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Archive for the ‘Pennsylvania’ Category

Moravian Tile Works & Fonthill Castle

Posted by Stu On March - 13 - 2016

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Photos from 3/13

I drove by this a few times on the way to New Hope and was curious what exactly it was.  After being assigned a paper for a Museum Studies class and randomly choosing Fonthill Castle from a list of local museums, I got my answer.  Henry Chapman Mercer, who owned both Fonthill Castle and the adjacent Moravian Tile Works (as well as the Mercer Museum elsewhere in Doylestown) was a wealthy archaeologist, anthropologist, and lover of history.  Fonthill Castle was his home and now serves as a museum.  Unfortunately, it was closed the day we stopped by, but the Moravian Tile Works were open.  The Tile Works are a living history site, with workers making products as they were made nearly 200 years ago.  I was intrigued by the architecture of the place, which consists of a mix of several styles from previous civilizations.

I’m aware I’m not really providing all that much information or history here.  Again, I didn’t get to tour the castle, and I really don’t know much about Moravians.  I just thought the place looked cool and was interested in the living history aspect of it.  I encourage you to research Mr. Mercer on your own and perhaps visit the 3 places related to him.

The tile works are closest to the road and what originally caught my eye.










Fonthill Castle is found behind the tile works.







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Profile Rock

Posted by Stu On March - 15 - 2014

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Photos from June 2013


I was told of a rock not too far from me that resembled a Native American face, appropriately named Profile Rock.  The stone face is found on Route 42 between Catawissa and Bloomsburg.  Unfortunately, it’s also located right at a bend in the road, so if you go looking for it, be careful not to get hit by cars; they’re quite fast here.

When I first found the rock, I wasn’t that impressed.  This is because I was looking at it from the wrong side.  But that’s not enough; you also have to be looking at it from the correct point.  If you ever played Arkham Asylum or Arkham City, think of the Riddler’s question mark puzzles.  So after some experimenting and avoiding speeding cars, I figured it out.

From the pulloff (and the ‘wrong’ side):



Now from the correct side, but wrong angle.  Kind of looks like a face, but not what I saw in other pictures:



Annnnnd got it:



So there.  A rock face.  But only if you look at it a certain way.

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Walt’s Filling Station

Posted by Stu On August - 27 - 2013

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Photos taken October 2011


Another discovery through geocaching.  We stopped here on the way home from our Quebec/New York trip.  This may look like a gas station from the 1950’s, but this is really the side yard of someone’s home in Hallstead.  Vintage soda machines, signs, and gas pumps… someone went to great lengths to collect and present all this.  I felt awkward walking up the driveway, but I read that many others had done it.  Whoever was home did slam the door while I was poking around, however.





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Posted by Stu On May - 8 - 2013

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Photos taken June ’12 via camera & camera phone, hence different photo sizes


Another find via geocaching.  Seriously, if you’ve never geocached, get a GPS or smartphone and go play already.

I was surprised to read that a ghost town was only 20 minutes or so from me.  Lausanne, near present-day Jim Thorpe, has very little written about it, and not all that much remains.  The little I know has come from a geocaching description and talking to a group of anthropologists (more on that later).

With almost no knowledge and armed only with a camera, phone, and GPS, I set out early in the morning to the first set of coordinates.  I knew the trek would be a few miles (how many exactly, I forget now) and that I was being led to a few different locations.  This corridor of green was a promising start to the expedition:


I had read that there would be the remains of an old toll bridge somewhere along the trail.  I crossed water three times on the way to the first destination, but I wasn’t sure just where the bridge was supposed to have been.  The first crossing had an actual bridge, one of the more unusual ones I’ve seen:



The second crossing had some old planks and pipes in the water, but seeing that this was barely a stream and I stepped over it without getting my shoes wet, I highly doubt there was a toll bridge here:


Yet another crossing led to a somewhat larger stream with a rock wall nearby.  Maybe the bridge was here.




After getting lost once and crossing three streams (or the same stream three times) I finally came to the first goal of my tour of Lausanne – several foundations of either houses or storage buildings (as per one of the anthropologists I spoke with):









I roamed among the ruins of the homes/storage buildings for a little bit and then entered a second set of coordinates that would take me somewhat back the way I just came from, but past my starting point.  But first there was one more water crossing, this time over a type of bridge I had never seen before.  And this time it was the actual Lehigh River, not some piddle of a stream.


Yep, this “bridge” was just two cables going across the river.  I was about to cross when I noticed someone coming from the other side.  And then someone else.  And then another.  About a dozen people came across the bridge and looked rather confused with me being there.


One talked to me and I explained I was ghost town hunting/geocaching.  They told me they were anthropologists from Temple University and had an excavation site not too far away.  I asked if they knew about Lausanne at all, and one said he did.  He was the one that said the houses I just came from may have instead been used for storage.  We talked a little longer, and then I decided it was time to make my way across the cable bridge and finish up my exploration of Lausanne.

I finally made it to the old town square; a hotel and post office once stood at the site.





I roamed the area for a little bit; a lot of it was quite overgrown.  I then made my way back to the car, which was not that far away from the town square.  All in all, this was a fun little adventure.  Being guided to different areas by GPS coordinates and having to cross the cable bridge really made this outing stand out.


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Posted by Stu On May - 3 - 2012

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Photos from May 2011


Man, was this an adventure. When a game commissioner has to drive you back to your car, you know you had a good day.

I had read about a ghost town called Alvira which was used during World War II to produce munitions.  The government purchased the town and surrounding land via eminent domain (i.e. everyone was kicked out and given almost nothing for their land) and promised residents they could get their land back after the war.  Obviously that did not happen.

Alvira was supposed to have remnants of both its life as a quiet village and also that of its military usage.  And off we went.

My GPS and map sent us down a dirt road which eventually dead ended at a gate covered with barbed wire and a sign stating we were approaching prison property.  Deciding that this was probably not the right way in, we wisely chose to find another way.  Eventually, we wound up parking in a game lands parking lot.  Armed at this point with only GPS coordinates leading to a few geocaches, we decided to hike in.  About a half mile or so down the trail, we came across our first bunker:





From here we eventually came across a lake.  Down another trail we came across two more bunkers.  One was sealed shut, while the other one was wide open and filled with random stuff.




We were happy to find so many bunkers, but by this point we were wondering where the actual ghost town was.  I had seen pictures of signs for it online but had yet to come across any.  My GPS coordinates only pointed to these few bunkers, so I was clueless.  We found what looked like a main trail and walked on it for a bit.  Eventually we came to a small building, which turned out to be the office for the game commissioner.  We went in and asked the people inside if they knew where Alvira was.  They told us the town itself was just up the road a bit, along with the ruins of two churches and some cemeteries.  We mentioned we had found a few bunkers on the way in.  One of the guys responded with, “Of course you did; there’s over 140 of them.”
We then said we weren’t completely sure where we were in relation to our car; we were a bit lost by this point (hey, it happens).  One of the workers gave me a map of the game lands that had all the known bunkers marked on it.  From this we figured out where we parked.  One of the guys was heading home and offered to drive us out to our car.  On the way to our car, we passed by the sign for Alvira (posted at the top of this article).
Once back at the car, we retraced the roads and paths the commissioner drove.  Along the roadway near the commissioner’s office, we found a few foundations of what I’m guessing were houses.  There were a few markers with numbers and letters on them as well.  A few bunkers were along this dirt road as well, though they were mostly sealed shut.  Some were vandalized pretty badly too.






Down the road even farther, we passed a few cemeteries.  The one at the very end of the road is what drew our attention, however.  Pillars and plaques from an old church still stood, though in bad shape.  Almost nothing was left of the church itself, other than some rubble from its foundation.
Behind this area we found yet another barbed wire fence, with the prison off in the distance.








Overall, despite the blunders we made (not having enough information, getting lost, etc.), this was an enjoyable trip.  There wasn’t as much of the actual town left as I had hoped, but the number of bunkers made up for that.


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Washington Rock

Posted by Stu On January - 24 - 2012

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Another curiosity I found through the wonders of geocaching.  This was on my to-do list for about 5 years before I finally headed up to Susquehanna County in northeast PA to find it. Much like my Sheppton trip, I decided to make this a day of geocaching and exploring towns I hadn’t been to before, including Vandling, Richmondale, and Forest City.

Simply put, it’s George Washington carved into a rock.  It’s a bit of a hike to find this rock, which is along a trail just north of Forest City.  Finding the correct trailhead took me a while; once I found one I found satisfactory, I probably walked 20-30 minutes before reaching it.  There is absolutely nothing else around, so why is this here?  How old is it?  Who made it?  Nobody seems to know.

Something happened to George’s nose, as most of it’s missing; rusted nails and bolts protrude from where it was.  From certain angles, the eyes somewhat remind me of Egyptian style sculpture.  From the side, especially with the missing nose, George resembles the Great Sphinx.

Again, just trailside silliness, but it does raise a lot of questions.  Could there be more sculptures?  I hiked around the area a bit more hoping to find Mr. Lincoln or perhaps Mr. Jefferson, but I saw nothing.  Daylight was running short, so I headed back to the car.




Right by George, I found what looks like the remnants of a fireplace or perhaps some kind of seat:


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Profile Rock

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