Thursday, November 17, 2022

Downtown Greenville--The South's Best Kept Secret

Here I am, once again, facing a long Pennsylvania winter. If you're familiar with Pa winters, you may be aware that we can easily get mountains of snow. This is always great fun for the kids, but for adults, not so much. This is why I am eyeing South Carolina as a permanent destination and am making it a point to keep an eye on the real estate market during the next few years. If we plan it right, my husband and I will be resettled there by the spring of 2025. And although I realize that I may not be sunning myself while sipping a cocktail with an umbrella in it during my birthday in March, I do think I'll be quite a bit warmer and as for that white stuff? I do hope I'll be seeing less of that and more of this below.

Man walks dog at Falls Park Along the Reedy.


Another shot of Falls Park along the Reedy.

By now you may have deduced that I'm exploring the Greenville area of South Carolina. Just last month we rented a very cute Airbnb with a balcony downtown. The only problem was that we were awakened most nights around 4 a.m. as food deliveries arrived at the local restaurants. This is a normal feature of urban life.  So while the location was super convenient, it was also a bit noisy.  If you're one of those people who like to sleep past 8 a.m., you might want to trade convenience for a good night's sleep and stay either in a high rise, or in the suburbs. 

The most striking thing about downtown Greenville is the Falls Park on the Reedy. The city, using funds from a hospitality tax, transformed a 32-acre area in the West End District into a beautiful public garden and area where the public can walk, shop, or simply people watch.

Part of the project included a suspension bridge designed by architect Miguel Rosales, to offer dramatic views of the falls and gardens below.

Visitors can also enjoy the artwork in Falls Park. Among the pieces installed there are the Rose Crystal Tower by Dale Chihuly, commissioned to honor Harriet Wyche, who was a life-long Greenville resident and community volunteer. Wyche was instrumental in establishing Falls Park.

Another work includes Falls Lake Falls, located at the entrance to Falls Park and sculpted by Bryan Hunt. Then there's "Untitled 2002-2003" by Joel Shapiro, which is the most valuable piece in the city's collection and known as the dancing, or running sculpture. There's also the "Sunflower Fountain," which can be found in Pedrick's Garden and was created by Ed Ziegler, Charles Gunning and Robert Brown. The cast bronze fountain was named after Pedrick Lowrey, a principal fundraiser for the park; it was also his favorite flower. 

Walking through the park is not only a lovely way to get some exercise, but also a way to spend time in some of the area's boutique shops, of which there are quite a few. Among the items sold are jewelry, apparel, art, and more and if you get hungry, you can always stop at one of the restaurants.

We enjoyed a nice dinner at the Passerelle Bistro, a casual French restaurant which serves dishes like mussels, croque monsieur and creme brulee, to name a few.

"Rose Crystal Sculpture" by Dale Chihuly. Photo credit: Stephanie Thorn





Passerelle Bistro, Credit: Vanzeppelin Arial/Visit Greenville, SC



When we visited Falls Park last year, a hotel was being built. It was cool to see it in its finished state this year. I was able to wonder around inside to get a bit of a feel for the place. The décor is quite attractive and pulls from the beauty of its surroundings and the native Americans who once lived in the area.


The Grand Bohemian Lobby, featuring a stone fireplace.

A bison stone sculpture in front of the Grand Bohemian Hotel.

Falls Park is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., with free two-hour parking both on the street and in a parking lot located at West End Market, access via University Street.

Learn more about Falls Park by taking a virtual tour at https://citygis.greenvillesc.gov/FallsParkTour/index.html.

A short walk from Falls Park on the Reedy will take you to Main Street, where you'll find even more boutique shops, along with a wide selection of independent restaurants serving a variety of cuisines. On our first night, we indulged in small plates at Hall's Chophouse. Later we enjoyed a lunch at Limoncello. I heartily recommend both.


When we're out of town seeing the sights, it's difficult to pass up a local bookstore, so my husband and I spent time browsing the books at M. Judson Booksellers located at 130 Main, where I spotted an interesting light fixture comprised of spoons.
A chandelier, of sorts, hangs at M. Judson Booksellers.

The entrance to M. Judson Booksellers.
You'll also find more art scattered around downtown, paying homage to the area's native sons, or offering tribute to other symbols relevant to Greenville's history.
Joel Roberts Poinsett sits here.
If you travel to Greenville and its environs, you'll see Poinsett's name mentioned more than once. Poinsett was an American physician and member of the South Carolina legislature. He served as Secretary of War under Martin Van Buren and was a co-founder of the National Institute for the Promotion of Science and the Useful Arts, which was a precursor to the Smithsonian Institution.

Another curious piece of art located in downtown Greenville is the piggy below, which is a replica of a famous statue in Florence called Il Porcellino. The initiative was undertaken by an organization called "Young Friends of Florence" and its purpose is to raise funds to support restoration work in Florence, Italy. Legend has it that if you put money in his snout and it falls through the grate you'll receive good luck. Evidently rubbing his nose is supposed to do the same thing. I missed out on my chance to win the lottery since I didn't learn of these tips until after I returned home.
A boar statue crafted in the likeness of Florence's Il Porcellino. 

Vardry McBee, also known as the Father of South Carolina.

Another sculpture you'll come across in downtown Greenville is of Vardry McBee, a saddlemaker, merchant, farmer, entrepreneur and philanthropist who has also been called the father of South Carolina.



The Westin located in the heart of downtown.

In this building, you'll find a restaurant and a bookstore.


Downtown Greenville is also home to attractive architecture, like these buildings shown above and below.  

In the foreground is the visitors center. In the background is the Fidelity Investments Tower.

Of course, I had to take a photo of the local newspaper building, since I may be doing some work with them when I move. You never know. 

The Greenville News Building

The Mast General Store is famous because of its history, the first of which dates back to 1883. Mast stores sell home goods, work clothes, outdoor clothing and gear, old-fashioned candy and more.
Mast General Store Candy Barrels. Credit: South Carolina Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

Mast General Store Sign. Credit: Visit Greenville, South Carolina.

Another business of note, particularly for its uniqueness, is "Gather GVL" I spotted the colorful place about a year and a half ago when I was riding a tour bus. It certainly commands attention from the street and I vowed to return later to check it out. 


Gather GVL can be described as a food court, crafted of colorful shipping containers.

The destination, made of brightly colored intermodal shipping containers, offers a variety of food and drink for guests to enjoy.

It is located within walking distance of Fluor Field and a children's theatre, making it a convenient destination for families to gather after a game, or a show. Often visitors bring along their four-legged friends.

This is just a taste of what Greenville has to offer when it comes to restaurants, art, architecture, retail and more. And although it's currently known as the "best kept secret of the South," I doubt it will be known as such for very much longer.


 


Friday, October 14, 2022

Learning about William Penn at Pennsbury Manor

Few will argue that Pennsylvania is rich in history and even the small towns hold gems of information—just consult any local historical society and you’ll discover that to be true.

These past few years, I’ve spent time learning more about Pennsylvania history thanks to various organizations dedicated to keeping the past alive.

The front of the house, which faces the Delaware river.

A trip to Bucks county took me on an educational journey to Pennsbury Manor in Morrisville, where I learned a wealth of information about Pennsylvania’s founder William Penn, who became known as a champion of religious liberty and and a promoter of principles that laid the groundwork for the First Amendment.

For those who have yet to visit, Pennsbury Manor is the recreated home of William Penn on the Delaware River. Open to the public since 1939, the 43-acre site is comprised of 20 buildings designed to educate visitors on the life of those who lived during the early days when Pennsylvania was first founded.  A woodworker’s shop, a blacksmith shop, barns, stables, a woodshed, a “necessary,” (“outhouse”), a worker’s cottage and a Manor House are just a few of the buildings erected on the property.


The garden at Pennsbury Manor.

An exhibit at the visitor’s center titled, “The Seed of a Nation” provides insight into the how Penn laid the groundwork for religious tolerance and representative government.  A detailed timeline takes visitors on a journey of the life of William Penn, describing periods of his life where he progressed from “Young Aristocrat,” to “Quaker Spokesman,” “Optimistic Proprietor,” and finally, “Disillusioned Leader.”  A large scrolling list enumerates the many religions that were practiced here thanks to Penn. Many are recognizable, others require the assistance of google.

They say behind every successful man is a strong woman and Penn’s wife Hannah Callowhill Penn is no exception. A timeline takes visitors through the highlights of her life and the role she played as a helpmate to Penn. She resided in the Manor house while Penn spent most of his time in England.

An attractive, tiled fireplace at the manor.

An eating area at the Manor.

Doug Miller, Pennsbury Manor Director, said that “The Seed of a Nation” earned a national award from the American Association of State and Local History and that the site is significant in that it is the only place in Pennsylvania dedicated to William Penn.

The bedchamber reserved for overnight guests.

A particularly colorful bedroom in bright shades of yellow and red stands in stark contrast to some of the less vibrant colors in most of the other rooms and is a curiosity to many. Miller explains: “You’d set aside the best bedchamber for the overnight guests. The color choice was based on a period example of a home in England called the “Hamn House,” and they were the royal colors at the time,” he said.

In addition to guided and group tours, Pennsbury offers 60 types of educational programming ranging from period cooking, to woodworking and blacksmithing.

A re-enactor cooks on an open hearth.


Matthew Russell, formerly of the Harrisburg area, spent several summers learning about history there at day camp. “The staff is well educated and it’s a good place to gain an understanding about William Penn’s contributions,” said Russell, who benefited from hands-on experiences like baking muffins using flour milled on the property and currants grown onsite. “From a young age I was interested in William Penn and the month-long experience was really immersive; it was a great experience,” he said.

To learn more visit: www.pennsburymanor.org

Monday, September 19, 2022

Enjoying a Road Trip to Quaint Quebec


Fortification gate in Quebec
Fortification Gate at Rue Saint Louis.

The beauty and charm of Quebec can’t be underestimated.

When we visited the area last fall, we carefully weighed the decision to fly or drive from Pennsylvania. Because patience isn’t my strong suit, flying at first appeared to be preferable. But on further consideration, after factoring in the two-hour advance wait at the airport to fly out of the country, coupled with layovers and connections, we decided it would be less of a hassle to drive. 

The 670-mile drive went smoothly, with no traffic tie-ups and barely a wait to cross the border. If you rely upon the radio for your musical entertainment, please be aware you’ll be grooving to the sweet sounds of the French language during the last three hours of the drive. I can’t say this was unpleasant however, until the radio scanned to a rap station. Let’s just say rap music loses its edge a bit in the French language. C’est pas terrible…

The good news is that driving in Quebec is fairly easy, especially with today’s GPS systems.

Le Dauphin Quebec

The architecture and charm of Old Quebec City will take your breath away. So will the cost of staying in the town. The breathtaking Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac rents for approximately $530 a night. Knowing this, we opted for the more affordable Hotel & Suites Le Dauphin Quebec, situated about 15 miles away from Vieux Quebec. The rooms were spacious and clean, featuring attractive, striated hardwood floors throughout. I even managed to shoehorn in a nice swim in the hotel pool located off the first-floor lobby.

Vieux Quebec

Fountain
Fountaine de Tourny in front of Parliament.

Parking is difficult in Vieux Quebec, but large lots on the outskirts offer ample parking and a five-minute walk will take you to the heart of the action. The narrow streets, many of which are one way, have perplexed many a non-native driver, so my advice is to park and walk, or take a taxi.

Hills abound in the city and you’ll definitely get your exercise, so plan your trip accordingly. Cobblestone streets designed for horse carts aren’t kind to heels either, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes.

Quaint stone shops dot the landscape with shopkeepers selling everything from clothing, to art, to maple candy on ice.

If you tire of walking, you’ll easily locate a horse and carriage with an English-speaking driver, who will be more than willing to give you a grand tour. Take a few minutes to ride the funicular, or incline, which is available for a few bucks and will take you on a short ride from the upper to the lower town.

Because the weather was unseasonably warm during our stay, we often opted for al fresco dining. During one of those days, we enjoyed lunch at Restaurant 1640, located within viewing distance of the aforementioned Chauteau Frontenac—a fabulously impressive building that dominates the skyline and is one of the iconic images of Quebec City. 

Hotel Frontenac

Views of the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, one of the most oft-photographed hotels in the world.


Quebec hotel

Fine dining in Old Quebec City is prevalent and the food is good, but you’ll pay a premium. One of the places we enjoyed was Conti Caffe, an Italian restaurant located on Rue Saint Louis. The veal ravioli was excellent, as were the other dishes we sampled. The interior, with its exposed brick walls and impressive artwork was romantic and inviting. Later, we indulged in after-dinner drink at aux Anciens Canadiens restaurant. Named for a 19th-century book penned by Philippe Aubert de Gaspe, who once resided there, the house dates back to 1675. When we entered, we were greeted and led to the top floor, where we enjoyed watching people on the street from the window of our cozy perch. 

Quebec restaurant
Aux Anciens Canadiens dates back to 1675.

On your visit, be sure to stop at the House of Parliament. The eight-floor building, located just outside the walls of old Quebec, is an impressive structure featuring 22 statues of prominent historical figures standing in windows, and lined up in front and on the grounds of the spectacular building.

Quebec parliament

House of Parliament.

Parliament


Separating the Upper Town from the Lower Town is the elevated Promenade of Governors, a boardwalk that offers a lovely view of the St. Lawrence River.

Boardwalk in old Quebec
La Promenade des Gouvernours

Another must-see in Old Quebec, especially for art lovers is the Rue de Tresor, which can best be described as an open air art gallery. 

artist alley in Quebec
Art abounds at the Rue de Tresor.

Wandering the Side Streets of the Old Town at Night

Tallest building in Quebec
Edifice Price--the tallest building in old Quebec.

Don’t opt out of a ghost tour just because you think it’s hokey. We often learn fantastic historical tidbits when we go on these excursions and Quebec City was no exception. Did you know that there was a maritime disaster that rivaled the Titanic, but barely made the news? Called the “Empress of Ireland,” the ship sank in the Saint Lawrence River in 1914 and more than a thousand passengers perished on the ill-fated trip.

As we were led around the town at dusk, I snapped pictures that didn't turn out so well. However, I have decided to share this one here since I may have captured a shot of a ghost, as you can see in the foreground.

ghost
Did I capture a shot of a ghost here?

Our lantern-toting tour guide led us up and down the streets of Quebec City, through alleyways, behind restaurants and past historical residences, and into nooks and crannies we never knew existed. The 90-minute, briskly paced tour allows no time for lollygagging. My husband and I dallied once, towards the end of the tour, to snap a picture. We turned around to discover our group was gone. Like ghosts, they disappeared into thin air and we missed the end of the excursion.

Quebec school
Le Petit Seminaire de Quebec is a private, French language secondary school in the old city.

Baie- Saint-Paul

The last-minute decision to drive an hour to one of Quebec’s oldest municipalities was worth it for the scenery alone. Leaves were morphing into their spectacular fall colors and vistas seemed to be everywhere as our car made its way over the steep, hilly mountainsides.

vista
One of the many beautiful vistas on our way to Baie-Saint-Paul

As we entered the city situated along the St. Lawrence at the mouth of the Gouffre River, we immediately found a lot with ample parking and took a slow, leisurely walk through the city known for its art galleries, shops and restaurants. For those who have visited New Hope, Pennsylvania, it’s reminiscent of that little town, but about one fifth the size.


street in Baie-Saint-Marie
Street scene in Baie-Saint-Marie


Les Galeries de la Capitale

Largest Canadian Mall

amusement ride
Kids will have a blast at Les Galeries de la Capitale

On our way back from Baie-Saint-Paul, we stopped at a huge mall that you don't hear much about here in the states. If you really want to get your shop on www.galeriesdelacapitale.com offers plenty of opportunities to drop some serious cash. Touted as the largest complex in Eastern Canada, spanning 1.2 million square feet, the mall is a destination unto itself, with the biggest IMAX theatre in the country. Kids, in particular, will be pleasantly surprised when they see the Mega Parc, complete with amusement rides like bumper cars, a roller rink, a ferris wheel and arcade games. 

Preparing to Return

The lessons we learned during this trip was that our command of French wasn’t as good as either of us thought and because we turned off data on our phones while in transit, an old-fashioned guidebook might have been helpful. Many menus are completely in French and although English is spoken in Quebec, it’s not as ubiquitous as we anticipated.

We also learned that it might just be worth the money to stay in the heart of Old Quebec next time, even if just for two nights, which should be plenty of time to take in most of the sights. There are VRBOs out there that range around $200 a night.

We also learned that casual dining is plentiful in the many strip malls and fast food restaurants on the outskirts of town, while fine dining is prevalent in the old city. Now that we know our way around and what to expect we’ll definitely be returning to Old Quebec at some point to further enjoy this unique and beautiful city.

 

Friday, August 19, 2022

Learning from the Past in Johnstown Pennsylvania

As a native Pennsylvanian, I've traveled all over this vast state, but somehow Johnstown has escaped my radar, so I decided to check that area off my list just a few weeks ago. What I came back with was a newfound knowledge of history after visiting the Wagner-Ritter House, the Johnstown Flood Museum, and the Johnstown Heritage Discovery Center.

When my husband and I first arrived, we decided to get our bearings by taking a stroll around the downtown area. I can't say there's much there in the way of shopping, but a walk around Central Park is an enjoyable way to learn more about the history of the area.

The park was designated as a public space by Johnstown founder Joseph Johns when the area was chartered in 1800. In 1872, all buildings were cleared from the area and a formal public park was laid out, with an ornate fountain as the centerpiece. Approximately 100 trees were planted there, only to be wiped out by the catastrophic flood in 1889. The fountain above is said to approximate the original.

After the flood, the site was buried under eight feet of water and debris. Within days, however, it was transformed into a tent city inhabited by 6,000 laborers and 580 members of the 14th Pennsylvania Regiment who helped clear the area.

A memorial to the town father Joseph Johns erected in 1913 by the Johnstown citizens of German descent.

Additional structures in the park include a war memorial, a gazebo, a memorial to the flood victims, a fire fighters memorial bell and a memorial to the veterans of the Civil War.

Central Park Gazebo

This old fire bell was moved from a Johnstown Fire Station to Central Park.

A memorial commemorating the Wars of the United States.

The Wagner-Ritter House and Gardens

The exterior of the Wagner-Ritter House at 418 Broad Street

The next stop on our excursion was The Wagner-Ritter House, which Johnstown maintains to celebrate the life of the average immigrant working family working in the "shadow of the mills." The home was occupied for more than 130 years from the 1860s to the 1990s by three generations of a steelworker's family.

Before the tour commences, the public is encouraged to read about the residents of the house in the adjacent visitors' center, where large, wall-mounted boards offer background information on those who lived there.

Wagner was an immigrant, laborer, husband and father who worked in the steel mills of the Cambria company and his house was built in the 1860s. The four-room home eventually grew to seven rooms sometime during the births of the Wagner's 13 children. Their daughter Anna later went on to marry a Ritter and her family later lived in the house. Visitors can learn quite a bit about Anna, who lived from 1866 to 1968 and witnessed a dizzying array of technological changes during the course of her 102-year-old lifetime.

Guide Mackenzie Croyle was a wealth of information as we proceeded from room to room as she explained how simply the German family lived, their dedication to their Catholic faith and how their house changed over time. Croyle was extremely thorough, covering even small details down to the plank framing and layers of wallpaper that changed over time.

Our guide, Makenzie Croyle describes one of the most important rooms in the house--the kitchen.

One of the more intriguing items I spotted hanging on the wall of the house was what our guide described as a "last rites kit." I couldn't help but wonder how many times it had been used. I guess that will remain a mystery.
Last rites kit.

Stairs blocked by a wood partition lead to a child's bedroom upstairs.

During the summer of 1991 and 1992, the Johnstown Area Heritage Association sponsored an archeological dig in the backyard of the Wagner-Ritter House. With the help of more than 70 volunteers under the direction of professional archeologists, the project yielded over 20,000 artifacts, some of which were mere shards of glass. Others were larger objects like toys and glassware used by the family. The majority of the items found were related to the Wagner brothers' soda factory. What's notable about those finds is that the project revealed a variety of soda closures to keep the "fizz" in. The excavators also discovered that they used recycled bottles too; some came from as far as Florida. Guests will be able to view the artifacts in the rear of the visitors center after they take the tour of the garden, which replicates what the owners may have grown there. Today, the crops are donated to a local food pantry.

A raised-bed garden not unlike what the Wagner's would have cultivated.

If you schedule a tour, be prepared to spend about an hour and 15 minutes with the guide at the site where questions are encouraged!

The Wagner-Ritter House and Garden is open for pre-booked, guided tours on Tuesdays, Wednesday, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Order your tickets by clicking on this link.

The World's Steepest Inclined Plane

A shot of the world's steepest inclined plane.

Did you know that the world's steepest vehicular inclined plane exists in Johnstown? It can carry passengers and automobiles up or down a slope with a grade of 71.9 percent and was completed in 1891 after the tragic flood of 1889 to serve as an escape route from floods in the valley. While visiting, I learned that the plane served its purpose twice so far in its history--in 1936 and then again in 1977.

I have to say that I was rather disappointed to be unable to ride it during our visit. I learned later that renovations began in February of 2022 and are slated to be completed in the spring of 2023.

Asiago's Italian Restaurant

The view from our table at Asiago's restaurant.

Situated above the Johnstown Incline Plane is Asiago's restaurant, which deserves its own subhead for the view alone, although the food wasn't bad either. I recommend the lobster ravioli with the basil cream sauce.


Lobster Ravioli with Basil Cream Sauce

In addition to the lobster ravioli, Asiagos Tuscan Italian Restaurant offers Italian classics like Veal Parmiagiana, Lasagna, Five-Cheese Ravioli, Chicken Marsala and more. If you make reservations and prefer a window seat, be sure to let them know in advance.

Learning about a Tragedy at the Johnstown Flood Museum

The Johnstown Flood Museum is housed in a former public library.

Before visiting the Flood Museum, I knew little about the 1889 Johnstown Flood. I do know that Pennsylvanians are STILL paying the Johnstown Flood tax on liquor, but Johnstown doesn't see a penny of that money anymore. It was established to rebuild the area and when the project was deemed done, legislators voted to keep it intact, even raising it twice over the years. Are you wondering where that money goes? I can tell you that it gets funneled into the Pennsylvania general fund. This article in the York Daily Record explains everything. 

A representation of the debris that swept through communities


I was also unaware that the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club played a prominent part in the tragedy. Before taking the tour of the museum, we were encouraged to watch a 20-minute movie which explains it very well.

Members of the secretive and secluded club included wealthy industrialists like Henry Clay Frick, Andrew Mellon and Andrew Carnegie, to name a few. The club purchased an old dam and reservoir from entrepreneur Benjamin Ruff who envisioned a summer retreat in the hills above Johnstown. Over the years the dam had been neglected and, according to the Johnstown Heritage Association (JAHA), not much was done to rectify that situation, other than patching leaks with mud and straw. To add insult to injury, the club decided to make modifications which were, in hindsight, considered dangerous. 

One of the modifications cited by the JAHA included installing fish screens across the spillway to keep prized game fish from escaping. This had the unfortunate effect of capturing debris and preventing the spillway from draining off the lake’s overflow. The club also lowered the dam by a few feet in order to make it possible for two carriages to pass at the same time, so the dam was only about four feet higher than the spillway. Finally, they never reinstalled the drainage pipes so that the reservoir could be drained. 

When the rains came on May 30 and 31st, 1889, the spillway couldn't keep up and the dam burst releasing 20 million tons of water on the communities downstream. The aftermath is well worth reading at the JAHA website: https://www.jaha.org/attractions/johnstown-flood-museum/flood-history/the-club-and-the-dam/

In addition to detailing the history of the flood, the Flood Museum tells stories of journalists reporting on the tragedy, the families devastated by the disaster and how Hollywood capitalized on it with sensationalistic movies and more.

Some statistics learned while at the museum: 
2,209 people died. 
The destruction of Johnstown took 10 minutes. 
396 children under the age of 10 died. 
568 children lost one, or both parents.
The force of the flood swepts several locomotives weighing 170,000 pounds as far as 4,800 feet.
Bodies were found as far away as Cincinnatti, Ohio as late as 1906.
Because of the heavy rains, the damn contained 20,000,000 tons of water before it broke. This is the equivalent of the volume of water that goes over Niagara Falls in 36 minutes

The tour of The Flood Museum was both sobering and enlightening and reminds me of that old saying by George Santayana, who said, "Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it." 

We later visited Grandview Cemetery in Johnstown where nearly 800 unidentified victims of the flood were laid to rest. 

Flood victims in Grandview Cemetery.



The Heritage Discovery Center

The Heritage Discovery Center was a brewery in the early 1900s.

The final leg of the trip included a visit to the Heritage Discovery Center located in a 1907 building which once was home to the Germania Brewery.

The tour leads visitors on a journey to discover how immigrants made their way to the Johnstown area and the professions they undertook. Each person is given a card with an immigrants name on it and instructed to stop periodically and wave the card beneath a barcode to learn their chosen immigrants fate at various steps of the way.

I was quite surprised when I was learned my card would follow Prokop Kalina! Kalina is my maiden name and I was excited until I was told these were "composite" immigrants. I thought for a moment I may have found a distant relative.


As we made our way through the museum, we encountered immigration officials who stopped some and waved on others. As we continued, we learned more about how these people lived, raised families and made their livlihoods in their new surroundings.


The ultimate fate of Prokop Kalina? He became a butcher, which is interesting because the other part of my name is Metzger--which means butcher in German.

When we finished that tour, we continued onto the third floor that housed the Johnstown Children's Museum, which was quite extensive and interactive and may warrant its own article in a magazine at a later date. Kids could try on clothing, shop at a supermarket and engage in a variety of fun, yet educational pursuits.



Children can shop for goods at the general store.

An exhibit where children can crawl through the "mines" before taking a ride on a sliding board.

The Children's Center features interactive, educational exhibits.

After we finished the tour in the main building, the guide suggested we visit a separate building called The Center for Metal Arts, which contained an extensive collection of artifacts pertaining to steel forging and manufacturing. 
Steel production artifacts on display at the Iron & Steel Gallery.

Visitors can view a short movie called "The Mystery of Steel," which plays on a 30-foot wide screen on the bottom floor of the gallery and includes historic photography and film shot in Johnstown before Bethlehem Steel closed its local mills in the 1990s. Vibration inducers beneath the seats and heat projectors allow audiences to feel like they're in an actual working mill. To learn more about this area of the center, I suggest watching this presentation put together by JAHA.

Well that's about it for my Johnstown trip to destinations that can be enjoyed no matter what the weather is outside. I hope these few ideas will help you get started in your sightseeing journey should you decide to visit the area.