Thursday, December 27, 2012

End of the year ride on the Fredricktown Ferry and a general whirlwind tour of Brownsville, Pa

We took a short ride to Brownsville today for some breakfast (and chili dog?) at Fiddles.The ferry was running so we hopped a ride and shot a little video. We checked out some furniture at Krause's.   It's one of the few remaining business in downtown Brownsville.   The old four story building is worth the visit itself. They have some really nice furniture, too!   We also browsed vintage computers and the latest in handguns at Elm o's.Where else can you buy Microsoft FrontPage 98 sealed in the box and a SCCY 9mm all in a former Synagogue? Brownsville, Pa...thats where!

Fiddles and Trains....

Ancient carvings

Brunch at Fiddles.  Awesome!

at Elmos Computer, Gun Synagogue.
More Elmo's    See it here!

Union Station in the background
D was w/ us in spirit today, as seen in this file photo.  Travel w/ Jesus has left the building.

Obligatory ferry crossing and special message....

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Greene County, Pa Courthouse Clock Tower

If you've ever been to Waynesburg, Pa, surely you are familiar with the Greene County Courthouse up on High Street.  The courthouse that we all know was built in 1850 for $10,000 dollars and replaced a smaller brick courthouse.   One of the defining characteristics of the building is a high clock tower, with a statue of General Nathanael Greene perched on top.   The original statue was destroyed in a fire in 1925, and replaced in 1927 with another. In 1997 the statue was removed yet again and replaced with a brand new statue.  There is an interesting article and a series of old pictures here about the statue, published in the 1960's. 

Photo care of Rose Lucas
I found this picture in the series of photographs here, also courtesy of Rose Lucas.

But the clock tower has always interested me. The Downey House hotel fire of 1925 sparked blowing embers to the old court house and damaged it's cupola.

Downey House Hotel.  Site of Ft. Jackson Hotel currently  Source unknown
Downey Hotel, Courtesy Ten Mile Creek Counrty

  The original court house did not include a clock, and it was not until after the fire in 1925 that destroyed the Downey House (where the Fort Jackson Building now sits), that a clock tower was installed. I contacted Greene County Judge, and fellow explorer, Farley Toothman to arrange a tour, and he was more then happy to oblige.  

Courthouse before clock installation.
And Today.

We met up with Farley on a Sunday afternoon, and after an hour or so tour of the court house building, we climbed the wooden stairs up into the tower.   The following pictures are from our tour.

Looking up, where the pendulum once hung down.  Since removed and located at the Greene County Historical Museum

The "New" mechanical clock movement, installed in the late 1950's

Dad and Donna joined me today for the tour.  Here, the old man poses in front of the leaded glass clock face.
Again, many thanks to Farley, for letting Dad, Donna and myself up into the clock!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Monongahela Hotel (Towne House Apartments) - Brownsville, PA

The Monongahela Hotel (also known as the Towne House apartments) located in Brownsville, PA, stands vacant between the First (Monongahela) National Bank and the Second National Bank across from the Union Station. It is one of the many buildings along ‘the Neck’ that have become decaying shells of their former glory and are soon to be dismantled and razed.
The Towne House sign

History of the Monongahela Hotel
The Monongahela Hotel originally started out as the residential home of Samuel Krepps and built in 1832. It was located on the land that was eventually to be the site of the First National Bank. Krepps was offered a deal too good to decline and sold his house to a man named McCurdy, who turned the home into a hotel in 1844 to accommodate the flood of visitors to the bustling city of Brownsville. At first the business was prosperous – until the new railroad lines began to take travelers off the National Road. No longer able to keep the business afloat, McCurdy defaulted on his payments and the Monongahela house would eventually be owned by another six different men, the final owner being the son Samuel Krepps.
The Monongahela House was razed in 1911 and a new building was built. This new Monongahela house was in operation until 1923, when it was bought and became the Monongahela (First) National Bank in 1925, which then closed in 1931 and later reopened in 1947 as the First National Bank. In the second Monongahela House (now called the Monongahela Hotel) a men’s store occupied the right and a bar occupied the left, until it was eventually closed by the Prohibition. Hotel owner Samuel Leff was approached by the Monongahela National Bank in 1923 with a proposal to buy the building; because business was doing well and the new hotel was becoming too small to accommodate all of the business, Leff sold the Hotel and began building the final version of the hotel to the left of its previous location.
This new Monongahela hotel opened on March 15, 1925. The hotel featured more than double the amount of rooms that it previously had and even featured an annex, reachable only by an enclosed bridge, above the Monongahela National Bank to house excess guests. 
Enclosed Bridge

This new hotel had five ground floor entrances and was the home to other businesses. From the left they were: the Hotel’s entrance with an outside stairwell leading to a basement barbershop, the Hotel’s coffee shop, a tailor, a private bank, and a shoe shine/repair. The new hotel also had a fireproof garage located behind the main building.
Then, say about 1925

And now, 2012

An economic slump once again caused the hotel business to sour and in 1930, the hotel changed hands again. The garage would be leased to other businesses to bring in extra, much needed profit. In November of 1930, the hotel was declared bankrupt. It was sold to new owners in 1931 and use of the annex above the bank discontinued. The bank-side and hotel-side entrances were sealed and the tunnel was slated to be removed –however the bridge is still there today. The annex above the bank was eventually converted into apartments.

The Monongahela Hotel was eventually purchased by the chain, Earle Milner Hotels Corporation. It was later purchased by Frank Bock who converted the rooms into apartments and renamed the building the Towne House. 

Entrance to coffee shop

The lobby of the former Monongahela Hotel (and later Towne House

In the lobby

A closet in the hotel

Check in window

Coat area in lobby

Burroughs Sensimatic accounting machine and player piano parts

Part from the player piano

Left behind, behind the check in counter of the hotel

On the stairs to floor three...

Down the hallway...

A letter left behind

Sign in the lobby

Magazines and catalogs left in a room


An apartment room

Bedroom of apartment

Checkers, anyone?

Rooftop of the hotel, looking across Brownsville
Behind Hotel

Roof top access

Walkway to bank.  Top floors of bank served as additional rooms

Looking down the alley between the hotel and the bank

Rear view of the Monongahela Hotel on right and the
First National Bank on the left
Coffee shop window.  Reflection of the Flatiron building can be seen.  One of the few active buildings in town now.

On the side of the Second National bank
Union Station from last weeks blog, in back ground.

Ghost sign for the old Monongahela Hotel can be seen on the red bricks, up high