Downtown Johnstown - Point Park
Point Park is on Washington Street and formed by the juncture of the Stonycreek River and the Little Conemaugh River. The park offers a location for viewing the confluence of these rivers and the Stone Bridge, the epicenter of so much disaster and mayhem during the flood of 1889.
Point Park includes Point Stadium, and is just across the Stonycreek from the Johnstown Incline.
The Conemaugh Gap is a seven-mile long, 1,350 foot deep gorge that was cut by the Conemaugh River through the Laurel Ridge Mountain. It is known as the deepest gap east of the Mississippi River, though other sources list this gap as being 1,560 feet deep, though just the third deepest in Pennsylvania.
The water cutting though the terrain for millennium exposed some of the giant coal seams that made this area prosperous in the 1800s.
This gap is located between Rt. 56 (Haw's Pike) and Rt. 403 (Cramer Pike) just outside of Johnstown, PA. The overlook is Haw's Pike or Rt. 56. There is a pull off for the scenic overlook and parking.
Downtown Johnstown - Flood Museum
The Johnstown Flood Museum, which opened in 1973, preserves and tells the many stories from the devastating Johnstown flood of 1889. The museum, operated by the Johnstown Area Heritage Association, tells not only of the destruction caused by the floods, but it also shares stories of perseverance and reconstruction, of course involving local citizens, wealthy member of the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club, and the early years of the American Red Cross that had just been founded in 1881.
The museum features a three-dimensional map of the flood route, artifacts from the town and South Fork Club, historical accounts of the flood, and a 26-minute Academy Award winning film about the flood.
Tickets to the Johnstown Flood Museum cost $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, $5 for children from 3-18, and children 2 and under are free.
The Johnstown Flood Museum occupies a historic building. After the Cambria Library was destroyed by the 1889 flood, South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club member Andrew Carnegie donated funds to build this Carnegie library, the first of what would become about 2,500 Carnegie libraries. The library served the city until 1973 when it was converted to the museum.
Downtown Johnstown - City Hall
The 1889 flood destroyed the original City Hall, but the present structured was begun in 1900, and it survived the later floods. Brass plaques on one corner show the heights of the city's three major floods in 1889, 1936 and 1977. A brass plaque on one corner is dedicated "In memory of those lost in the March 17, 1936 greater Johnstown Flood;" the plaque was presented in 1987 by the Southern Allegheny Flood Recovery Association and lists the names of twelve victims.
A plaque on City Hall describes the history of this public space:
On May 31, 1889, the Market
House which held the police
station and municipal offices was
completely washed away. It had
occupied this northeast corner of
Market Square, a plot of land laid
out by Joseph Johns in his town
plan of 1800.
After the flood eight of the valley's
small boroughs including Johns-
town, consolidated into the City of
Johnstown on December 18, 1889.
The city's downtown was rebuilt
adhering to Johns' original plan,
thus preserving Market Square. On
October 5, 1900, Johnstown's cen-
tennial year, the cornerstone was
placed for the present city hall,
built in the Richardsonian
Downtown Johnstown - The Stone Bridge
Johnstown's Stone Bridge spans the Conemaugh River just downstream from the confluence of the Little Conemaugh and Stony Creek rivers. The seven arch stone bridge was built in 1877 by the Pennsylvania Railroad. It not only survived the flood of 1889, but it actually added to the destruction because it's arches caught much of the debris and created a whirlpool over downtown. Soon 30 acres of debris collected behind this bridge and caught fire, adding to the disaster.
The bridge is visible from Point Park in downtown Johnstown and from many of the surrounding roads.
A plaque near the stone bridge reads:
On May 31, 1889, a wall of water and wreckage 35 feet high traveled 14 miles from the broken South Fork Dam, destroying more than 1,600 homes and claiming 2,209 lives. Public and private efforts from across America helped Johnstown to rebuild.
Another plaque in Point Park says:
Johnstown Local Flood Protection Project
Built ( 1938-1943) and maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ( Pittsburgh District), the JLFPP reflects the 1930s move toward a major federal role in local flood protection. This concrete-paved channel project, extending 9.2 miles along Johnstown's three rivers, became the nation's second largest flood control of its type. In its first 50 years, the only flooding here in 1977, during the modern flood of record.
Downtown Johnstown - Morley's Dog
In downtown Johnstown, across from City Hall is a small square park with green grass, trees, and benches. In the center of the square is an unusual redish brown dog with a studded black collar standing guard. This dog is called Morley's dog, and it is a survivor of the Johnstown Flood of 1889.
The 700-pound zinc French bloodhound was created in New York city by the J.W. Fiske Iron Works. It was purchased around 1870 by Cambria Iron Company executive James Morley and placed at his mansion at Main and Walnut. It was recovered at the stone bridge in the massive 30-acre debris pile.
The plaque reads:
On May 31, 1889, this
post-Civil War, cast iron
statue was swept away by the
flood wave and carried to a pile
of wreckage downstream. After
being found amidst the debris,
it was returned to the front yard
of the James Morley mansion
which survived the flood on
lower Main Street (now the
site of Lee Hospital). There it
remained until 1903, when it
was moved to their son's lawn.
In 1944, the statue was donated
to the city by Morley heirs.
Henry Clay Frick-founder of East Fork Hunting Club
Henry Clay Frick was born and raised in Westmoreland County, and earned his fortune by age 30 by making coke, a key ingredient in steel, from coal. Andrew Mellon loaned him the money to buy his company, and he later became a business partner with Andrew Carnegie in the Carnegie Steel Company, the predecessor to the US Steel Company which still exists today. After almost being assassinated, he created the St. Clair Steel Company, which boasted the largest coke works in the world. Andrew Frick is also credited with forming the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club whose dam failed in 1889 causing the Johnstown Flood. In Pittsburgh, Frick funded construction of the Union Trust Building, the William Penn Hotel (1916), the Frick Building (1902), and the Frick Annex (now Allegheny Building, built in 1906). Frick's name can also be seen in the Frick Collection, an art gallery in New York, and Frick Park, the city of Pittsburgh's largest park.
South Fork Dam -- Source of the flood waters
The South Fork Dam was built to hold back the waters of Lake Conemaugh, a place that would become a playground for the Pittsburgh rich and famous. The dam was built in 1838-1853 as a reservoir for the Johnstown canals. Later the dam was purchased by the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club a group of 50 wealthy businessmen including Andrew Carnegie, Andrew Mellon, Henry Phipps, Duncan Clinch Phillips (father of the founder of The Phillips Collection), Louis Semple Clarke (founder of the Autocar Company), and numerous other rich and/or influential men of the day. The dam stood 79 feet tall and the lake was about two miles long, one mile wide, and contained 20 million tons of water. On 31 May 1889 torrents of rain caused the water level to rise and the dam to fail. The resulting flood destroyed Johnstown, 14 miles downstream, and killed about 2,200 people.
The wealthy members of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club are blamed for the catastrophe because the dam was poorly maintained. It's iron discharge pipes had been sold for scrap, leaks in the dam were poorly patched, and the spillway was partially blocked by fish screens that were clogged with debris. While they were never found liable for the disaster, many of the men donated huge amounts of money to help the victims and rebuild the town.
Today the dam sits right along PA Route 219, just a quick detour from the highway. You can drive right out the the old dam itself, much of it still in the condition from the day after the flood, with a huge gap missing from the center. The South Fork of the Conemaugh River runs through this gap in the dam, along with a railroad grade.
St Michael - Home of the South Fork Hunting Club
St Michael, PA, was the location of the old South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club that operated and maintained the Conemaugh Lake and the South Fork Dam. The club was formed in 1879 with 16 men and by 1889 its ranks had grown to 61 influential and wealthy men from the Pittsburgh area. These men built a massive clubhouse and several huge "cabins" (we'd call them mansions today) along the banks of their picturesque lake.
In 1889 the dam collapsed and 2,200 people from Johnstown and other towns along the river lost their lives. The club ceased to operate, though many of its members helped with the relief and rebuilding of Johnstown. Some of the Johnstown displaced even lived in the old hunting club buildings. By 1907 most remnants of the club were in private hands and the town of St Michael was created. Today the National Park Service has a visitors' center and just under 200 acres of land designated as a National Memorial. Many of the original hunting club buildings are marked with historical signs, but are now under private ownership so they may not be open to visitors.
Flight 93 Memorial - nearby Shanksville, PA
On September 11th 2001, after two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center Buildings in New York, then another slammed into the side of the Pentagon next to Washington, DC, a fourth plane was also in the hands of terrorists. The plane was a scheduled flight from Newark, NJ to San Francisco and had 44 people on board including the pilots, flight crew, passengers, and terrorists. The hijackers' most likely destination for this aircraft was the White House or the US Capitol Building where a joint session of Congress was underway. When the passengers learned from their loved ones on the ground about the fate of the other three aircraft and the thousands that were killed, they decided to not let the same happen to their airplane. After saying their goodbyes to their families, they decided to overrun the four terrorists in the cockpit and either kill them and land the plane, or force the plane into the ground. After they charged the cockpit and began to break down the door plane plane crashed at a high rate of speed in a field near Shanksville in south central PA.
A temporary memorial sits near the crash site. This area hosts 140,000 visitors a year who can view the crash site, look at photos of the deceased, leave trinkets or letters, or talk to the National Park Service guide in the small building. A permanent memorial is planned, and it should be opened on September 11th 2011.
I arrived on a cold day in November 2008. The wind was blowing very hard and the day's rain had turned to sleet, pelting my face and stinging my eyes. After wandering around the benches, plaques, and memorabilia, the security guard invited me into the small visitors center where the NPS guide spoke to me for about 45 minutes, mostly about the people who were on board the plane, the calls they made, and their families.
Route 219 between the Turnpike and Johnstown has been designated the Flight 93 Memorial Highway.
The Johnstown wine and film festival
What a great thing to do on a summer night. 2008 will be the third annual for this fun new to the area event. Anyone can submit a film to the festival checking with the guidelines is a good idea for content, length and quality. Check the website for more details
- Wine Tasting
- Arts and Culture
Johnstown Folk Fest
Every year at the first week of Sept in the CBD of Johnstown. The annual folk fest is held celebrating the heritage of the city and surrounding areas. If you area into live music, food and beer as well as a great time don't miss this event.
- Family Travel
- Budget Travel
Thunder in the Valley
Have a look at the website below for more current information on events and dates. Daytona, Sturgous, and now Johnstown. When it comes to bike rallies Johnstown's Thunder in the Valley is coming in third in the nation. Ten years ago the event brought in 5000 people now it has grown to almost 200,000. If you are into Motorcycling whether it is on a Harley or riding rice this is an event that you will enjoy.
- Road Trip
- Adventure Travel
A good idea is to ride the Johnstown incline plane from downtown to the City View restaurant have a bit to eat and ride back down. Or you can take your car with you and drive back down. Inside the building at the top, you can watch the large gears working to pull the cars up and down the hill. Good for the kids!!
- Family Travel
- School Holidays
- Historical Travel
Flood museum and Memorial national park
Visiting the Johnstown flood memorial and museum are both high on the list of things to see while in here in the area. Andrew Carnegie and his pals had their summer homes at the lake that was once at this site. Neglecting to keep up the spill way as well as violent spring storms that brought tremendous amounts of rain ina short period of time caused the breast to give way sending a 30 foot / 10 metre high wall of water toward the unsuspecting people of Johnstown. In the aftermath the debri gathering at a stone bridge crossing the conemaugh river caught fire burning all of the people tangled in the mess to death. The National park has some good walks to view the breast of the dam as well as a good film on the flood.
If you buy a ticket to the Museum downtown you may also use the ticket to view the Heritage museum within one month. The museum building is a great place to explore I recommend going to the top floor and finding the leather running track used by the mill workers long ago. This building was built by Andrew Carnegie.
- Historical Travel
- National/State Park
- School Holidays