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4.30.2015

1889 Johnstown Flood Dam Location: Johnstown Flood National Memorial

At one point, this valley was once home to a large lake that was held with an earthen dam. It was a favorite hangout for local steel executives and the upper class after the lake's original usage as a water source for a canal was abandoned. The lake was two miles long. On one fateful day, May 31, 1889, after the heaviest recorded rainfall that the region ever saw, the earthen dam failed, emptying the lake within minutes and sending a churning wave over 60 feet high at 40 MPH, 14 miles downstream and destroying the then industrial hub of Johnstown and killing 2,209 residents in one of the worst disasters in our nation's history. It was surreal being in this spot, as the sun was setting in a spectacular sunset. 

Hawks were also gliding over us, as if we were getting looked over by all of the spirits lost in the area. The feeling in this spot was very unsettling and we did not feel like we were alone, even though we were the only ones up at this vista. It is a hard feeling to explain. 
 Brit loves hawks

They have done a great job with the center overlooking the former dam. In the aftermath, the famous Clara Barton and the Red Cross came and helped with healthcare needs, food, and clean up. 

These buildings were a part of the private club that ran the lake, and were home to the men that unsuccessfully tried to get the dam to hold. The club made modifications to the dam that made it unable to handle release enough water. As per the usual, the wealthy club owners got off without having to pay a dime of restitution to the survivors of the flood and the rebuilding of the city.  

The feeling of just knowing the catastrophe happened in this location gives you such a disgusted and heartbroken feeling. I do not seek out depressing things like this, but it really is a moving feeling to see places like this, or the Flight 93 Memorial, knowing the pain that happened and remains tied to these sites. We happened to stop at both of these places in the midst of stunning sunsets and it brings a sense of closure. From these events, we hopefully have learned better methods to keep people safe in the hope that these lives were not lost for nothing. Sometimes it takes a catastrophe to prevent further catastrophes and we need to study situations like this, disasters like this, so we can keep people safe. 

The Triangle Shirtwaist fire taught us many things in fire safety, including how we need to keep our exits open and with outward opening doors. Did all of us learn from that? Absolutely not, but those of us that have learned have saved countless lives. The Station Nightclub fire in 2003 was a great example of negligent business owners not learning from the lessons of previous disasters, resulting in the loss of a hundred lives. If I recall correctly, a similar fire happened right before that at another club and we did not hear about it because the club had wide outward opening exit doors and a sprinkler system. Everyone got out of that fire safely. We need to study these disasters in order to prevent them from reoccurring. 

4.29.2015

Dependable Drive-In, Coraopolis, PA

One of our favorite places to go on a Friday night is the Dependable Drive-In in Coraopolis, near the Pittsburgh Airport. This classic drive-in theater opened in 1950 and boasts four screens. The best thing about this theater is that you get to see a double feature for less than the cost of seeing a single movie in theaters.
Prior to sunset, you can easily entertain yourself through watching the planes take off from the Pittsburgh Airport.
This is from a few weeks ago and it started snowing out of the blue. Pretty cool being able to watch a movie in the comfort of your car in the midst of snowfall. This drive-in is open year round.
This place is a treasure of roadside americana. It is a thriving place with affordable ticket and food prices and I highly recommend taking in a double feature at this place.

4.28.2015

Dunbar Bluestone Quarry/Rippling Waters Restaurant Ruins

So we were driving along this nice country road on our way back from Ohiopyle. All of a sudden I see this giant ruin that makes absolutely no sense. Naturally I had to pull over and check it out. It sorta looked like a bridge pier, but the hill on the other side of the creek was much too steep.
This little pier is in the middle of the creek, and the placement did not make much sense. Knowing southwestern Pennsylvania, my only educated guess is that this had something to do with a coke oven or early heavy industry. Here is a photo of an old furnace from that time period. Still not quite a match though.
At this point while I am taking the pictures, I was getting more and more puzzled. The ruins really did not seem to make any sense. 
 The construction of the piers and wall are a mix of concrete, boulders, and brickwork.
 And there is another pier on the other side of the creek.
 The biggest piece is this large wall. It seems to be hanging on by a thread and on the verge of collapse.
 The wall seems to be held up with giant logs with steel rebarb pointing out of them? This is flat out bizarre.
 Brick and concrete construction. This looks similar to the old bee-hive coke ovens, but I am not seeing a place where the chimneys could come out.
 I am not sure how this wall is still standing.
 I never saw anything quite like this. I am not sure if this is some sort of temporary project to hold up the wall, or if this is how it was originally.
Talk about a strange relic! 
 Now this is located about a hundred yards diagonally from the creek and slightly uphill.
With some research I found that the creek remnants were repurposed into a restaurant in 1969, into the Dunbar Rippling Waters Drive In. The only thing I can find is that this was really short lived, having closed in the early 1970s. This article states that it was built in "the foundation of a historic limestone quarry tipple." This tipple dates back to 1895. This helps make sense of it now. It also states that the restaurant utilized a fountain that flowed from a pipe upstream that once served the old Dunbar blast furnaces. 
With a little more digging, I have found these images from the Dunbar Historical Society, fully answering the questions. The spot up the hill was the foundation for one of the buildings from the Bluestone Operation that was once here, as was the spot where the restaurant is. The first photo is of the structure that was up the hill. The second photo shows the Rippling Waters Restaurant, and clearly demonstrates that the restaurant was built into an identical foundation to the other Bluestone Building.
The Rippling Waters Restaurant was a repurposing of one of the foundations from one of the remaining buildings. 

The Bluestone Quarry buildings sat in ruin for decades after a huge flood swept through and destroyed the operation. This article from 1912 talks about the flood that caused devastation to the Bluestone Quarry and the town of Dunbar.
So mystery solved! Digging for information about things like this always fascinates me. 


4.22.2015

Cucumber Falls, Ohiopyle State Park, PA

Today we take a look at Ohiopyle State Park's Cucumber Falls.
What a difference between the seasons! The second photo is from when we visited way back in January.
A look down into the into the valley
 Be sure to head to Ohiopyle State Park to see all of the beautiful wonders it has to offer.


4.21.2015

Ohiopyle Falls, Ohiopyle State Park

So we dropped by the great Ohiopyle Falls at Ohiopyle State Park this past weekend. Here is a writeup from our visit back in January. I am glad that we stopped by this weekend, because it was really roaring. The sound of the falls was comparable to that of Niagara Falls. The weather was absolutely gorgeous as well, making this beautiful spot also very popular. The new viewing area and interpretive center really adds to the experience. The photos are a mix of both Brit's and mine (Dave)

 All I can say is that it was roaring! The rains from throughout the week have really swelled the falls.
 This close up looks like a huge wave smashing against a rocky shore.
 The water was rushing so fast that there was no uniformity to the flow. The water was rippling in every direction.
 The decks provide a great vantage point. There is no reason to climb the rails for a better view, for it can lead to tragic results. It took almost exactly a month to recover him unfortunately.
The falls were truly mighty this weekend.

Here is a comparison view to the falls back in January. A huge difference in flow. April Showers are really making the Youghiogheny River flow.

Be sure to take a trip out to Ohiopyle soon to see this natural wonder. If you really want a thrill, go out whitewater rafting or kayaking.
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