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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Westmont Race Track

At the turn of the 20th Century - Johnstown's leading outdoor recreation center was the old Westmont grounds, comprising football and baseball fields and a harness racing track. 
This rare look at the track shows the home stretch. The small building in the center is the judges' stand. Directly opposite is the grandstand and in the back is the old bandstand.

The 28 acre property was bordered by what is now Tioga Street, Wayne Street and Dartmouth Avenue. Westmont Presbyterian Church stands on what was the approximate center of the track.

The Johnstown Driving Park Assocation was organized in 1893 to construct the half-mile oval on the Westmont property. 

Work on the track began in June 1893. As construction continued, the driving association considered the idea of putting the road that led from Whiskey Springs (Franklin Street) to Westmont in first-class condition. A newspaper item at the time said "the road has an easy grade and it is estimated that it can be made an excellent driveway with an outlay of about $1,000 ($ 24,645 in today's dollars).
Another and much shorter route to the park, although with a very steep grade, will be put through the lands of A.J. Haws and the Cambria Iron Company. These roads, together with the Incline will afford ample ways by which the grounds may be reached." Now you know where the name "Easy Grade" comes from and when Millcreek Road was put in. 

Less than two weeks after the awarding of the contract, the association ran into some mild opposition. The Roxbury Driving Park Association asked the Westmont group to reconsider their purchase and join them in the Roxbury (Luna Park) deal. 

The proposal was flatly rejected and work continued on schedule on the hilltop land. The half-mile track was 60 feet wide and completely enclosed by a wooden railing. The grandstand had seating for 2,500 - it also contained a large dining room for the general public. 
Fifty stables housed the horses. In front of each stable was a fire hydrant.

Johnstown at that time had more than 100 racing horses, some of the prominent owners being A.J. Haws, M.B. Young, Samuel Lenhart, Joseph Love, Dan Olmstead, C.J. Burggraf, J.C. Pender and Eugene Zimmerman.
The official opening of the track began with a three day meet September 20,21 and 22, 1893. 
Also on the opening bill - chariot races, hurdle races and people parachuting out of hot air balloons. Admission was 50 cents ($12.32).

Four days before the official opening of the park - over 1,500 people gathered at the park for a series of bicycle races sponsored by the Johnstown Cycle Club. The German Band provided music between races.

Johnstown High School played some of its earliest football games on the Westmont field even before the park was constructed. In November, 1900, the Trojans played Altoona there and scored a 12-5 victory. They also defeated Derry 17-0 there on October 12, 1901 and the team continued to play occasional contests on the hilltop field until October of 1904, when it transferred its games to field area of The Point.

When the field was used for football, the competing teams usually were taken by wagon up the Incline. Pedestrians used a patch which led up the hillside from behind old Johnstown High - now the site of the current MRI building - since it was a much shorter route than using the "Big Road" - Millcreek Road. 

Surrounding much of the park was the Johnstown Country Club golf course, forerunner to Sunnehanna. In later years the course was disbanded and another course was built at Sunnehanna. 

Much of the city's baseball was played at the Westmont Park. The Johnstown Athletics were in prominence at that time. 

The life of the park was short-lived though, as the Cambria Iron Company, owner of the property started selling it as lots in 1907.

Dibert Race Track

The Dibert Race Track in Kernville (somewhere within this square) was probably the first horse racing course in Johnstown. It was an oval trotting course located on the estate of John Dibert.

He came to Johnstown from Dibertsville in Somerset County in 1846. He died three years later.
Dibert's field was situated above Dibert Street and between Franklin Street and the Stonycreek River. In addition to being used for races, the field was the site where the larger traveling shows would set up business during their stops in Johnstown.
During the Civil War the field also served as a campground for area soldiers.

History records the Dibert racetrack as the spot where "a number our citizens resort at favorable seasons to train horses in harness. As a consequence fast horses are increasing in number, notwithstandng that many after their education is completed, are taken to Eastern markets for disposal."

The Dibert estate was divided into lots and sold at public auction in June, 1866.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Cochran Football - 1920's

Cochran Football - 1920's

German Day - 1907

German Day - 1907 at Island Park (where St. Andrews is in Benscreek)


Swanks - this is the building that burnt down - the one that was torn down a couple of years ago - replaced this one. 

Dance Time - 1931

Johnstown High School - 1931 Dance in the gym. Taken from the 1931 JHS Yearbook.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Stonycreek & Napoleon

Great close up view of the intersection of Stonycreek and Napoleon Streets. Union Park - the present site of the War Memorial is to the right of the Amoco Gas Station. You can just barely see a bit of the Napoleon Street Bridge - Johnstown High would be across the river to the left.
Here is a slightly better view. Two things are still the same there. A gas station is still there and way back on the left - almost between the double poles - that small natural gas building is still there. Click on it to enlarge.

Drum Corp

Young American Drum Corps - Johnstown, Pa

Johnstown Passenger Railway - Welding Car

Johnstown Passenger Railway - Welding Car - Track Crew

Dibert Street School

Dibert Street School

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Happy Birthday

Today is my grandfather's birthday - Walter Lenz - born January 27, 1904. For you newer readers - a lot of what you see on this website - came from him - he was a city garbage man for many years and was the kind of guy who saved everything.
He is standing here with his sister Margaret (Lenz) Gloor at her home in Nanty Glo. They were both deaf - Margaret was born that way and my grandfather had lost most of his hearing by the time he was in his twenties....but that didn't stop either of them from working or raising families at a time when that was considered a major disability.


Swanks - Downtown Johnstown. I just wish the picture was a bit clearer - because I would love to see everything in the display cases.

Johnstown Spring Works

Johnstown Spring Works - Cherry Street

Downtown Johnstown

Main Street - Looking West - Downtown Johnstown

Saturday, January 26, 2013

City's Baseball Best - 1904

Johnstown's best independent baseball team in 1904 was the Babcocks. Members of the title-winning team were: (first row, left to right) Dave Jones and Park Wagner; second row - Joe Bernt, Mike Wagner, John B. Goff, George Walker Williams, John Owens an John Pascoe; third row-- harry Miskimmin, unidentified bat boy, Foster Weller, Red Harnett, Clyde When, Arch Replogle, unidentified manager and Frank Ream.

John's Shoe Shop - The Sign

John's Shoe Shop - Silk Screen on Glass - only one of two pictures hanging on my wall - (the other is my maternal grandmother's 8th grade class at St. Stephen's). It took many hands to make this finished project. First off - my friends at Big City Signs in Ferndale -  CLICK HERE for more on their wonderful shop - Bob Hovanec and Pat Kerr
kicked off the project. Bob is working on pieces for a new show.
Bob looking for ideas for his show - decided a picture that I had posted in the past of my grandfather's shop fit the bill - so he worked to exactly recreate the window. Me and my brother Bob Cacicia - went to the shop on a Saturday morning and were taught the fine art of silk screening and exactly what goes into the creative process. Simply amazing if you ask me! After leaving the shop with my came to problem of how to present it.
After thinking and thinking about it - I came up with the idea of having my grandfather standing inside his shop - looking back out the window - as if you are standing outside - looking inside his shop. Then came the problem of what should his shop look like. Not having any pictures of the inside - I found this generic image of an old shop - though not a shoe shop. Next - I cut out an image of my grandfather standing in front of his actual shop - but not being an expert in Photoshop - that's when my friend Natalie Dreier came to the rescue - since I couldn't figure out how to resize the image. She put both of them together for me - just perfectly.
My clever woodworking brother Bob - made the picture frame out of some old scrap wood from the mill to finish off my treasure. Though hard to tell from this shot - in person - it almost looks three dimensional - because the image is not pressed up against the glass - but set back. It's usually me helping people out with odds and ends when it comes to old pictures - which I love doing...but I have to be honest here and say it was a very nice change of pace - with the tables turned on me - for someone else to do something this beautiful - which I will treasure my whole life!


Alwines - Old Somerset Pike 

Trolley Time

I'm not exactly sure where this is - though it looks familiar.

Friday, January 25, 2013

1977 Flood

Tanneryville - 1977 


Skateland Ad - 1953

Looking up Main

What I wouldn't give to spend the day inside this picture walking the streets of Downtown least I always have my daydreams....for you younger readers to help you get your bearings...the old Lee Hospital is on the left hand side - sort of up by the tree off in the distance. 

Bethlehem Steel

I am no expert on Bethlehem - my father worked at U.S. Steel - so I have no clue which mill this is.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Where is this?

If you guessed the corner of Vine and Market Streets - then you were correct. Hard to imagine - but this is the site of the Holiday Inn now.

Baseball at the Point

This picture was sent in by a reader Dolores M. and it shows one of the many baseball teams that used to play at the old Point Stadium. Unknown year.

On the Job at City's Oldest Brewery

George Chupka (foreground) of rear 306 1/2 Chestnut Street is shown checking a valve on a feed line at the Goenner & Company Brewery in Cambria City. In the background, John L. Seaman (left), 8 Campbell Avenue and M.J. Sadel, 308 Cambria Alley, fill beer kegs. The Goenner firm is the city's oldest brewery still in operation. 

Joe Says...

Joe Berman - 151 Fairfield Avenue - Next Door to Harris-Boyer

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Trolley Time

I am in love with this shot of the intersection of Roosevelt Blvd and Washington Street with the Stone Bridge in the background.

Moxham Pool

Drownings in the Stonycreek River prompted Lorain Steel Company (U.S. Steel) to build this pool adjacent to its Moxham plant in 1920. The pool was a popular place until it suffered extensive damage during the 1936 Flood. It was sold to an oil company for industrial use. 

Crystal Hotel

Crystal Hotel - Washington Street - Downtown Johnstown

Who Knew...

I never really thought much about why LA Surplus was named LA Surplus - it wasn't a store I really went into very much and it held no draw to me - but I know others really liked the place. Well, as you can see - it was first called - Linda Alan - The Surplus Store - so now you know where the LA part came from. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Let's go to Town

On this very cold day here in Johnstown - I need to see some sun and this fits the bill perfectly - Main Street.

'36 Flood

Main Street - Where First Body was Found - 1936 Flood

Menoher Highway - 1920's

This is along Menoher looking towards Fender Lane and Coon Ridge Road. Click to enlarge.

Moxham - 1890's

Moxham - 1890's

Monday, January 21, 2013

History of Luna Park - Part 2

Today I continue my look into the history of Luna Park  - for more on Part 1 - CLICK HERE.
Luna Park had a dance hall and attached to this was a cafe where local caterers would serve meals. Light refreshments were also sold throughout the park.
Johnstowners young and old enjoyed thrilling rides on the $15,000 roller coaster, there was also a laughing gallery, up-side-down house, ferris wheel, miniature railway, shooting gallery, baby racks, photography gallery, picture machines and many other interesting features.
This is NOT our Luna Park - but Luna Park - Coney Island - New York - 1905
Nights at the park were even more exciting when the 2,500 arc and incandescent lights scattered around the park would light up the night sky. The illumination of the park entrance was known as an eye catcher - 300 lights outlining the features of the gate.
Entrance to the park was usually free, except when some church or organization made arrangements for a special day.
The actual Boardwalk at Roxbury
A 21 foot steam launch was added to the park and was one of the biggest hits on the grounds. An 800 foot boardwalk from the entrance to the dancing pavilion was completed. This walk was 12 feet wide with the lake situated inside inside the track and the track in sight to afford folks all the fun of the Atlantic City promenade.
The girls who worked at the park were forbidden to chew gum or eat goo-goo eyes. Management warned that chances for employment were nil if girls were known to indulge in these unattractive and unbusiness like pastimes.
Luna Park at one time even had a zoo. The first motion pictures in Johnstown were shown at the park with a five cent admission.
A pair of white diving horses also called the park home. One horse was placed at one end of the lake and the other would walk up a ramp several feet above the water and dive into the lake. Hot air balloons were also a special draw for the folks around town.

During the winter - ice skating was very popular. It was in the winter of 1915 that the skating craze swept the country, including Johnstown. While the local rivers offered good skating, Luna Park Lake proved the perfect spot and always drew the largest crowds. The demand for skating was so high that they kept the park open every afternoon and evening.

The park management's policy of bringing the latest attractions to Johnstown once resulted in an airplane exhibition and passenger flights. A ride over Johnstown in a Curtiss plane was a costly $15 - around $166 in today's dollars. 
Isiah Sipe in 1920 arranged for the four-day appearance with an officer from the then known - United States Aviation Corps to land and take off from the park and give exhibitions and passenger flights. 
When neither the baseball field nor the race track was found suitable for landing with danger, Mr. Sipe arranged to use the H.E. Berkley farm as a landing field. 

Automobile and motorcycle racing were also popular. In September, 1919 one of the outstanding oldtime racers appeared - Gaston Chevrolet in a match against Omar Toft the Pacific Coast champion. 
Actual shot of the Roxbury parking lot

Luna Park was purchased buy the city in 1921, the culmination of years of negotiations. The deal included the purchase of all the land together with all the permanent buildings and mineral rights. 
At the time of the purchase, the city intimated that the operation of the park would continue under the same management. A comprehensive plan for the park's improvement and development also was promised. 

But a fire hit the park on July 29, 1921, five months after it's purchase by the city - a major step in its eventual decline as an amusement center. Between $25,000 to $30,000 was the estimated damage amounts - that's $372,888 in totals dollars. It's believed that the fire started in the grandstand area before moving on to the roller skating rink, bandstand and roller coaster. 
The fire came just as the park was getting ready for a firemen's convention. Just prior to the fire - Capt. Harry Hoover of Truck Company No. 1 and George Nenstiel, convention committeemen, inspected the new gas pipes installed at the park and found everything in order. The firemen had scarcely returned to the engine house when the first alarm was turned in. 
No one was in the grandstand at the time and only about 10 people were in the skating rink when flames broke out.
Despite the fire, the park carried out its schedule of races and carnivals during the remainder of the season. An investigation was made - but an exact cause was never found. 
It was in 1922 that the city drained the old lake for safety reasons and at the same time the horticultural hall was torn down. Most of the fence surrounding the park was also taken down.
Late in 1922, Charles Leavitt of New York presented to city council an elaborate plan for redeveloping Roxbury Park. All the amusements and race track were overlooked in the new plans.
It was instead to be made into a recreation center which would include two playhouses, dancing pavilion, three swimming pools, two bath houses, basketball court, two handball courts, bowling green, clubhouse, eight tennis courts along with two other pavilions for the athletic fields.

The athletic field was to provide seating for about 5,000, have a quarter-mile running track and be adaptable for both football and baseball.

Ice skating was to be conducted on the field in the winter time. 
But, as you are well aware - the redevelopment plan was never fulfilled. Bases for the tennis courts were installed but not completed until 1949. Clay tennis courts did a booming business at the park during the 1930's, but went into decline right before the war. The courts were flooded several winters to provide ice skating. 
But all in all - attempts to make the park what it once was proved just too time-consuming and more importantly, just too expensive. After reading this brief history of Luna Park - I hope you are like me and take away a sense of what we truly lost - the wonder of it all - though lost in time - not lost in our imaginations.... 
To wrap this history up - I have included two short films that show Luna Park - Coney Island, New York in 1903 and 1905. Though our park was much smaller - these two films can help give you a better feel of some good old-fashioned fun.....

Sunday, January 20, 2013

History of Luna Park - Part 1

In the past I have posted many one of a kind shots of the old Luna Park in Roxbury. Like the picture postcard above. Afterwards, I always get a lot of questions from readers as to the history of former Johnstown landmark - amazed that such a thing once existed there - especially the bit about the lake. So that you don't get too confused - because I will be covering a lot history. It was first called Roxbury until 1905 when the name was changed to Luna before going back to Roxbury in the 1920's.

Roxbury Park, now known mainly as a place to play ball or a game of tennis was once ranked as one of the best recreation and entertainment centers in the Eastern United States for the twenty years it was Luna Park.
Little remains of the features that made this park a magnet for entertainment seeking Johnstowners. Known as Luna Park starting in 1905, this wonderland of fun and adventure reigned supreme for decades.
In the years since - other parks sprang up before and after Luna Park, but none has shone itself to be it's equal. Attempts to redevelop the big Roxbury tract were made but never got much past the drawing board.
Ownership of the land located near the famous Whiskey Springs can be traced back to the 1840's. The first owner of the land was Daniel Barnes - who later sold it to Isaac Barnhart.
The year 1893 saw the beginnings of what would become Roxbury Park - later Luna. Between November 22 and November 27 the Tri-County Agricultural & Driving Park Association bought the old Barnhart property along with six other tracts belong to: Frank and Mary Smith, Robert and Mary Barclay, Joseph and Ann Sharp, Harvey and Elizabeth Barclay, Otto and Sarah Melander along with the James Kaul family.
It was almost 10 years later, on September 5, 1903 that the Tri-County Association bondholders voted to authorize the park property at public auction. Judge O'Connor once had holdings in Roxbury Park but had disposed of them prior to his authorized to sell the site. Frank Cresswell represented $23,000 or 96 percent of the bonds at this time.
Cresswell bought the 30 acres of ground which later became Luna Park from Judge O'Conner on February 6, 1905 for $40,000. (According to the Inflation Calculator - what cost $40,000 in 1905 would cost $985,760.60 in 2011.)
Later on - the City of Johnstown bought Luna Park from Mary Cresswell, widow of Frank and Johnstown Trust Company on September 12, 1922 for $210,469.36. What cost $210,469.36 in 1922 would cost $2,791,946.97 in 2011. Lets not forget the .36 and 97 cents....
One of the most important dates in connection with Roxbury Park was May 30, 1896, when the first Johnstown Passenger Railway car ran to the Roxbury extension. The park is credited with prompting the installation of the double track trolley line that served the area until 1960.
For the first several years under the Tri-County Association, the park was operated as a resort with horse racing as the principal attraction.
Known then as Roxbury Park - it became the center of attraction throughout the state on September 7, 1896, when the Pennsylvania State Fair was held there. It proved so successful that it returned in 1897.
Another of the park's big attractions in the early 1900's was the Interstate Fair. Much like our current county fairs. Bands were often paraded through city streets en route to the park. Folks would fall in line behind the bands and walk to the park where the could enjoy horse racing and carnival attractions. 
Schools would close and businesses would shutdown so that everyone could enjoy a day at the park. The 1903 Fair had crowds of up to 25,000 and was typical of all the others.
This shows the actual park gate located near the old Roxbury Loop.
The formation of the Roxbury Park Amusement Association in 1905 started the transformation of the park into the recreational and amusement center that it was later known as. It was then that Roxbury Park became known as Luna Park, the latter name taken from an amusement park in Pittsburgh.
Included in the new resort grounds were 35 acres - a half-mile track for racing of all kinds, a baseball diamond, a lake of three acres for rowboats and launches, stables for 75 to 100 horses and a grove of 10 acres of shade trees which had several springs of water bubbling up for the refreshment of visitors.
The buildings consisted of a grandstand capable of seating 2,000 people, a theater holding 700 at which daily afternoon and evening performances were given, a boat house with 15 steel rowboats, the latest thing out and several electric launches. 
A $2,000 structure was built to house an $8,000 carousel and then there was the first whirligig ever seen in Johnstown, each seat having three animals abreast along with a fully staffed dining hall.