Deep in the forests of northwestern Pennsylvania lies a little-known, but incredibly important part of our Country’s early history and our Native American past. Although now mostly covered by the waters of the Allegheny Reservoir (a body of water created when the Army Corps of Engineers dammed the Allegheny River with the Kinzua Dam in 1965), this land, the Cornplanter Grant, has a very important story to tell. Continue Reading →
The Keystone Theatre’s history has been long and illustrious, highs and lows aside. The Keystone has the distinction of being the longest continuously operating theatre in NE Pennsylvania at 131 years of age. Her champions have been all of those who worked to fill her houses and keep her doors open.
Hale’s Opera House & Teacher’s Institute opened in downtown Towanda in 1887. Image courtesy of BCRAC.
The grand opening on September 21, 1887 featured Mrs. D. P. Bowers in the lead role of “Elizabeth, Queen of England.” It was the great era of early American Theatre and Mrs. D.P. Bowers, it was thought at the time, “would go down in posterity in the history of American stage.”
Famous stage actress Mrs. D.P. Bowers opens Hale’s Opera House in “Elizabeth, Queen of England”. Mrs. D.P. Bowers was the stage name of Elizabeth Crocker Bowers. Image courtesy of BCRAC.
Hale’s Opera House offered a palate of minstrel shows as well as local productions, fashion shows and high school graduations. The early days also included productions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which played once, and up to four times a year. A boxing match with John Sullivan was attended by over 1,400 people in the 900-seat theatre. News articles of the event described efforts to use 2 by 4’s brought in from the local hardware to support the extra weight of the balconies.
In 1913, the theatre was moved to the first floor. John Philip Sousa’s band came to town, arriving on the Black Diamond Express in the heyday of trains and people using them to come to Towanda from the surrounding small communities. In addition to live performances and community events, silent movies were added. William Woodin, the opera house’s first manager, changed the name of Hale’s Opera House to the Keystone Theatre.
Eventually, movies became the exclusive form of entertainment at the Keystone Theatre. The talkies were the gig in town. By 1950, the theatre had become part of the Comerford Theatre chain which owned theatres in and around the Wyoming and North Branch of the Susquehanna Valleys. Eventually the Comerford chain went under, and the Keystone Theatre was once again an independent venue.
The advent of television and the 1970s oil embargo strained the financial stability of the Keystone Theatre. A drop ceiling was installed covering the balcony, the orchestra pit was covered and the stage was enclosed and covered with a new screen. Times were tough. By 1987, the theatre was worn out, in need of major repairs, and set to close.
BCRAC to the rescue…
In 1988, the theatre was purchased by the Bradford County Regional Arts Council (BCRAC) with the intention of converting it into multi-use cultural center with film, live theatre, music and educational programs. Over the next four years, close to one million dollars were spent on returning the Keystone Theatre to its original appearance, while at the same time, updating and adding basic needs, such as heat, electricity, projection equipment, new roofs, fire escapes, and handicap accessibility. The theatre remained in operation during all of the renovations.
In 1992, a portion of Towanda borough was listed in the National Register of Historic Places as the Towanda Historic District (Key #096414). The theater is a contributing resource to the historic district because it is part of the character, history, and significance of Towanda.
Keystone Theatre in 1992.
The Keystone’s 550 seats were repaired, the plasterwork in the auditorium restored, and the lobby enlarged. The drop ceiling of the 1970’s was removed, the balcony returned to use, and the stage was restored with the false wall in front of it removed. In 2001, a second theatre with stadium-style seating was added to the Keystone Theatre replacing an adjoining building that had burned in the 1970s.
Keystone Grant for the Keystone…
In 2016, BCRAC received a PHMC grant. This grant was used to replace a piece of the Keystone that was laid in 1886 and, until this summer, had not seen the light of day in 130 years.
Behind the building’s decorative cornice and below layers of roofing, the integrated roof gutters, constructed of wood and brick, perhaps state of the art in 1886, had failed. Water designed to flow along the gutter troughs at the top edge had begun spilling over the edge of the building causing dangerous ice buildup and safety issues on the walks below.
View along west side of the roof (front of building) looking south, showing rotted and damaged wood and membrane – August 31, 2018.
View of condition of decorative cornice along front (west side) of building – August 31, 2018.
The work was completed by MacBuilders & Design of New Albany, Pennsylvania. The project got underway in late August with a leering deadline of September 30th, but this was a determined and dedicated crew. After removing the cornice, the owner came to us and offered to do some work outside of the project scope. He wanted to repair, strip and paint the decorative cornice that was removed to do the work.
View from ground of front (west side) of building during repair – September 7, 2018.
With a heart for historic buildings and their preservation and in respect to the care the BCRAC has given this building over the past 30 years, he wanted to restore the cornices. We agreed to trade advertising with him for the work, his advertising may well outlive all of us. But his work and the work of his crew was phenomenal.
Cornice after repair – September 21, 2018.
So now, seventy feet above Main Street, the newly rebuilt gutter system sits silently once again hidden behind the beautifully restored historic cornice. If you look really closely, you will also see a piece of the Keystone Theatre uncovered by the BCRAC in 1988, a permanently installed brick at the top of the building that reads, HALES OPERA HOUSE.
The brick in the plaza at the entrance of the theatre reads: The Keystone Theatre built in 1886 as the Hales Opera House. It is the oldest operating theatre in northeast Pennsylvania. Dedicated to all people – past, present and future for whom the Arts and this community theatre give meaning.
Keystone Theatre stone marking renovation.
This week’s guest contributor is Elaine Poost. Elaine is the Executive Director of the Bradford County Regional Arts Council in Towanda, PA.
Can I tell you about something that gives me chills and sends me running? October is Arts & Humanities Month. It’s also time for Halloween, so when I was invited to submit a post, our friends at SHPO asked if I could kill two birds with one stone and do justice to both October happenings. I decided to oblige by writing about some bad spirits that bedevil me at work: the humanities hobgoblins! Continue Reading →
It was ten years ago, almost to the day, that I participated in a series of scoping field views for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) that involved a brilliant idea to address the needs of two seemingly separate projects. Continue Reading →
We had a new release in CRGIS this week. Most of the changes were things that will just make it move more smoothly for you, but there are two things that we wanted to point out:
You can now see attachments to individual inventory items within districts.
In the past, all attachments were only visible on the main record for the district and it was impossible to tell which building they referenced. New attachments are now added at the inventory level. We have not (yet) gone back and moved older attachments, but those from our scanning efforts and all future ones will be linked at this level.
Attachment names must be unique!
Although our guidance asks you to name all attachments with a name that will be unique, we found that generic names are being used and files are being lost though overwriting. The system now checks for duplicate names and adds a (2) behind the name if it already exists in the file. Please do not change the attachment name in the table after you have uploaded it. The record in the database is a link to your file on the server. If you change the name, the link is broken. So… if you see that the system has added the (2), please do not change it. Following our naming protocols found in the Data Entry Manual will go a long way towards eliminating this issue and safeguarding your work.
October is national LGBT History Month and Pennsylvania has an important place in the history of the modern LGBT (Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Transgender) civil rights movement. One might assume that history only took place in the state’s major population centers of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. But as we are discovering, that is not the case. Continue Reading →
October is Archaeology Month, and what better way to kick it off than with five good reasons why archaeology matters.
Like most artistic, cultural, and educational institutions, we are challenged to demonstrate the public value of what we do. Very often this takes the form of an economic impact statement, but we should not lose sight of the numerous other ways in which history, archaeology, and preservation enhance our lives and communities.
Archaeology, in particular, is difficult to measure in terms of financial impact. In fact, the very concept seems to contradict one of our basic tenets, which discourages the monetization of archaeology and affirms that the true value of archaeology lies in its ability to teach us about the past.
Archaeology Matters – Small Book, Big Message
Trying to think about the bigger picture (an Archaeology 101 elevator pitch), I was inevitably reminded of a book I read in grad school. In Archaeology Matters: Action Archaeology in the Modern World, Jeremy Sabloff makes the compelling argument that archaeological research and methods can address modern, real-world issues such as environmental degradation, sustainability, warfare, and urbanization. While this sounds like your standard “learn from the past” argument, Sabloff suggests that archaeologists can (and should) use their research to actively engage with modern problems, create practical solutions, and inform policy decisions. Classic examples in this vein include the Tucson Garbage Project and recent archaeological studies of homelessness.
Archaeology can even look at the recent past, including 20th century industrial sites such as this glass factory in western PA.
Our own public benefit lab
Of course, not all archaeology has to address contemporary political topics or issues of world-wide significance to be of value. For Pennsylvania Archaeology Month, I’d like to explore a few of the reasons why Pennsylvania archaeology matters and to highlight some of the ways Pennsylvania’s archaeological community is making an impact:
Pennsylvania has a cool history – Pennsylvania has a fascinating and deep (pun intended) history that covers 16,000 years of human activity! This ranges from the earliest-known Pennsylvania occupation at Meadowcroft Rockshelter, to the development of pottery and plant cultivation in the Woodland period, to 20th century industries. So much of what we can learn about Pennsylvania comes from the archaeological record, but once it is destroyed, that learning is lost forever.
Archaeology provides a multi-disciplinary education – Archaeological methods draw on skills from a wide variety of disciplines in order to document, identify, analyze, and interpret the past. As such, archaeology students can develop skills in math, chemistry, physics, geography, archival research, drawing, and GIS, just to name a few. For a major that is traditionally placed in the humanities and social sciences—it can get pretty “sciency!” These skills (and the critical thinking that goes along with them) translate nicely into most other fields and are a valuable part of a well-rounded education.
Archaeology students at West Chester University of PA learn how to record elevation measurements before opening an excavation unit.
Helping veterans transition to civilian life – The past ten years have seen the emergence of veteran archaeology programs, which help to rehabilitate military veterans through participation in archaeological research. This type of partnership is mutually beneficial to the archaeologists and veterans alike, as the skillsets and team approach from both worlds are complementary. Ongoing research at Fort Ligonier in Westmoreland County has started incorporating the contributions of veterans from American Veterans Archaeological Recovery and Team Rubicon.
Team Rubicon volunteers excavating at Fort Ligonier in 2018. Image courtesy of Joanne Markow, Team Rubicon.
Bringing to light the experiences of under-represented populations – It is well-recognized that contact-period and historical archaeology helps us understand the experiences of population groups that are often overlooked in written history, but it is a message that bears repeating. With its focus on material remains, rather than just written documents, archaeology has done a tremendous amount to highlight alternative narratives and little-known historical events, and to meaningfully connect the past with present-day descendant communities. Research at Pandenarium, a 19th century freed African American village in Mercer County is just one recent example.
Archaeology is a gateway to local history – The best archaeology projects involve some kind of public outreach—whether including public volunteers in the work or sharing what we’ve learned with the local community. The ability to see the past through features and ruins on a site, or to touch an everyday object that has not been handled in thousands of years, provides all of us with a fresh and tangible connection to the humans who walked before us. Public archaeology is a powerful way to connect local communities with their own history, as was demonstrated by the public outreach efforts of the I-95 improvement project in Philadelphia.
How can I be involved?
At its heart, archaeology is a public, collaborative effort. There are many ways to be involved, whether recording new sites or volunteering alongside professional archaeologists. If you’re interested in learning more, the following websites will point you in the right direction:
Archaeology Month is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology, Inc., and the Pennsylvania Archaeological Council.
This year’s Archaeology Month poster.
Its purpose is to increase awareness of the important historic and prehistoric archaeological sites in the Commonwealth. These sites are part of the heritage of all Pennsylvanians. Everyday, archaeological sites are destroyed. We hope that through the Archaeology Month events, more Pennsylvanians become aware of this part of our history and work to protect our endangered resources.
Unless otherwise noted, all events are free and open to the public.
During the week of August 13th, The Pennsylvania Silver Jackets hosted floodproofing workshops in York, Lewisburg, and Wellsboro, and the State Historic Preservation Office had a representative (me) there to answer questions from public officials and members of the public.
Now I’m sure you have a lot of questions. What are Silver Jackets? Why was PA SHPO there? What are Flood Proofing Workshops? These are all excellent questions; let’s address them one at a time and look at some example of real-life flood proofing projects and their effects on historic resources.
Pennsylvania Silver Jackets
To quote the Silver Jackets website, the “Pennsylvania Silver Jackets is an interagency team dedicated to working collaboratively with the commonwealth and appropriate stakeholders in developing and implementing solutions to flood hazards by combining available agency resources, which include funding, programs, and technical expertise.”
Silver Jackets – multiple agencies, one solution!
Why the name? Different agencies have specific colors they use for their jackets during emergency response (think blue FEMA jackets after Hurricane Katrina), but nobody had yet claimed silver, so it serves as a unifying color for all agencies. Every state except for Hawaii has a Silver Jackets team, and Pennsylvania’s meets quarterly in Harrisburg to plan outreach and discuss project opportunities.
Community outreach is one of the Silver Jackets’ priorities.
Flood Proofing Workshops
Each day included two workshops – one in the afternoon for public officials and one in the evening for members of the public.
Floodproofing workshop in Lewisburg, Union County, on August 15, 2018.
In the world of emergency management, floodproofing measures are a subset of hazard mitigation and are divided into two general categories: structural and non-structural. These workshops focused on non-structural floodproofing methods. Somewhat confusingly, “non-structural” floodproofing measures include lots of projects that directly affect, alter, move, or even demolish existing structures.
Structural floodproofing includes projects that involve building something new, such as a dam or levee, while non-structural floodproofing includes projects that include no construction or alterations to existing buildings. Basically, non-structural floodproofing includes everything than an individual property owner can do to her property.
This can include planning, relocating utilities above projected flood levels, filling in a basement, elevating, or even relocating a building to remove it from flood risk.
Hufnagle Park in Lewisburg, PA
While in Lewisburg, I had some time between meetings to explore the borough (and look for something to eat.) Walking down Market Street, I passed Hufnagle Park and saw families strolling along a stream. As it turns out, this park is an example of a large hazard mitigation project to reduce flood risks by increasing open space along the stream.
Looking southeast along Bull Run in Lewisburg, PA in August 2018.
The Borough of Lewisburg collaborated with Bucknell University in 2004 to produce The Lewisburg Neighborhood Project, a plan to address a range of concerns including student housing availability and flood hazards. One of the central projects in the plan was the Bull Run Greenway, a system of parks, trails, and green spaces along a stream that runs through the borough.
In 2012 the Borough used federal funds to purchase and demolish ten private properties on 6th Street southwest of Bull Run that were at heightened risk of repeated flooding. These buildings were within the Lewisburg Historic District, so mitigation of this project was required in the form of recordation of the to-be-demolished buildings and their immediate context. In the photo above, the demolished structures would have been visible on the right-hand side. Below are some example photos provided in the recordation package.
Lewisburg’s 102 South 6th Street in 2012, now demolished.
Lewisburg’s 112 & 114 South 6th Street in 2012, now demolished.
This type of project is often referred to as “demolition-acquisition”, and it is perhaps the most permanent form of hazard mitigation that FEMA funds. No funds will ever have to be spent on these properties again, and, by converting the land to permanent open space, surrounding properties could benefit as well. When a property is acquired using FEMA funds, it is required to remain open or park space in perpetuity. The next time it floods, water from Bull Run will have a little more space to flow and might not have as much of an impact on the houses across the street. Of course, ten buildings are now gone forever.
Peer State Example
There are hazard mitigation measures that can have less of a negative impact on historic buildings, but sometimes they require an extra level of creativity to balance hazard mitigation requirements with historic integrity.
As an example from outside of the commonwealth, new owners of the old Spaghetti Warehouse building in Houston, Texas are embarking on major rehabilitation project. The building is a contributing resource in the Main Street Market Square Historic District, but it backs up to Buffalo Bayou and was damaged by Hurricane Harvey.
As shown in the rendering below, the project would actually open the building up to water; in future floods, the bayou will be able to flow right through the back and side wall. The only fully enclosed and condition space will be on the second floor, and even that will be set back from the two newly opened walls.
Despite these changes, the owner intends to make full use of 901 Commerce with a bar on the second floor and market space on the first floor and basement. Food trucks will even be able to pull directly into the basement. This is, of course, a pretty extensive alteration to this building, but it might provide a thoughtful alternative for how to live with water without losing our built heritage.
And that brings us back to three days of workshops in central Pennsylvania. Bull Run flooded in 2011 in Lewisburg, and Houston is still recovering from Hurricane Harvey, so flooding remains front of mind.
Flooding is not a constant problem in most of our communities, but it is a continuous one. In times between disasters (what emergency managers refer to as “blue sky”), it’s easy to fall into familiar practices and forget to prepare for future flooding.
These three workshops happened to coincide with weeks of record rainfall in central PA, but even if they hadn’t, they were intended to remind people who the risk of flooding is not going away. Whether you own a home that might be damaged, or work for an agency or local community, there are things you can do to help safeguard against the next flood, and there are people and agencies available to answer questions and provide assistance.
John Gardosik is the Hurricane Sandy Recover Project Manager at the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office. Though new to Pennsylvania, he is married to a Lancaster native and is enjoying getting to know the Commonwealth.
September 19, 2018
by Guest Contributor 0 comments
Are you looking for an adventure? Then take a drive to Clearfield County because Pennsylvania’s West Branch Susquehanna Byway is an adventure that awaits you at every turn.
What is a Pennsylvania Byway?
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) established the Pennsylvania Byways (PA Byways) program in 2001 to identify and designate corridors with cultural, historical, recreational, archaeological, scenic, and natural qualities and outstanding features throughout the commonwealth.
If you see one of these, check it out!
PennDOT’s mission for this program is to:
support communities and local governments in achieving byway designations,
assist with local planning efforts to maintain byway resource qualities,
protect and preserve visual impacts,
educate residents and visitors,
promote tourism, and
enhance economic development potential throughout the commonwealth.
The PA Byways program parallels U.S. Federal Highway Administration’s National Scenic Byways Program, which was created in 1991 as part of the Federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA). The main difference between the two programs is that Pennsylvania does not use “scenic” in its title, recognizing that many roadways exemplify more than purely scenic qualities.
**The Pennsylvania Byways program is currently being restructured. If you have interest in designating a byway, please contact Jacqueline Koons-Felion at email@example.com or 717-787-6388.**
5 Things to Do and See along the West Branch Susquehanna Byway
1. The Drive
The West Branch Susquehanna Byway offers seventy-two miles of winding roads showcasing historic, archeological, cultural, recreational, natural and scenic rarities that are inherent of Clearfield County. This byway is a great outlet for the outdoorsman, civil war buff, foodie, photographer, and the explorer.
PennDOT designated this corridor as Pennsylvania’s 19th Byway in March 2012.
Got to www.visitclearfieldcounty.org for more information!
The West Branch Susquehanna Byway is a scenic and natural beauty that is a must see. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Susquehanna River was a lifeline of historic Clearfield County. The River served as the lumber transport system that fueled the once-booming economy. The byway was named after the river because of its historical significance, but also because the byway provides access to the abundance of recreational opportunities that the Susquehanna River offers, both on its banks and in its waters.
2. McGees Mills Covered Bridge
McGees Mills Covered Bridge
This Bridge is the only covered bridge crossing the mighty Susquehanna River and the only one still being used in Clearfield County. The 122 ft. single span Burr arch truss bridge was built in 1873 by Thomas A. McGee. Thomas built the bridge using hand hewed white pine timbers from the area and at a cost of $175. It was the last covered bridge built in Clearfield County. Thousands of rafts floated under the bridge including the last raft in 1938.
The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 and renovated in 1994 after a collapse caused by record-breaking ice and snow. This scenic spot remains one of the most popular photographic attractions in Clearfield County and is also located at the very beginning or end of the West Branch Susquehanna Byway.
3. Bilger’s Rocks
Clearfield County’s Bilger Rocks
Over 300 million years ago, before the settlers, before the Indians, way back when the earth was taking its shape; a city was built just outside of Grampian in Clearfield County. This prehistoric city was like none other, for it was made of massive rocks. Twenty acres of massive rocks to be exact. Some of the rocks tower of five stories high and most of them are over 20 feet thick. The geological phenomenon responsible for this masterpiece is known as frost wedging. Frost wedging causes boulders to break away from the mountainside and helped create this magnificent vision full of numinous caverns and narrow passageways that has withstood eons of vagaries. There are 170 acres of park land where the Bilger’s Rocks Association offers campsites, pavilions, picnic area, a concert arena, recreational activities and even a concession stand that is open every weekend. www.bilgersrock.net
4. Curwensville Lake
Picturesque Curwensville Lake, Clearfield County.
Curwensville Lake is a reservoir located just to the south of the town of Curwensville. The lake was formed due to the construction of the Curwensville Dam to the north of the lake. Before the dam was built, there were several floods occurring along the West Branch Susquehanna River, affecting the towns of Curwensville, and Clearfield to the north. On September 3, 1954 a Flood Control Act was passed due to the flooding along the West Branch river basin. The dam cost $20,400,000 to construct. Curwensville Lake offers many opportunities to entertain the whole family. Biking, hiking, boating, camping and fishing are just a few of the activities available at Curwensville Lake. And with no horse power regulations on the lake, visitors can enjoy the open waters with their boat and spend some relaxing time catching some of the freshwater fish.
5. Denny’s Beer Barrel Pub
Burger challenges at Denny’s Beer Barrel Pub.
Denny’s was founded by Denny and Jean Liegey in September 1977. Denny’s started making giant hamburgers to attract attention and to create a fun atmosphere for all. Denny’s is known nationally as the home of the “World’s Largest Hamburger Challenges.” It all started with a 2 lb. hamburger challenge with homemade buns baked in a coffee can and the rest is history. Denny’s became famous in 1998 for “The Ye Olde 96er” and have been featured on tv shows like Rachel Ray, The Food Network, Travel Channel, Good Morning America and many more. Guests have dined from all 50 states and many from countries around the world.
Interested in seeing and learning more?
The West Branch Susquehanna Byway is a beautiful scenic and fun byway. This is just a small taste of what the byway has to offer. Visit us in person or on our website, www.visitclearfieldcounty.org, to learn more about the West Branch Susquehanna Byway.
This week’s post is by guest contributor, Josiah Jones. Josiah is the executive director of Visit Clearfield County.