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Old Posted May 31, 2011, 11:17 PM
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giovanni sasso giovanni sasso is offline
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tyrone, pennsylvania: my hometown

Or, "there used to be a great building here." There's been so much demolition in my hometown in the past 10 years that every time I'm home it's like a pop quiz to remember what used to be standing on the latest vacant lot. More on that in a minute.

(The reddish line is roughly the course of the Pennsy's main line, which Amtrak still operates between Philly and Pittsburgh.)

The Tyrone, Pennsylvania area was first settled in the early 1800s for the iron deposits, and in the 1840s the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) constructed its main line along the Little Juniata River between Altoona (where the Altoona Curve would be the eastern seaboard's Promontory point, connecting Pittsburgh and the west side of the Appalachians) and Huntingdon (and Harrisburg and Philadelphia, eastward). The town's first building was constructed a block from the river at what would become the main intersection in 1850, and Tyrone was incorporated in 1857.

The PRR really lent its presence to the town's growth, through jobs (the peak population was over 10,000 in the 1920s) and community contributions. A huge athletic park with a golf course, baseball fields and a swimming pool was built in the 1910s and lasted until the 1980s, when I rode my bike and watched the last of the Little League baseball games before the park was eventually abandoned and turned into an 'industrial park' which has two employers and a newly (and cheaply) constructed church. And, with the PRR YMCA.

This is all that remains of the YMCA the PRR built in 1913. It looked like this in 2004 (which I think is the only other time I made a Tyrone post on SSP):

Seeing it in a pile of rubble was absolutely sickening, as it was a major part of the community until 2006, when the Little Juniata flooded and ruined the ground floor of the building. Demolition by neglect ensued (including the deterioration of the roof over the theater where the Community Players performed plays every season) and demolition began some time in the last six months. G&R Excavation & Demolition has made serious bank in Tyrone in the last several years, tearing down important, historic buildings like the Y, Lincoln School (which was Tyrone's High School from 1911-1953), the Garman Building (1910), the Peanut Factory ... But the YMCA is the biggest blow. Y-Tots (where I went to preschool), basketball, video games, plays ... these are all memories now.

The keystone of the building was salvaged and moved to the train station* and Railroad Park, which conveniently faces the G&R Demolition offices:

To the left of G&R is the Ward House, built in I believe the 1870s.

The Ward House's ~1890s annex was demo'd around 2004. Here's a pic from 2002:

* Funny thing about that "train station" two photos above. It's not really one at all. Oh, it's constructed to look like one and has the old PRR style "TYRONE" signage all right, but even though the building abuts the railroad tracks, it's not used AT ALL for trains. Boarding and detraining Amtrak happens a good 100' away from the "station" (which is used for the Tyrone Historic Society and is open two days a week) on an isolated concrete platform. It's maddening.

* * *

Moving along, we come back to the intersection of 10th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, the oldest and most important corner in town. This here is "Hotel Park", a fake park (you're not even allowed to loiter there) with a fake hotel and fake people painted on the side. It's named for the City Hotel that used to stand on the same spot at the turn of the 20th Century. At the turn of the 21st Century, as completion of I-99 between State College and Altoona was nearing, there were rumors that Tyrone would get its first hotel in years, spurring growth. The highway is now complete, but there are no new hotels.

Across the street, the Garman Building is now missing, and the tarp is only temporary until the building it's on is also demolished.

This is the same view less than two years ago:

* * *

This little church annex is all that less than five years ago also had a handsome three-story brick, low income apartment building called the Carriage House and the old peanut factory, which you could smell roasting clear across town.

* * *

The first phase of I-99, the US-220 bypass, was constructed in the early 1970s. It wiped out one of the oldest neighborhoods in Tyrone, and Woodland Avenue, where an old German brewery once stood, was obliterated forever from the landscape.

* * *

This here is the Tyrone (and Snyder Township) Public Library. This building was completed around 2003, and is one story by ordinance ... in a very active flood plain. (There have been at least three major floods since 1972.) So all the most important books in town are stored in a one story building in a flood plain, in a faux historic building where the amazing, Italianate Jones Building stood until its demolition in 2002.

(Jones Building, c. 1940s, from Flickr.)

The library used to be two blocks over in this building from 1926:

* * *

The Little Juniata River (that's jew-knee-AT-uh, not "Juanita") passes through the heart of Tyrone.

The railroad bridge in the foreground, still active, was built when Tyrone was a major spur of the PRR, serving freight and passengers to Bellefonte, Lock Haven and Clearfield.

This is a defunct rail bridge across the Little Juniata for a company that was itself defunct before it was even in action. The 'Tyrone & Lewisburg' Railroad was conceived to add another east-west line via State College, but it was never completed.

* * *

This is looking north up Pennsylvania Avenue from the Little Juniata. Burley's, the restaurant on the right, was named for Jacob Burley, one of the earliest settlers in the town, and had an outdoor deck overlooking the river. It was the only place in town to have a Guinness on draught and serve hand crafted food (at least that which wasn't bought at Sam's Club). I was very sad to learn it closed earlier this year.

* * *

BUT HEY. Not all is lost in Tyrone. (Yet.) I think what makes me so mad and frustrated to see the neglect, demolition and decay in Tyrone is that towns like Huntingdon and Bellefonte -- Tyrone's rivals in high school football, which is very important in this town -- have managed to preserve their towns and keep history alive. Tyrone still has a little bit of stock, though.

Post Office, 1930.

VFW, 18??.

Farmers & Merchants Building, 1922.

St Matthew's School, 1888.

St Matthew's Church, 1895.

International Order of Odd Fellows, 1880s.

Municipal Building, 1916.

Armory, 1893.

Gardner's Candies, established 1897. Pike Gardner developed the heart shaped box, and their peanut butter meltaway is still to this day outta sight.

If I'm not mistaken, this old barn building is the oldest standing in Tyrone, from sometime in the 1850s(?).

Pennsylvania House -- "The Highrise" -- built in the 1970s after a major fire destroyed the Pennsylvania House Hotel.

The house I grew up in. It was yellow when I was a kid, but my dad's gotten a little frisky in his latter day paint choices.

* * *

The 2010 Census says that Tyrone's current population is 5,477. There is no longer a functioning supermarket in town (and the Save-a-Lot doesn't count), but the American Eagle Paper Mill is a modern day small town success story.

Westvaco (née the West Virginia Pulp & Paper Company), the previous owner, merged with Mead in 2001 and announced on September 8, 2001, that it was closing this mill. The Tyrone Daily Herald, the smallest daily paper in the state, used its largest headline typeface since WWII to announce the bad news; three days later, it used the same large typeface after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Mead gave employees the option of moving to mills in other states (Kentucky, Maryland), but most opted for the severance and stayed local. With some assistance from the State, a group of former employees and investors banded to form American Eagle, and the mill reopened in 2004.

* * *

Up on the mountain above town, another type of mill is fighting with natural gas companies for use of rural mountain land. These windmills under construction show a progressive side of a very conservative area, but the natural gas companies may have the final say as long as Tom Corbett is PA's governor.

* * *

This drives me nuts. The Tyrone Golden Eagles high school football team is rightfully popular; they've been playoff contenders for going on two decades straight, and they won the 1999 state championship. But the perspective on the 'T' on this angry eagle's shirt is ALL WRONG. Furthermore, we are the GOLDEN Eagles, not the BALD Eagles ... and eagles don't have crested heads. ARGH.

The News Agency is closed now, but Greyhound still stops here every day.

The enduring classic: the cold hoagie and a side of Middleswarth BBQ.


This ridiculous bullshit is now seen all across Tyrone. The draconian, nonsensical waste of money (I heard they cost upwards of $400 a sign, and they are ALL over town) was approved by the current mayor. Those "smile, you're on camera" signs you see in bodegas is one thing, but to use taxpayer money to pay for something so unnecessary -- and in a town dying a slow death propped by apathy -- is infuriating. But, not for nothing, I've been ticketed for a rolling stop in Tyrone before. Fuckers.

I'm glad to see the Main Moon is still kickin' it. I was playing Teener League baseball in the early 90s when they opened and can remember going in there in my uniform and ordering shrimp lo mein, the most exotic thing I'd ever eaten.

The cliff next to the American Legion, cleared and restored in 2010 by local funeral director Larry Derman.

DJ's! Genny drafts are a buck (pitchers are $4), and the jukebox has Ratt and Metallica on it, with zero irony.

First English Lutheran Church, 1904.

A lot of effort went into naming Tytoona Cave, in the valley between Tyrone and Altoona. Its care now falls under the National Speleological Society, through whom spelunking permits are required for diving. More info on the cave here: http://www.caves.org/region/mar/tytoona.htm

Turned around looking the other direction, dude for context.

Just up the road from Tytoona Cave is Fort Roberdeau. It was built as the Lead Mine Fort in the 1770s for the American Revolution. As this was still the Appalachian Frontier, Philadelphia merchant Daniel Roberdeau constructed this mine (and fort, to protect from indian raids) to manufacture munitions for the Continental Army. George Washington never slept here.

Soldier Park in its glory for Memorial Day.

And finally ... the Tyrone Panorama, stitched from 12 images. Click to enlarge.

Peace out from the 'rone. Love yins guys.
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Old Posted May 31, 2011, 11:32 PM
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Nice, they probably never have seen anyone in person resembling the girl in the pictures.
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Old Posted May 31, 2011, 11:33 PM
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i appreciate the time and effort you put into making your slice of pennsyltucky shine. makes me want to go on a road trip!
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Old Posted May 31, 2011, 11:46 PM
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Great tour. Made me sad, to be quite honest. I hate to see towns crumble away. Still, there is a lot of beauty in Tyrone, both the buildings and natural scenery. By the way, I am pro-kitty.
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Old Posted Jun 1, 2011, 12:10 AM
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Pretty sad about the loss of some of those buildings. Loved the informative tour with the personal touches. As usual, excellent work.
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Old Posted Jun 1, 2011, 12:16 AM
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Wonderful, beautifully shot tour. I love hearing personal stories in connection with a place, no matter how big or small.

I have spent a few years of my life in small places, so I am quite familiar with the negatives, but dang if this isn't a beautiful location with some solid (although endangered) buildings. Three cheers for green hills.

I hope the day when those little gray satellite dishes become obsolete in favor of something smaller/less visible arrives sooner than later.

Originally Posted by Expat View Post
By the way, I am pro-kitty.
I too cast my vote in favor of kitties.
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Old Posted Jun 1, 2011, 12:21 AM
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All these Appalachian towns from Ohio to West Virginia to Pennsylvania to Kentucky have this untold history of "once was" and "where are we going?" and it's a shame none of our states recognize the importance of these once-thriving towns. They can't all be Asheville or Hot Springs but they deserve better.
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Old Posted Jun 1, 2011, 2:24 AM
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Excellent photo tour. I remember how Tyrone was completely an isolated town with barely anything on the outskirts of it on my drives to State College. Gardner's Candies too! Your photo right under the one of DJ's (not surprised Rat is still on the Juke box in Central Pa) is one of my favorites.
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Old Posted Jun 1, 2011, 3:27 AM
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Nice pictures. It's good to see an informative tour of your hometown after you mentioned it in several of my threads, like Huntingdon and I think Clearfield. Maybe one day I'll make it there.
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Old Posted Jun 1, 2011, 4:12 AM
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Awesome gio. I don't even know where to begin.... I thought this photo tour was gonna suck but you made it highly interesting by showing the good, the bad and the ugly of this little town. The commentary was very interesting.

I laughed my ass off at the lady with her dog on her shirt. Love the NObama pickup truck too.

The natural setting really looks amazing. One of my favorites was that unique stone wall/dam thing. Absolutely beautiful.
The town seems to have great bones too; Lots of nice brick structures. Like Coldayman said, it's sad to see towns like this now with no direction and little to no purpose anymore.

Thanks for the well thought out and executed tour!

Oh, and Hail Satin.
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Old Posted Jun 1, 2011, 7:27 AM
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Really excellent tour of a place I would never have seen on my own, and I'll echo what others have said: the personal commentary adds a whole other dimension to the pics.

I literally laughed out loud at the Xzibit's cameo, thanks for that!
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Old Posted Jun 1, 2011, 1:41 PM
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great tour. thanks for the peak into your hometown. sucks to see its falling to shit. still cooler then the town i grew up in. i dare not speak its name. but it sucked. at least your parents house still looks great.
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Old Posted Jun 1, 2011, 3:34 PM
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I've known about Tyrone for awhile (thanks to you), so it'll really cool to be able to see it through your eyes.

The first thing that strikes me is that it's in a beautiful location. The lush greenery covering the mountains, creeks and rivers is right up my alley. I also love the architecture...or what's left of it.

The second thing that hit me was that Tyrone is one of those towns. Y'know the one. Everybody gets the fuck out of dodge as soon as humanly possible. The ones that stay behind usually take over a family business or just never had any motivation to leave. You go back home during the holidays and learn to keep mum on all of your adventures so as to not rub it in their faces, even though it was never your intention to do so in the first place.

Yeah, this thread really hit a nerve. Your observations are parallel to mine whenever I go back to my hometown (even though my original stomping ground has definitely seen better days than yours).

Really really good thread, my man.
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Old Posted Jun 1, 2011, 5:07 PM
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Tyrone is a good place. Great stuff as always. I like the looks of DJ's... my kind of bar. Satin laughing spreads his wings.
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Old Posted Jun 1, 2011, 5:21 PM
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And what about that butterfly? Cool!
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Old Posted Jun 1, 2011, 8:43 PM
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That tall high rise is awful, but, otherwise, a great collection of interesting photos. Love the mix of nature. Thanks!
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Old Posted Jun 1, 2011, 8:56 PM
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What happened to your shoelaces?

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Old Posted Jun 1, 2011, 10:28 PM
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wow who's the chick? great tour, Iv always been fascinated by the small towns of penn. This one is really out there though.
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Old Posted Jun 1, 2011, 11:02 PM
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i should also say that i get my fill of pittsburghese every time i'm home too. yins and warsh and buggy n'at.

the scenery around tyrone really is beautiful, and it's easily taken for granted. i did growing up, but i started to get it when i was in college and would come home to the hills. shame it's so potentially endangered with marcellus shale drilling plans. nothing major has happened yet (i'm not even aware of any active drilling), but it could, and if it does, it's going to be upstream from the watersheds. i sure hope it doesn't.

giallo, i know exactly what you're talking about. i actually caught myself in the middle of a conversation with some tyrone friends about how cool portland's BIRDS are. i was talking about f'ing birds in the same breath as griping that the ymca was demolished.

expat, that butterfly thing is in this crazy cat person paradise. there's an old salvage yard along the river that you can see from amtrak coming into town -- there are dozens and dozens of cats (it's where the kitten peeking through the tractor is too) roaming amongst the cars and junk down there. i scoped that butterfly shot out from a distance.

PA Pride, the NObama stickers are easy to find in tyrone. blair county election results in 2008 went 62-37 to mccain, 2004 was 66-34 bush.

tom, shoelaces are for chumps.

dope, that's my buddy's girlfriend ... looker, ain't she?

thanks everyone.
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Old Posted Jun 1, 2011, 11:35 PM
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Good ole Tyrone. Sad to see so many more buildings gone, but still enough there to make it worth the stop imo. Kind of surprised the po-po let you back into town (or did ya sneak in?).

Since the old eyes aren't what they use to be, I'm wondering if that blow-up Jolly Green Giant is still on the balcony of the green house to the right?

Thanks for revisiting the homestead. Hope you enjoyed the visit.
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