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Driving through Danville, PA

We headed to Knoebels yesterday and you can check out the report from our wonderful trip to the amusement park here. That park is wonderful in every sense of the word and a place that you should check out. We had never approached the park from the west and we ended up going through a little town called Danville. This town had remnants of the old iron production that once took place along the Susquehanna river. The railroad is very prominent in this town, right in the center of it. The town is also home to one of the most major hospitals in the region, Geisinger. This is a cool little town. The thing that first caught my eye was this elaborate pedestrian bridge.

 This tunnel is pretty cool too

 Crossing the Susquehanna. I always love seeing the Susquehanna with how far it spreads across the horizon.


Boston Brewing Company (Sam Adams) Fogelsville, PA

Pretty much everyone knows that Yuengling is the main brewer in Pennsylvania, but few folks likely know that Boston Brewing Company, the makers of Sam Adams, brew the majority of their beer in Pennsylvania.
I apologize for the photo quality of this moving shot. 

When you think of Sam Adams, you probably think of some guys chilling in their garage, making beer in a micro-brew tank and listening to Thorogood's "Who Do You Love?" In reality, Boston Brewing company has huge production facilities like the other large American breweries. Off of Interstate 78 in Fogelsville is a sprawling brewing complex that was built to brew the storied Schaefer Beer. Schaefer was purchased by another American legend, Stroh, in the 70s, which would then be purchased by another legend, Pabst, in 1999. As of 1999, according to this Morning Call Article, in addition to Stroh's, the brewery contracted out some of the capacity to brew two of the nation's most popular beers to this day, Sam Adams Boston Lager, and Yuengling's Black and Tan. It is unclear what the arrangement was after Pabst purchased the plant, but it appears that the capacity was reutilized by Pabst to make two other legendary American brands, Schmidts and Schlitz.

Pabst operations would shortly cease, leading the bulk of the brewing tanks to stay dormant. In the late 90s when he Stroh to Pabst deal was finalized, Yuengling was rumored to be interested in purchasing the Fogelsville Brewery but Diageo of Great Britain purchased the plant instead in 2001 . Yuengling would strategically purchase Stroh's former Tampa, Florida brewing operation in 1999 and the company would also build a state-of-the-art brewery near their Pottsville homebase in 2000. These two moves would cement Yuengling as the largest American owned brewing company.

When Diageo purchased the Fogelsville Brewery in 1999, their Smirnoff Ice Malt Drink was bottled and produced at the site until 2008 when Boston Brewing purchased the plant and dedicated it solely to Sam Adams brews. Boston Brewing spent in the neighborhood of 50 million dollars this past year in updating and expanding the brewery and it shows no signs of slowing in growth. The company creates a wonderful economic center for the Lehigh Valley region.

The location was originally chosen because of the location on a great spring water aquifer and water supplies. Nestle runs a very large spring water bottling operation in the same area. The abundance of our Pennsylvania water supplies needs to be taken into account when it comes to the recent drilling. We cannot afford to have these aquifers tainted in any way. This single aquifer in Fogelsville supplies a huge percentage of our nation's bottled water and beer supplies and we cannot afford to have it threatened. Anyways, now you know what that large complex on Interstate 78 is, just west of Allentown.


Pittsburgh Liberty Tunnel Facades Done!

I know it has been done for a few months, but the Liberty Tunnel Tube Entrances have finally been finished! I am so glad that they opted to beautify the entrances again as opposed to leaving them plain like they have for the last few years. 
The Liberty Tunnels date all the way back to 1924 and were built before they fully understood how to handle high capacity tunnels. These tunnels are also extremely long, clocking in at 5,889 feet, over a mile long. They did not come up with a ventilation system and folks ended up passing out from the exhaust fumes early on. They ended up creating 200 foot vertical vents that pop out throughout Mt. Washington. Anyways, the new tunnel facades look great and I think you should go check them out.


Oakland, Pittsburgh: Semple and Louisa, 1910 Compared to Now

I quickly took this shot this morning, and it was not a perfect match in regards to angle and placement, but I could not be help but be amazed as to how this intersection is practically the same, 104 years later, but be so radically different at the same time. 
Credit to the Pittsburgh City Photographers Collection


PA Roads and Plane Spotting at PIT

How do you know you are on a PA State Route? Because you make turns onto 10 different roads to stay on it! :-) PA-60 is no exception to this rule! 

While annoying at times, there is still a certain enjoyment in following the adventure of a state route. This enjoyment is best when you are headed on an adventure. A saturday afternoon is best for that!

 What better place to head for than the airport on a random adventure? I love watching the planes take off and land. There is a great little pull off area near the Dick's Sporting Goods complex.
 Heading for the skies!
 Landing shot while the car was moving!

 The very cool art at the 911th Airwing


AMES Department Store Tidbit

As you guys know, I get a random thought into my head and go into research rants. I love finding old gems/relics. SHHHHH on this one though, it has AMES corporate secrets! On a serious note though, it stinks to see how many old stores have closed and folks have gone out of work. Other places like Jamesway, Caldor, Laneco, Ward's, and many other similar stores come to mind.

It is always cool to look at an abandoned or repurposed store building and guess what it may have been at one point. It is tougher with AMES stores because they had no real consistent storefront style since the entire chain was a mashup of a bunch of different old chains like King's, Hill's, GC Murphy, old Jamesway locations, and many others. In many places you can still see some of the old locations vacant because of their relative small size compared to modern retail stores.


Semple and Ward Street Street Digging Discovery

The city workers in the PWSA and any other utilities organization have a really cool job that in addition to their trade, they are almost like archaeologists for city history. They dig down five to ten feet and find all kinds of spectacular things from days gone by. I walked by them the other day as they were fixing a leak in one of the old city water pipes and I was truly amazed with what I saw. Every time they dig they see a piece of the puzzle as to why things are a certain way.
 Streetcar rail! This is a relatively quiet side street these days so I was surprised to find this. 
  Not only was there Streetcar rail, but there was also a tie that broke off as they were digging. These guys have a tough job trying to maneuver around this things to make repairs.
 You could also see some cobblestones and bricks from the road prior to it being paved. They may also have been used for fill at one point.
 A closer look at the old tie

Here you can see the repair on the waterline. We have to remember that our infrastructure in regards to our water, gas, and sewer lines are this old and if we wish to avoid tragedies like those that have occurred in places like Allentown with old gas lines, we need to replace our infrastructure. Through doing this we can also put people to work

I did not take pictures of the full corner, but this is an awkward intersection in that the one corner has a curved building, clearly for a turning streetcar, and other road entering the intersection goes off center straight into it. It is clear that something is off about the intersection, but it is hard to determine why it is that way. There are many subtleties when you are dealing with an area with over a century's worth of building and action. This intersection of Semple and Ward used to not exist in that the curve of the road actually meant that this was one road. At one point Ward used to also cover the area that is now Semple. The area that extends past this intersection to Dawson Street was a different road entirely.

Photo from the City Photographers Collection
That trolley passed that exact spot just a few moments before this 1934 shot of the old 81 Atwood Trolley. Notice how a few of the cars are sporting the "National Recovery Act" logo for the nation was in the midst of the Great Depression and FDR's New Deal.
I posted this photo a while back and wondered what had gone on in this spot over the last century or so. This photo is a near inverse of the other photo, facing the other direction. If you put your head out of the trolley and looked back, this is similar to the view you would see. If you scroll back up to the photo of the trolley you can see that the tree in the picture. That blue addition to the house is approximately where that tree is. The cars on the far left hand side of this picture are parked in the same exact spot as the cars in the photo. My favorite movie of all time is Back to the Future and pictures like that trolley shot are so cool, but so creepy at the same time. I am very familiar with what is in that photo because the buildings are all still there, but the weird aspect is how different it is. Looking at old photos of familiar places like that is almost like time travel. 
This Pittsburgh Press Article from 1951 announces the end of the streetcars going on this route. Those rails have not seen streetcar action in 63 years. That is amazing to think about. Was it progress getting rid of the streetcars? They replaced the streetcars with shuttles and those are even gone now. I do not call that progress at all. Either way, seeing those trolley rails peeking out was a pretty awesome glimpse into the neighborhood's past. 


Quakertown, PA 1965 Aerial View

If you have ever visited Quakertown, chances are that you only recall the big box stores that scatter a drag that is at least a mile long. Long gone are the days where the only stores were the old Trainer's Corner, Quakertown Plaza with a Food Fair (I think), Woolworth's and a few other stores, along with a satellite location of Leh's, Allentown's second most prized department store and more. I recall the last vestiges of this time when the former Food Fair store was converted into the former Laneco owned Food Lane, Woolworth's, Farm and Family, Leh's, and Hess's with Clemen's grocery store in the old Richland Mall. The larger Trainer's Corner shopping center already existed with a Kmart and an Acme supermarket at the end of the shopping center where Kohl's is located today. It is mind-blowing how much Quakertown has changed over such a short period.
Photo credit to Topix
The large road just right of center is 309. The house (or is that Earl Bowl?) on the lower right corner of this shot is approximately where the Applebees and Panera are located in front of the large Wal-Mart shopping Center and Regal Movie Theater. The Leh's Department store (currently the Outpatient Center)was not even built yet. The only thing we can see on the 309 drag that still remains is the Quakertown Plaza shopping center in the middle of this shot and even that is way different. The far end of the shopping center had a Food Fair in it that would eventually be converted into a Food Lane and then was torn down to create a giant new Clemens that moved from further down 309 at the Richland Mall. This would be replaced by a Giant supermarket when they purchased the Clemens Chain in the mid 2000s.

On the right, directly across 309, you can see the current site of the Trainer's Corner Shopping Center where Kmart, Kohl's, and others are located. On the approximate site of today's Burger King you can see an old Drive-In theater with the viewing area extending out to the current shopping center building.

The triangular complex across from the Quakertown Plaza shopping center is the old Trainer's Corner where produce was once sold and it eventually expanded to serve seafood in a restaurant setting. This would close at some point in the late 80s or early 90s and remain vacant for a few years until it was torn down and a shopping center was built in roughly 1995 or 1996 that originally included Staples, Herman's Sporting Goods, Blockbuster, Sears Hardware, and a few others. I believe that Sears is the only remaining original tenant. McDonalds and TGI Fridays sit approximately over the main part of the old building. The only remaining vestige of the old complex, a giant cut out of a red lobster, was on the side of the TGI Friday's building for years until a renovation in 2009. The lobster was donated to the Quakertown Historical Society and I am unsure of where it is today.

Anyways, this cool shot from 1965 shows a quieter time in Quakertown compared to the big box store center that it is today.


Creepy Monsour Medical Center, Jeannette, PA, April 2014

As a rule of thumb, if you see pictures on our page of an abandoned property or building the photos will ALWAYS be taken from the perimeter. I will never break in to an abandoned building. It is dangerous to explore abandoned buildings and illegal to trespass. While I appreciate the beauty and creepiness of an abandoned place, I will always appreciate it from the outside because not only is it illegal as trespassing, it is also extremely dangerous.
First photo credit to the Jeannette Spirit

I apologize for the quality of the photos, these were taken from a moving car.

Ever since I first laid eyes on this place I was fascinated with interest. For starters, the building looks strange. It had a 1700s era mansion out with frontage right on the Lincoln Highway and then this tower and some other buildings were built into the complex. The mansion burned last year and was torn down for safety reasons along with some adjacent buildings. According to an article from the Trib, early this year the demolition crew started with tearing down those buildings and is supposedly going to tear down the tower this year. I hope that is the case. We will outline why this needs to be done immediately. I only wish that the mansion was able to survive.

This place started off well, providing the first administered penicillin in Westmoreland County. As the industry, followed by the population, and the wealth of the city drying up, the fortunes of this hospital would turn. It operated under bankruptcy protection from 1980 until closure.

This building, the former Monsour Medical Center in Jeannette, PA, is possibly one of the creepiest abandoned buildings I have ever seen. The building has clearly seen better days. The hospital started in the late 40s/early 50s as a small hospital. It would eventually grow into a facility with a few hundred beds. For the better part of the life of the hospital it was overwhelmed with debt and would eventually close in 2006 for serious state inspection failures. If that is not creepy enough, only 8 years in abandonment and it looks like this. I cannot imagine what kind of shape the hospital was in during its final years. They closed the hospital without even removing any bio-waste and other hazardous materials and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection had to investigate the building. If that is not bad enough, they did not even destroy all sensitive medical documents, so the health records of many people pretty much went into the public. Additionally, the building was hit with vandalism and arson. Due to the economic downturn of that region that has extended for a long time since the glass industry pretty much left the city, the hospital has also become a home for squatters. Due to the many hazards that this building poses in regards to bio hazards and the terrible condition of the building, this is extremely dangerous. The owner of the building is now out of the picture and has left this building for the locality to have to deal with. I hope that this building gets torn down and something gets built in this prominent spot on Route 30 that provides jobs for folks in the area. I would love nothing more than to see a prominent campus or facility of some sort in this exact spot that spurs a re-flourishment of Jeannette.


A Solemn Tribute: The Flight 93 Memorial in Somerset, PA

As I am sure you are well aware, on September 11th 2001, a plane that was headed from Newark,  NJ to San Francisco crashed right in this field in remote Somerset County. A melee happened aboard the plane as the plane was hijacked and it went down in remote Somerset County, Pennsylvania near a strip coal mine. More information about the incident is available here. Many lives were lost on this terrible day in our history and this memorial is a tribute to those lost lives.

Looking into the sunset at the gateway to the memorial. Prior to entering the site you read information about the tragedy and more. It is stirring up emotions just looking at the pictures.

 Gateway into the sunset. It was a beautiful evening last night.
 This is the reflection path. There are ledges where folks can leave pieces of remembrance. At the end you can see the marble wall in which the names of the victims are inscribed. 
 Here is the wall
 The memorial is fitting. At the end you can see a wooden gate they made that has a direct view to the crash site.
 The symbolic pathway leads to that boulder in front of a grove of hemlocks. The impact site was right there.

 The tribute to the victims is beautiful. I highly recommend checking it out for the victims of everything relating to 9/11. In remembrance, in love, and as a lesson to help foster children to grow in a way that they value life. This was violence on a large scale. Daily we lose folks left and right to violence and this is a giant reminder towards that. We can foster a foundation in our youth today to cultivate a value for human lives. I get emotional thinking about these lost lives, all lost lives, lost for fully stupid reasons. I cannot stand the thought that at this moment that someone is a victim of terrible violence like this. Do what you can on a small scale, get the message across. This needs to end now. As someone in the education fields, seeing teenagers getting killed makes me especially sensitive to this issue. No matter what the life, we are talking a human life. These folks are our  brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, grandparents, other relatives, or friends. Think about that and think about how you can go out and instill the value of human life into everyone around you. 

Please go out and check out this site in remembrance. 
Almost as if they are watching down upon this site and protecting it, you can see the windmills in part of Pennsylvania's windmill belt. 

 We also saw lots of wildlife like ducks, geese, other birds, and deer. It was a serene place and it is just horrifying to think of the human tragedy that happened at this site.

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