Then & Now- a PA Lumber Museum Virtual Photography Exhibit

Part 1, December 2020

The Pennsylvania Lumber Museum is please to provide our audience with this new virtual exhibit. It centers around the museum’s extensive archive of historic photographs. Select archival images were paired with modern images of the same location, in many instances taken in nearly the exact same spot as the historic image. It is truly amazing how the lumber industry transformed the landscape of Pennsylvania, and how things have changed in the intervening years. Please enjoy, and look for Part 2 of this exhibit in the New Year.

Tom Fee’s Lumber Camp- Commissioner Run

These photographs were taken in roughly the same location, about 110 years apart. The image on the left shows the crew and camp established by Tom Fee, a jobber contracted to the Goodyear Lumber Company to cut the hemlock timber in the Commissioner Run valley. This camp lasted 2 seasons, from 1908 to 1910. The photo on the right shows the former camp location today. It is now a clearing in the forest with a number of gnarled old apple trees growing wherever the men of Fee’s camp discarded their apple cores. It is also a stop along the museum’s Sustainable Forestry Trail, which includes sixteen interpretive waysides, installed in 2000.

Hammersley Boarding House

Hammersley was a short-lived community that sprung-up around the cutting operations of the Goodyear Lumber Company, nestled along the Hammersley Fork of Kettle Creek on the boarder of Potter and Clinton Counties. Hammersley Village was a collection of about 60 worker’s homes, a store, boarding house, saloon and railroad terminal. Goodyear lumber operations at Hammersley lasted from 1906 to 1910. At that point, the town was largely abandoned with many workers moving on to the next Goodyear holding at Norwich in McKean County.

The modern photos here were taken by Rob Keith when he visited the former site of Hammersley in 2016. While the buildings and other man-made landscape features are long-gone, there is still ample evidence of the former occupation of the site strewn about the woods. This meat grinder was found in the vicinity of the location of the former boarding house above.

While the Hammersley Fork has meandered across the valley bottom in the modern image, the photographer is standing near the spot where the historic photographs (above and below) were taken.

This iron component of a railroad log car was discovered near the location of the former depot and repair shop buildings, as seen in the background of the historic images above.

Cherry Springs Fire Tower

As the photo caption indicates, this steel frame fire tower was constructed by the CCC in 1938. At a height of 80 ft, it replaced an earlier 65 ft tower from 1917. The structure still stands today, but it is no longer used for fire detection as the surrounding forest has grown to a height where it blocks the view of the tower.

The entrance to the fire tower complex is located along Route 44, approximately 2 miles south of Cherry Springs State Park. The sign there uses the same language as the sign erected by the CCC in the 1930s.

A stone cabin (also built by CCC enrollees from Camp S-136: Cherry Springs) stands near the tower. Local scout troops make use of the cabin, as does the Susquehannock Trail Club. The STC uses it to store equipment used in the maintenance of the 83-mile Susquehannock Trail System (follow the orange blazes near the tower).

Last Log Drive on Little Pine Creek

Little Pine Creek flows into Pine Creek-proper at the town of Waterville, approximately 13 miles north of the confluence of Pine Creek with the Susquehanna River. The West Branch of the Susquehanna and its major tributaries served as a convenient means for transporting timber from the forest to market. Logs floated down Little Pine Creek were destined for the Susquehanna Log Boom at Williamsport, PA. The historic photo is dated 1908; the Susquehanna Boom closed in 1909 because logging railroads had largely replaced waterways as the primary means of transporting timber.

The modern photo was taken on the man-made lake at Little Pine State Park. CCC Camp S-129 helped to establish the park between 1933 and 1937. The dam that creates the lake was built as a flood control measure in 1950. The park offers a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities in a beautiful setting.

CCC Camp NP-5, Rockwood

The photo on the left shows a group of buildings in CCC Camp NP-5 Rockwood in 1941. The image on the right was taken in 2019 and features some of those same buildings. Elements of CCC Camp NP-5 are now part of Group Camping Site #8 at Laurel Hill State Park, Somerset County, PA.

Camp NP-5 was established in 1935. CCC enrollees there were tasked with building the Laurel Hill Recreational Demonstration Area, as part of a program run by the National Park Service. (The NP in NP-5 stands for “National Park”). Together with the men of nearby CCC Camp SP-15, the men of NP-5 developed Laurel Hill as a model of a modern public park; complete with trails, group camping sites and cabins, roads, and other park infrastructure. The Recreational Demonstration Area program created 46 parks in 24 states, 5 of which were in Pennsylvania. CCC Camp NP-5 closed in 1941. By October 1945 the park was transferred to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and became Laurel Hill State Park.

Today, Laurel Hill State Park is home to 202 original buildings constructed by the CCC; the largest collection of such in Pennsylvania. This includes Camp NP-5, which is now Group Camp #8 and Camp SP-15, now Group Camp #5. The image above is of the interior of the NP-5 mess hall; below is the exterior of an SP-15 structure at Group Camp Site #5.

Main Street- Port Allegany, PA

A long line of horse teams marching down Main Street in Port Allegany during the winter of 1898 are bringing timber harvested from Campbell Hollow to the E. P. Dalrymple sawmill on Mill Street. Campbell Hollow is only about two miles outside of town, so transportation by sled was an acceptable alternative to building a logging railroad. Dalrymple did eventually build a logging railroad up Coleman Hollow, east of town.

Many of the buildings in the historic photo are still extant on Main Street today. However, the building on the corner of Main and Mill Streets has been transformed into the Serenity Glass Park. This artistic installation celebrates the town’s history of glass manufacturing. The Pittsburgh-Corning factory that made architectural glass blocks closed in 2016 after 79 years of operation, and the decorative blocks used in the park represent some of its final products.

Images printed on the glass blocks highlight the natural beauty and history of the region. Area attractions like the Kinzua Bridge, dark skies at Cherry Springs, and the PA Lumber Museum are featured on the blocks used in the exhibit.

CCC Camp S-135, Dyer Farm

Steve Laggle (the man on the right) and his unnamed fellow enrollee from CCC Camp S-135 at Dyer Farm helped to build this spring house around 1934. The modern photo at the springhouse features retired PA DCNR forester John Eastlake being interviewed by museum volunteer Lori Szymanik for a short video presentation (available on this website, under the ‘video’ tab).

The springhouse was located near to the physical location of Camp S-135, in the southeast corner of Potter County along what is today S.R. 44. The camp and the “lower” springhouse are downhill from the location of the recreational cabin colony which once included the cabin that is now an exhibit at the museum. The CCC built a smaller “upper” stone springhouse (pictured above) in the vicinity of the cabin colony.

The CCC camp and surrounding projects were built on the remnants of a working farm, property that was originally settled by William and Adell Dyer in 1880. 

Austin Dam

The image on the left was taken shortly after the Bayless Pulp and Paper Company’s impoundment dam on Freeman Run, north of the town of Austin, failed on September 11, 1911. The image on the right was taken by museum board member and nature photographer Curt Weinhold in 2016, using his drone.

The dam failure was attributed to the negligence of the paper company, putting profits ahead of public safety. Even in the aftermath of the Johnstown Flood (another severe dam failure that happened in 1889), the PA legislature failed to pass any new safety laws or regulations. It took the Austin Dam disaster for changes to be made. Seventy-eight people lost their lives, and the towns of Austin and Costello were severely damaged.

Today, the ruins of the dam are the centerpiece of the Austin Dam Memorial Park. The structure was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. The park plays host to a variety of special events throughout the year, including the Austin Dam Show in late August. The dam serves as a backdrop for animated projections that accompany live music.

PA Lumber Museum Visitor Center

The concept of a museum devoted to telling the story of Pennsylvania’s lumber industry was pioneered by the Penn-York Lumberman’s Club in the 1960’s. The PYLC, which organized the first Woodsmen’s Carnival in Galeton, PA, started as a professional forest products producers association working in northern Pennsylvania and southern New York. They advanced a proposal for the creation of a lumber museum to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, sparking broad interest and additional research on the part of the state’s official history agency. The Pennsylvania State Legislature was convinced of the merits of the project, and approved the construction of a museum in 1966. Groundbreaking began in March 1969, and the museum visitor center was dedicated on August 1, 1970. The lumber camp exhibit and other features were completed over the next two years, and a formal opening ceremony for the museum was held on August 4, 1972.     

The museum visitor center and core exhibit underwent a major renovation between 2012 and 2015. The renovation added nearly 7,000 square feet of new space, roughly doubling the size of the previous building. The new core exhibit, “Challenges and Choices in Pennsylvania’s Forests,” explores the growth of Pennsylvania’s lumber industry, the devastation and revival of the state’s forests, and the current public and private efforts to maintain a “working forest.” The artifact-rich exhibit includes a significant section on the Civilian Conservation Corps, highlighting its impact on the state parks and forests of Pennsylvania and the personal stories of men whose lives were changed by their enrollment in the program. “Challenge Silhouettes” represent multiple perspectives from the past and present, inviting visitors to consider their own role in the ongoing story of PA’s forests.