Friday, June 24, 2011

The Cup

While traveling to the Ringing Rocks park and roller rink you're likely to pass a wondrous roadside oddity. A cup shaped building with a straw protruding out of the top.

These unique stores were originally built in the early 1940's for Levengood Dairies. The local dairy had the buildings constructed to help sell their dairy products. Originally there were four "cups" throughout the area. Boyertown, Pennsburg, and Reading were home to the other three.
Though they don't seem to hold the same vintage charm as the one in Pottstown. Though that's all quite likely to change, as this location is now currently for sale. Maybe we could make it our home office!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ringing Rocks Park & Rink

There's a mystical park near the small town of Pottstown where you're gonna wanna visit with a hammer in hand. The Ringing Rocks Park has been baffling curious visitors for centuries. When you smack one of the rocks in the boulder field you're likely to get two results, a deadening sound you'd expect, or a ringing bell sound you wouldn't expect. The various rocks each emit a different vibrant tone. Similar parks have been used to hold music festivities. Musicians will actually play the rocks while accompanied with other instruments.

On Outta the Way's visit we brought along several different size hammers. We noticed each hammer rang out a different chime on the same rock. The locals in the area have been generous enough to tag the rocks which make the best sounds. I must admit they're very good at pointing you to the prime rocks, though their art skills could use some work!

After ringing some rocks be sure to visit the retro style roller skating rink nearby. The old time rink has been entertaining the locals for decades. Ringing rocks and retro roller rinks sounds like a perfect day going Outta the Way!

For more on Ringing Rocks and other nearby Outta the Way places.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Elkins Estate

Situated in the same neighborhood as the dilapidated Lynnewood Hall, rests another hidden gem. The Elkins Estate was the Summer home of transportation tycoon William Elkins. The estate consisted of 5 buildings, with 2 homes. The 45 room Elstowe Manor was used primarily by the family, while the smaller Chelton house was built specifically for William's son, George. Both homes were designed by famed architect Horace Trumbauer.

The Estowe Manor was extravagantly designed, no expense was spared. The Italian Renaissance home was constructed of exquisite woods and fine marble. Unfortunately for William he only got to enjoy his Summer retreat for a brief time. Mr. Elkins passed in the home in 1903 at the age of 71. During William Elkins life he played a very key role in Philadelphia transportation. After his death all traffic in Philadelphia came to a halt, in order to pay respects. This is the first and only time this has ever occurred in the city.

Fortunately this family's home fared better than the lost palaces of Lynnewood and Whitemarsh Hall. For many decades the home was owned by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine de' Ricci. The sisters took tremendous care of the luxurious estate. They eventually sold off the property after 75 years of maintaining it's tedious upkeep.

Today the home is owned by the non-profit group Food for Life. The group helps to feed the less fortunate in the Philadelphia area. Sadly they are beginning to feel the burdens of retaining such a luxurious property. In order to sustain the hindrances they have recently begun to use the home for wedding photography sessions. The good people at Food for Life are not only hoping to preserve history but also humanity.

Donate to Food for Life
Other local Outta the Way places

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Lynnewood Hall

Hidden away in the suburbs far from the Liberty Bell and the tourists, sits a luxurious palace left as a shell of it's former self. The articulate limestone walls of the Lynnewood Hall lie at rest behind the overgrown yard, protected by a rusty fence.

This former elegant home was once deemed the "house that art built." Industrialist Peter Widener was an avid art collector and needed a larger home to house his valuable collection as well as entertain his esteemed colleagues. In 1900 he and his family moved into their 70,000 square foot dream home. The home was full of luxurious design. Marble lined the walls, while gold plated the doorknobs.

The Wiedener family was extremely wealthy, but also dealt with their share of hardships.
One of the family's sons and grandson perished in the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic. Peter Widener himself only got to enjoy his dream home for a modest 15 years. He was found deceased in the home after a lengthy illness at the age of 80. Shortly after Peter's passing the home became open for public viewings. Visits eventually ceased in 1940, shortly after most of the artwork was donated.

The legacy of the Lynnewood Hall and Widener family slowly began to fade away. The home was used briefly by the U.S. government during World War 2. The grounds were used for canine training, while the home was used to store valuable documents and works of art.

Since then the home has switched hands a few times and is slowly falling into decay. No major work has been done on the home since the 1950's. Most of the valuable materials used for building have been stripped away and sold by previous owners. Many preservation groups are trying to help preserve the legacy of this lost palace, before it's history and beauty are lost forever.
Lynnewood Hall Video

Monday, June 13, 2011

Whitemarsh Hall in Pennsylvania

Be careful what you wish for!

The Stotesbury family like most Americans' loved to live the dream life. They enjoyed hosting lavish parties, with movie star guests and noble statesmen from all over the world. After all when your home is larger than the White House you certainly have the room for such luxurious affairs.

The Stotesbury's moved into their dream palace in 1921. The home consisted of 147 rooms and 45 bathrooms and cost a modest 3 million dollars. The home was deemed the "American Versailles."

As quickly as their dreams came to fruition, they also vanished just as fast. At costs of over 1 million dollars a year to sustain the home and surrounding acreage, the family fortune quickly began to dwindle. By World War 2 the home had been left abandoned and was being used by the United States government to store valuable pieces of artwork.

After the government moved out, the vandals moved in. Anything of value had been stolen and the locals began to vandalize the home. Eventually the home had fallen into such disarray the community had no choice but to destroy the lost palace. Today all that remains are a few monuments from the gardens and the lost dreams of an American family.

Video look at Whitemarsh Hall
More info. on Whitemarsh Hall

Friday, June 10, 2011

Harrisburg State Hospital "City on the Hill"

If only walls could talk, what kind of stories would they tell us? If I went looking for any walls to talk to in the Keystone State, I’d want to start at the Harrisburg State Hospital.

Social Reformer Dorothea Dix helped lobby to get help for the mentally handicapped in the state. In 1845 the Pennsylvania State Lunatic Hospital and Union Asylum for the Insane was founded. In 1848 the name was changed to the less controversial Pennsylvania State Lunatic Hospital, after $50,000.00 was allotted to build. The hospital was completed in in1851, admitting its first patient on October 6th, becoming the first Mental Hospital in the state.

The Kirkbride building was one of the first insane asylums in the United States using the Kirkbride Plan. Kirkbride was a Philadelphia Psychiatrist in the mid-1800’s, who advocated a system of mental asylum design. The asylums tended to be large with Victorian design.

The Kirkbride building seemed to suffer from poor construction as it only lasted approximately 50 years. Between 1893 and 1912 the hospital was rebuilt, going for the more popular cottage plan. This would consist of several small buildings connected with long partially submerged tunnels, as opposed to one large building.

In 1921 the hospital again changed names, this time more appropriately just the Harrisburg State Hospital. At the hospital’s peak, it consumed more than 1,000 acres and over 70 buildings, and held as many as 2,441 patients. During its lowest levels of employment, it was scary how disproportioned it was, with 1 nurse to 166 patients. The state hospital earned the nickname “City on the Hill” for its self-sufficient ways, including having its own farm, stores and even a power plant. In 1986, the hospital was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1999 the site was used for the setting of the movie “Girl, Interrupted.” In fact, the administration sign that still hangs is a leftover from the film. On January 27, 2006 after 150 years of helping the mentally disabled, the doors were closed, though not completely. The state still uses the buildings as administrative offices.

Movie Trailer from "Girl, Interrupted"

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Frank Lloyd Wright's Beth Sholom Synagogue

Famed building designer Frank Lloyd Wright is known mostly for his work on private homes. He's accredited with having over 500 completed works. His most famous designed home is Fallingwater, located in Western Pennsylvania. Most aren't aware that besides homes he also designed the Guggenheim, and also a synagogue.

In September 1953 Mr. Wright was invited to design a new synagogue for the Beth Shalom congregation. Frank worked with, and had the advice of Rabbi Mortimer Cohen. Together they evoked a design that would give the synagogue the look of a mountain. In 1959 their masterpiece was completed and was deemed a modern day Mt. Sinai. It was the last work Frank Lloyd Wright had completed before his death. It's often heralded as the most expressive design of his illustrious career.

Though Wright is often considered the greatest American architect of all time, he was often too innovative. One of the biggest downfalls to Wright's designs is they often fail structurally. This is mainly attributed to the fact that he was so far ahead of his time. Engineers and builders had to use or create groundbreaking ways for building. Most of the time these ideas would work, a few times they didn't. At one point the Beth Sholom congregation had a kiddie pool in their sanctuary while they dealt with a leaky roof. The roof is what also makes this synagogue so unique. Due to it's transparency it allows natural light in during the day, while glowing at night from the man made electric. The synagogue was deemed a National landmark in 2007, and is one of only 4 in the country.

The name Beth Sholom is Hebrew for house of peace. From the look of the synagogue it seems Frank Lloyd Wright and the Rabbi Cohen were able to exude that right through their design.

Video of Beth Sholom Synagogue
Other nearby Outta the Way places

Monday, June 6, 2011

Daniel Boone Homestead

In a small log cabin in rural Berks County, future pioneer and frontiersman Daniel Boone was born. For the next 16 years, Daniel would wander the nearby forests trying to fulfill his need to explore. He would learn hunting skills from the local Native Americans he had befriended. Daniel received his first rifle in 1749 at 15 years old. He would soon be delegated to protecting the livestock from predatory attacks. These hunting skills would later prove to be very valuable in Daniel’s life.

Daniel’s father Squire Boone originally built a 1 ½ story home for his family to live in. They first settled in the foothills of Berks County in 1730, and in 1734 their most prominent son was born. Squire mainly made his living as a blacksmith, weaver and a dairy farmer. The family lived modestly but was not without controversy.

The Boone family was part of the strict Quaker religion. In 1742 the eldest Boone child, Sarah, married outside of the Quaker faith while visibly pregnant. To make matters worse, in 1747 son Israel decided to marry outside the Quaker faith as well. These acts caused quite a controversy in the nearby communities. In 1750 the Boone family left Pennsylvania and relocated to North Carolina. It’s speculated that the marriages outside of the faith forced the Boone family to move.

“Many heroic actions and chivalrous adventures are related of me which exist only in the regions of fancy. With me the world has taken great liberties, and yet I have been a common man.” Daniel Boone used these words to describe himself and they seem to be pretty accurate. There are many folktales and fictionalized characters based on Daniel Boone. Though Daniel was not a very educated person, he was always searching and exploring to learn. He fought in the French and Indian War, and is most known for exploring and settling Kentucky. Daniel Boone gained most of his fame when at age 50 his autobiography began to circulate. People from all over were fascinated by his life, adventures, and his upbringing in his Pennsylvania boyhood home. Boone soon became a folk hero for all of America. One of the biggest misconceptions about Daniel Boone is the raccoon-skin hat. Daniel actually considered that hat style rather uncivilized. Daniel Boone regained a lot of popularity when a television show of his frontier escapades appeared in the 1960’s.

After the Boone family moved from Pennsylvania in 1750, relatives of the family bought the home. Shortly after, the home was expanded and drastically remodeled. Today the Daniel Boone homestead still stands, though it looks much different than the 1 ½ story log cabin home Daniel was born in. It wasn’t until 1926 when the state acquired the home and began restoration. The home is encompassed by 579 acres, which is used to help interpret the life of early settlers to our country. Also on the property are a blacksmith shop, a smokehouse, a nearby neighbor’s home and a bake house. Even though parts of Daniel’s life are shrouded in controversy, most regard him as a hero and great statesman to our country. What better way to pay tribute than to visit his boyhood home, and retrace his first footsteps.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Pottstown Pig Tree

(Photo from Creepy Places)
The Skull tree along Devil's road isn't the only tree in Pennsylvania with folklore surrounding it. With roots shaped like a pigs snout, and a set of holes where eyes would set, it's easy to see how the pig tree got its name. What's not so simple to figure out is why its become so mysterious.

The legend of the pig tree states to take a personal item from someone you wish to cause harm to, you then place the item into the eye hole of the tree. It's thought that if the sun pierces through the object, the curse has worked. It should also be known that if the sun doesn't shine through, the curse is than reversed onto you. I'm not too sure there's anyone I despise that much to take that risk!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Montgomery County, Pennsylvania

In the upcoming volume 21 zine, we'll be sharing our stories of whiskey, mystics, and men. "Da-da-da" Sorry couldn't help it! We're gonna take you to an old saloon that played a significant part in the revolutionary War. Many believe the General who used the tavern as his headquarters, may still be frequenting the pub.

After our fill of spirits we visited a few rather mystical places. A small town who still pays honor to their Welsh ancestors, with stone griffins, large cairns, and a circle of rocks, resembling a smaller Stonehenge. Then we were off to play the rocks, good thing we brought our hammers. At the park we visited, banging on the rocks with hammers is allowed, in fact encouraged. Each rock lets out it's own unique sound, some the normal thud you'd expect, others magically expel the sound of bells. Afterwords we got an inside and outside look at a Synagogue designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. This inspiring temple was meant to evoke the look of Mt. Sinai. It's a marvel to admire whether it's lit by the natural sun, or when it's illuminating like a candle in the evening.

Lastly we paid a visit to two lost palaces to see what was left of two men's dreams. Two multi-millionaires whose dream homes may have cost them everything. One of these mansions is now almost lost forever, only a few garden sculptures remain. The other nearby home lies as a former shell of itself. The "house that art built", lies in an abandoned shamble. It's quite a sight to see such articulate beauty, fall into such a desolate state.

For more information on the aforementioned places keep following our blog, and keep your eyes open for the upcoming zine.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Thank You!

May was national share a story month. This was mainly instituted for parent's to share stories with their children. Well we at Outta the Way decided to use the opportunity to allow others to share their stories. We would like send a big thank you out to all those who participated.

The SWPA Rural Exploration group shared their adventures at the Fredericktown ferry, as well as a few other local gems. Ghost Hunting Theories shared her experience, being by herself in an abandoned building, but not alone. Our good friend at B.B.Bellezza Green Jewelry shared what she learned at the Pennsylvania Wolf Sanctuary, as well as the fun she had at their annual music and art show. Lastly our friends at ForgottenPA told about their adventures exploring the lost Concrete City. They shared their love of urban exploring as well as the importance of history.

Thanks to all who participated and made sharing month a success. But most importantly thanks to all our friends and followers who have helped to support us in so many ways. We wouldn't have made it this far without everyone's support, for that we say thank you!