Thursday, December 5, 2013

Johnstown, PA

It was a very cold morning on Saturday when I met Richard and Margie to travel up to Johnstown, PA for an urbexing forage. We weren't too sure on what we would find but the town looked interesting. The further north we drove the colder it got and soon we were seeing snow dusting the mountains and fields.
We stopped a couple of times to grab photos of things that caught our eye but for the most part we wanted to stay inside our warm car.
The snow gradually became deeper as we traveled up the mountains with all tree branches and blades of grass encased in ice. It was very very cold. We stopped once for hot cider but soon we were at Johnstown and met with Jenn who had found us our lunch stop, Scott's By Dam.
Richard had a large taco while the rest of us opted for a small version each. The owner's wife made the soft taco shells by hand, which were delicious, but I wasn't over enthused with the fillings. But they served excellent beer and we were all hungry so were content with our full and warmed tummies. The folks there were very friendly and helpful with information on the town.
We next visited the Flood Museum which should be the first stop of anyone coming to this town who wants to know its history. Towards the end of the 1800's steel barons from Pittsburgh had bought a countryside retreat up river with cottages and a huge man made lake held back by a dam. But none of the owners paid proper interest to the maintenance of the dam, just patching it occasionally, and on May 31st, 1889, during a heavy storm, the dam broke, flooding the gorge below that lead to Johnstown, 14 miles away. Over 20 million tons of water gushed down the valley taking less than an hour to reach the town. The debris that was caught in its wake pushed against the Stone Bridge in the town and caught fire but the bridge held. Over 2200 people lost their lives in the flood and fires.
An impressive model showing the path of the dam water on its way down the gorge to Johnstown, now known as Flood City.
This is an impressive little museum which also showed a memorable short documentary of the flood.
After, we went to The Inclined Plane,  originally built to take workers up and down the hill to The Cambria Iron Company, but also took survivors and rescuers up and down during a later flood in 1936. It is now a tourist attraction, the world's steepest vehicular incline
Looking up...
...and looking down. It really was very steep but the views were amazing. Click for a video of the ride here. The staff were chatty and fun with the gift shop at the top providing welcome warmth. With the colored lights, the snow and the tree inside the small shop it felt very festive.
We loved this t-shirt.
By the time we got back down to the bottom it was dark and cold, and most definitely time for beers.
We tried a few bars and were extremely lucky in Jenn driving us around, as she didn't drink. But we did. A lot.Well I did.
A couple wanted their photo taken in this graffiti alley and soon it became a study on how we could achieve the best shot, with the guy becoming a willing, albeit frozen, subject for our cameras.
Another pub sported this lamp, the first time I'd seen one outside of the movie, Christmas Story.
The rest of the evening became a bit of a blur, but suffice to say we all made it back to the hotel safely, polished off Richard's homemade sangria, and then awoke the next morning in desperate need of a cooked breakfast.
This was obtained at a diner called 'Our Son's'.
We saw the place mats and then realized what the name related to, but after reading their website, it actually referred to their three sons. The food was great. My western omelet didn't have small pieces of ham as I was expecting, it had slices layered on the bottom, with veggies and provolone cheese. The restaurant is very proud of their Italian homemade bread, and justifiably so, it was delicious. We all felt fortified after breakfast and drove to look over the iron works.
Founded in 1852, this was once the main manufacturer of the nation's barbed wire. It made rails for western railroads, plate, girders, axles, and structural steel and operated as a model for the industry up until the 1980s when the steel industry was hit by tough overseas economic competition  It closed in 1992 and there are plans to reopen it as a mixed use site, industrial, commercial and tourism.
Walking about all I really came across was ice, lots and lots of ice, and icicles. It was cold.
This wall showed the frustration of previous workers. We left and then went to the Grandview Cemetery, one of the largest in Pennsylvania. we wanted to see if we could find any of the flood victims' graves. It sits atop a great hill looking down on the city.
This was so sad to see this, many members of a family lost on that fateful day.
This area is the resting place of 777 souls who could not be identified and is known as the Unknown Plot. In 1892 the monument, was dedicated before a crowd of 10,000. As of March 1992, there were 57,006 persons interred here at Grandview, and to this day, the names of all are handwritten in the Chronological Book of Interment.
The temperature was dropping fast as we walked around the grounds and we soon succumbed, hurrying to the warmth of the car. We drove around the city looking at the beautiful churches. We stopped at the Immaculate Conception Church, closed in 2009, and walked around the outside, wishing we could get in. We couldn't have timed it better. A guy walked out, he was organizing a 50th wedding celebration and very kindly allowed us inside to take photos. It was stunningly beautiful. Construction was completed in 1908 and it served the german residents of Cambria City. It underwent major renovations after a fire in 1983. After closing as a church, it reopened as Grand Halle in 2012 and is now used for special events.
It was mid afternoon when we got back outside and everyone was feeling tired and wanting to head home. If we were lucky, we'd be back in our homes before dark, and I was looking forward to cuddling up to two furry felines in front of a blazing fire.
 We stocked up with drinks and nibbles for the journey and I noticed this horrendous cake thing on a shelf. A donut topped with fruit loops? Not appetizing to me but it had an amusing name. Driving back through the mountains encased in ice we stopped for a few photos, but were soon back in the warm car again. And a few hours later, our prediction proved true. I managed to pull up outside Meadow House just as the last of the pale dusk gave it self up to the dark night, with Kota and Rosie Lee waiting for me inside the front door.

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