we do not band together and support the park now and over the summer.

The old Bethlehem Steel Blast Furnaces in Bethlehem have been long abandoned in producing steel, but they have recently been re purposed to create a spectacular concert venue, creating a model for places with abandoned and historic places.


Not all old and abandoned places in Pennsylvania are historical but I still find them interesting nonetheless. This abandoned hotel near Presque Isle in Erie is weird with how thriving the area around it is. I always observe places from the outside.

Not all of the wonders the state offers have to be man made either. This is a view of the beautiful ice formations on Lake Erie at Presque Isle State Park.

We will work to cover these and many other places. If you have places covered or would like to contribute to this in any way, please feel free to comment or message us with interesting places that you have visited and we can feature them on our Facebook page or in the blog here.
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