Sunday, March 16, 2014

I.N. Dreamer Park. Richhill Township, Greene County

I had first heard of the I.N. Dreamer park a few months ago, while the mayor of Carmichaels was cutting my hair.   You see, in our little town, the town barber doubles as the mayor as well. In between official business and hair cuts, he is full of local knowledge, obscure facts and knows everybody.   So after I voiced my complaint about the giant pothole in front of Gabler's Drug Store, I settled in for a haircut.  

The mayor, Dave Jack at work.  This guy is gonna be on the chair for a while, as I got the barber talking. Once he starts, a 10 minute job turns into 30

Today's subject was lesser known places as he related a story about him being at a local festival, and him seeing a postcard from long ago, depicting a serene park.  The card, as he described, contained an image of monuments, sidewalks, benches and other park like compliments.  He had never seen this image before, nor heard of the park.  As he continued, it turned out the card was basically an artists rendering of a proposed park in north western Greene County.  Although the park was started, it was never completed as this postcard vision.  I've searched for this postcard image, but to no luck so far.

So last week it was beautiful out.  Danielle and Chip were off and I was in for the weekend, so we decided to deviate from our normal Sunday flea market trip. As Canned Heat might sing, we ended up "going up the country".   Dreamer Park is in the very northwest corner of the county, and in a very isolated spot, so we just picked a random, close address on the GPS and went with that.  We wound our way past old farms, old schools, derelict campers, gas wells, huge mine beltways and lots of cows, stopping occasionally to take pictures of everything and nothing.

  As we unknowingly approached the spot, we ran into the second coming of the industrial revolution, in the form of a new giant gas compression station up on Majorsville Road. Greene county is indeed the Saudi Arabia of the natural gas world, some would say.

I missed a turn or 3, ended up lost, hit a bump and spilled the Gatorade, so pulled over and Chip and Danielle got out to take some pictures of an old bridge, while I searched the dwindling cell service  for directions I saw on once on some antiquated Geocities site.  As our luck would have it, the bridge we were stopped at was the key.

Cross this bridge, then you are almost there.

  We were only a quarter mile away.   We rounded a curve and saw this.

"There it is" we all said at the same time.  As I mentioned earlier, there is an awful lot of gas drilling activity in our area, and a rather fresh road to a well bordered our park so we drove on up.

Back in the 1930's, Isaac Dreamer visioned a park where he could honor the people who served this country, and began plans and work for this park. Dreamer's Park would honor those fallen and those who had served in the 4 wars that we had fought at this time.  The Revolutionary War, The Civil War, The Spanish American War and The World War.  You have to remember, this last one was the war to end all wars, and at the time of the erection of the monument, the second world war wasn't invented yet, so to speak.

The most stunning and awesome sight in this remote park is its center obelisk.  A 35 foot granite memorial was shipped from Vermont, all 55,000 pounds of it.  On top, an eagle with outstreched wings watches over the park, his wingspan over 4 feet.   All four sides of this massive monument honor the 4 different wars.

Four cornerstones define the border of the park, one for each branch of service:  Marines, Soldiers, Sailors and Nurses.

Chip.  He's a nurse, ya know.

The park was dedicated in 1935, in front of a gathering of 500 people. It's hard to imagine 500 people up here in this remote location, watching a monument being dedicated, especially in the 30's, but times were different then. 

  From there, things went south.  Isaac Dreamer died in 1935, and was laid to rest in the little cemetery up near the monument with his family.

 Although money was set aside for the perpetual care and upgrade of the park, his will was contested, and the big dream Dreamer had was never realized.  The money set aside for the expansion and upkeep of his park went to the family instead.   The county got the property back via a donation from the remaining family in 1966, rededicated in 1969, then fell in to virtual obscurity from then on. From what we are told, the park is maintained by the Rose Hill Garden Club and the Richhill Township supervisors these days. The really cool thing about this park is that it is located in the extreme north west corner of the county you could probably throw a stone and hit Washington county, throw one west and hit West Virginia.

Its pretty great that people still care enough to upkeep this park, and their care is evident.  The area looks weeded and mowed (despite the winter), and new flags are placed around the monument as well.

It was a great trip and we got lots of new ideas for a return visit. 

To get a better idea of the layout of the park, take a look at the video below.

Then, you can check out this video, from our friend and fellow explorer and Greene County judge, Farley Toothman.  He also visits the sheep and fiber fest in the town of Waynesburg in the beginning of his video.

Planning a visit?  Great!  We encourage you, I bet this place is exceedingly beautiful in the spring and summer.  Check out the interactive map here!  It will open so as that the park is in the center.

Some bonus video above

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Visit To The Former Stoney's Brewery, Smithton, Pa...Or, "For the love of God, drink more beer!"

      It was one of those mid December days in south western PA, cold.  We have been pretty lax on the posts lately, so we wanted to do something fun, something......we can relate to.  It's sort of been an unwritten rule w/ us at SWPARE.  We do a hit, then usually end it w/ a trip to the flea market and pizza and beers .  Today, we decided to mix it up a little and hit the beer first.

     Stoney's Beer.  Say that around your grandmother, and references to your pap, hanging out w/ his cronies down the local beer garden will soon follow.  Founded in 1881 by William "Stoney" Jones, the first brewery was in Sutersville, Pa and then moved to Smithton, Pa to these buildings in 1907.  There is an awful lot of history to this beer, and a lot of it interesting and amusing, as the story about Stoney winning the brewery in a card game,  but I'm going to let the official history page of the Stoney's website do that story telling.

One of my flea market finds from last year

  A short video below on some more Stoney's information

     We headed on down that Friday the 13th, just expecting to get some exterior shots for the FaceBook page, but quickly found out the gift shop/offices were open.  As we browsed the shirts and vintage collectables on display, we started talking to Joyce, who works for Stoney's,  and she she gave Chip and I a history of the brand.  Really nice lady.   She invited us back into the taproom, a large "entertaining room" of sorts, done up nicely w/ deep wood tones, to look around.  This is the room that would end the tour of the brewery, and you could sample a beer.  All sorts of cool old photos, memorabilia and signs adorn this room.  It's worth a trip down here just to check that out.   An interesting sidebar to this story is, is that Shirley Jones, from TV's Partridge Family, is the grand daughter of Mr. Stoney Jones, and paid frequent trips to the brewery.

They have a kick ass gift shop known as Stoney's Corner.  Great stuff and at a really nice price!

     Stoney's brand beers were produced on this site from 1907, until the plant became too antiquated to be profitable, and was shut down in 2001.  From there, manufacturing took place at another Pittsburgh favorite brewery, Iron City, in Lawrenceville, Pa, until financial troubles caused them to move all production to the old Rolling Rock plant in Latrobe, Pa. 

Old aerial shot hanging on the office wall.  Looks like from the 70's

The Tap Room.  After tours, we reckon you could have gotten a nice cold sample here.  It still functions. 
 Joyce gave us permission to walk about the site for pictures, and as we did, we ran into the current owner of the property, Bob.  Bob bought the property a few years back, and told us all the old equipment inside had already been salvaged, and nothing brewery related remains inside.  He is reluctantly (in time), tearing the old brewery down to make room for his current undertakings.   Before yinz hate Bob for doing this, we have to say, he seems like a really good guy, but as a business man, he recognizes the liabilities old buildings like these can pose. He related stories of people coming in, only to vandalize the place.   Places like this would make awesome loft type apartments in the right area but the sad fact is, you can build them but who is going to fill them?  It's the same old sad story that a lot of other old buildings and towns face. 

What is not to love about Stoney Jones, riding atop a keg of Stoney's beer?  We'd party w/ this dude.
This whole trip was so inspiring, that I decided that I am going to make Stoney's our official beer here at SWPARE and bought a case of bottles on the way home, one of which I'm enjoying as I type this.    I'm sure Chip won't mind.  Danielle? She's happy w/ a Sun Drop pop.Man, we gotta work on her!

More rich wood tones adorning the tap room

Stoney's sponsored stock car

Visit here!  It's great! Open M-F, 9:30A to 4:30P.  Just 2 miles off Rt 70

Bottling house and walkway

Walkway to bottling house

This speaks for itself.  15 seconds after I took the picture, these were whisked inside to the tap room, right behind the door.  MMMmmmmmmmm......Fresh Beer.....

Part of the old production line.  All I could think about was Laverne and Shirley.....

Back of the brewery, by the CSX tracks.  If you look at the old 1970's picture earlier on in the post, this is where the smokestack was.  Demo has begun.

Stoney's and my favorite, Stoney's Dark,  fresh on tap down Bower Brothers bar in Fredericktown, Pa

Hey!   Smithton has coke ovens too!  We need another visit!

Great old sign

A whole lotta love is what we'll be bringin'....... Stoney Jones' grand daughter, Shirley Jones.  We've heard she paid numerous visits to the brewery while it was in operation.

Your friend and humble narrator enjoying a Stoney's Dark down Bowers.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Century III Mall...

 We haven't had any good old exploration posts lately. Mostly because Evan has been working away and Danielle has been bouncing between work and school. But don't fret! We have some cool stuff coming up very soon. In the mean time, we decided to do a little to speak. Our Washington Mall post was way more popular than we expected, so after hearing some stories about the alleged decline of the Century 3 Mall near Pittsburgh,we made a trip down to check it out.

 This post has been laying around in our 'to do' bin for awhile but with news of a new developer eyeing the massive mall, we thought now would be as good a time as any. This visit was done at the end of last summer and really wasn't planned out.We weren't even sure if we were allowed to take photos or video in the mall, so we kind of snuck around...which always makes it more fun.

 Like the Washington Mall, we heard through various sources that Century III mall was not doing too well. I had even heard a rumor  the whole mall was slated to be demolished. We are happy to report , it is nowhere near that bad. Like most malls,it is suffering from the recent economic issues. Many stores are closed and it even appears that one section of the mall has been sealed off. The day we stopped ,it seemed fairly busy with plenty of folks shopping.We shot a quick video and grabbed a few photos before hitting the cool comic book store. So,here is our Century III Mall trip and a few quick facts.

The Century III Mall planning began in 1976 and opened in 1979. It is located in West Mifflin,Pa along busy Rt. 51.The entire mall is constructed on a former slag pile known as Browns Dump. This is where the molten leftovers of steel production were dumped. To stabilize the site, concrete was pumped into the ground to fill abandoned coal mines near the dump site. Rumor is that the ground contains more concrete than the mall itself! One of the slag cars remains on display on the road that leads up to the Wal Mart behind the mall. Evan's Dad recalls watching the night sky light up from the train cars dumping the molten slag. (See,we did tie this post into our coal/steel heritage!)

When the mall opened,it was a big deal. People came from as far as Ohio and West Virginia to see it. By far the largest mall in the Pittsburgh area, it was certainly  the place to shop. The three level mall was 1,290,000 square feet and featured over 200 stores.All the major chains had a store in the mall. Gimbles, Kaufmans,Montgomery Wards as well as others have rotated through the mall's history (many in the same spot!).  The mall also housed Pittsburgh favorite National Record Mart as well as Camelot Music,Waldens Books and so many other great stores (back when we had things like record and book stores - damn internet!). C3 was the first mall I remember with an actual food court. We always parked near that entrance and it smelled so good when you walked in! Made you wanna spend money! In the 80s, C3 was Heaven on Earth for a teenager.Not bad for a former slag dump!

 I remember taking my first trip to the mall with my Mom,sisters and neighbor. Way before the new toll road,we took 21 to Uniontown and hit Rt. 51 to the mall. It seemed like it took forever to get there from Rices Landing! Getting to go to Century III was a big deal for us. Having grown up with Uniontown, Laurel, Washington and Franklin malls (now Crown Center) ,Century III was massive! We would have to pick locations and times to meet up so no one would get lost. I got my Dungeons and Dragons game there at a really cool hobby store on the first floor on the food court end. My other favorite,as mentioned in the video, was Cutlery World. A store where wanna-be ninjas,like myself,could by throwing stars and Rambo knives! Just what every kid needs! 

Years later, Century III was the cool place to go when we were old enough to drive. It was always fun when someone scored Mom's car for a  Saturday trip to C3. By then, we were more into Merry-Go-Round for parachute pants and the Art Explosion to check out the coolest Patrick Nagel prints. You could kill hours there, shopping,eating and never had to leave the mall. I remember a stage where musicians and dance schools would preform. The place was especially awesome at Christmas when it was fully decorated.There was a large sculpture that stood in the center of the mall that is now gone.I was told it was made from leftover signage,but am not sure if that is true. 

 for more classic shots of the mall.

So,although it is just an old shopping mall to some, Century III holds an important place in the hearts of us SWPA'ers! A place of great memories and a salute to the rich steel producing history of Pittsburgh. Stop by this holiday season and show the old girl some love. Lets keep our fingers crossed that she'll make a comeback! Please,share your Century III stories with us!