Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hopewell Furnace

The commonwealth of Pennsylvania is full of small ghosts towns. Peppered throughout the state are small reminders of towns who strived to survive, yet fell into non-existence. From the little mining towns of western Pennsylvania, to the timber rich villages of northeastern Pennsylvania, all had aspirations of putting together enough industry to put their names on the map. Unfortunately after the industries washed up, and dispersed with technology, most of these towns vanished into state game lands. Leaving nothing behind but small reminders of what could have been, decaying foundations overrun with vegetation, and the occasional town cemetery hidden eerily in the woods leave constant reminders.
Though the most famous ghost town in Pennsylvania still attracts thousands of visitors every year. In fact the federal government helps to keep it that way.

The town of Hopewell was established due to its lucrative iron making furnaces. The Hopewell furnace was established in 1771 and would quickly become the largest iron making producer in the country. The industrial town shortly followed. The employees of the furnace would receive notes for their work, which could than be cashed in to local merchants for goods.

The furnace prospered most in times of despair, the civil war proved to be the most profitable time for the furnace. The furnace supplied goods and ammunition to both Union and Confederate soldiers. During times of peace the furnace maintained by supplying the nation with kettles, machinery and their famous pot-bellied stoves. In the year 1883 the entire town was left abandoned, leaving behind homes, furnaces, workshops, and even a church. Today the furnace and town are maintained by the United States parks department. It is considered to be the best preserved iron making town in all of North America.

Friday, July 23, 2010

St. Peter's Village Antique Arcade.

The tiny village of St. Peter's makes you feel as if you've just stepped back into another era in history. All the homes and businesses look very similar to the way they looked when they were built in the 1800's. Even the village arcade with it's more modern technology takes you back to a much simpler time. The arcade is full of vintage arcade games and pinball machines. Most seem to be from the 1960's and 1970's, some are quite obscure and difficult to find. Most of the pinball machines gives you two plays for one quarter. Aside from the pinball machines there are also a few shooting games, including the game "Arctic Gun" which uses an actual modified Remington rifle. Perhaps you'd like to try your skills shooting black cats and witches in the game "Haunted House." The entire arcade oozes with nostalgia, the most modern game I noticed was the classic "Pac-Man." Maybe it was the song "Car Wash" pulsating out of the speakers as I dropped a quarter into the "Swinger" pinball machine, but for a few minutes I felt I was transported back in time, and all of life's everyday stresses seemed to fade away and life seemed a whole lot simpler.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Historical St. Peter's Village

Nestled amongst the trees and boulders of the French Creek State Park lies the tiny village of St. Peter's. Originally the village was an industrial town, that was until the mining and quarrying businesses dried up. The town nearly fell into complete abandonment, until it rejuvenated itself as a great outta the way spot perfect for a weekend getaway. Though it seems as if time stopped in this little village, it's a time the whole family will enjoy. My teenage daughter enjoyed the place so much she wanted to contribute her experiences for the blog. She says. "Today my family and I went to St. Peter's Village. We went to the village because we were in need of an adventure! My favorite part about this trip was that there is a creek with lots of large rocks that you can climb on."

"We went to an arcade that had old pinball machines and other old games that you really don't see nowadays. There are plenty of cool shops and a restaurant too. My feelings about this place is that it was a really neat experience. I believe more people should visit. My last thought on St. Peter's Village is that its shops are only open on the weekends and I wish they were open more often."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

William Penn Memorial Fire Tower

About a mile from the famed Pagoda in Reading, Pennsylvania lies an imposing tower built from stone and steel. The tower seems very ominous, especially if you just visited the much more colorful Pagoda.

The tower was originally built in 1939 to serve as a post for the firemen. Being situated at the top of Mt. Penn, the firefighters were able to keep an eye on essentially the entire county of Berks. The tower is constructed out of all fireproof materials and was built on the foundation of what was once the Tower Hotel, which operated between 1889-1923. The tower stands at 120 feet high and sits more than a thousand feet above the Schuylkill river. From the top of the tower there is a 60 mile panoramic view. The tower discontinued use in 1988 due to the suburban sprawl of the county which made it more difficult to track the lower lying areas of the county. Today the tower is owned by Reading city and is slowly decaying away, though there is a non-profit group hoping to restore the tower and re-open it as a tourist attraction.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Allegheny Aqueduct

In the small town of Birdsboro, Pennsylvania, sits an architectural marvel with astounding natural beauty. The aqueduct was built in 1824 by the Schuylkill Navigation Company under the direction of engineer Ephriam Beech. The aqueduct is essentially a bridge for boats. Mules or horses would pull the boats across the aqueduct into the next part of the Schuylkill canal system. The aqueduct spans roughly 112 feet and is comprised of five arches made from red sandstone and brownstone, incorporating a keystone theme. In 1983 the aqueduct was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today the aqueduct is maintained by the county of Berks and is still in great shape.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Historical Berks County Pennsylvania

In the July zine we take a historic stroll through Berks county and western Chester county in Pennsylvania.

We'll take a visit to two historic company towns which nearly faced abandonment forever. One was at the foreground of the industrial era in America. Today the town sits with no residents and the remnants of an iron making giant. Another town was built around the mining and quarrying industry that grew around it. Today the small village is a weekend retreat area. We'll also pay visit to a few historic homes in the area, including the childhood home of a very prominent figure in American history. Lastly we'll take a walk over a bridge that was originally designed to carry boats.

So get ready to head outta the way, cause we're going "Outta the Way!"