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The Archbald Pothole

Patrick Mahon, a coal miner, discovered the Archbald Pothole in 1884 when he was extending a mine shaft. He placed an explosive charge and when it was detonated water and stone poured into the mine shaft. He and the miners he was with escaped the mine fearing a collapse. Later Edward Jones, the manager of the mining company, came to investigate what had happened. Jones directed the men clear the debris, almost 1,000 tons of small rounded stones. Once the debris was cleared it was realized there was a vertical tunnel which was responsible for the falling water and stone. The shaft was actually a large pothole, a natural rock formation that is formed where water forms a circular current. Water spins quickly and causes sand and small stones to circulate, eventually causing a circular hole in the bedrock below. The Archbald Pothole, as it was named, is 38 feet deep and 42 feet wide at its maximum length. The pothole cuts through layers of sandstone, shale, and coal.

The Archbald Pothole was formed during the Wisconsin Glacial Period, when water from the melting glacier probably poured through a crevasse to the bedrock. The falling water created enough force to form the pothole, which was discovered almost 13,000 years after it was created.

The pothole served as a ventilation shaft for mining operations and was fenced in by Colonel Hackley, the owner of the land, so he could allow visitors to look at it without the risk of falling in. Edward Jones also led public tours to the site.

A small trail follows the path the coal mine tram would have taken when the mine operated.

The Archbald Pothole was turned over to the public in 1914 when the widow of Colonel Hackley donated 1 acre of land that surrounded the pothole to the Lackawanna County Historical Society. Then in 1940, Lackawanna County gained ownership of the pothole as well as 150 acres of the surrounding land. It remained a county park until 1961 when the land was transferred to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

In the 1990s a $170,000 renovation project was initiated to repair the aging facilities of the park. It reopened in 1997 but despite the improvements trash and attendance remained an issue. In 2002 the State Legislature approved more renovations to the park to include soccer fields, a basketball court, tennis court, walking trail, playground, roads and parking lots.

Hunting in the area is permitted in certain designated places however the killing of groundhog is not permitted and hunters must follow State Game Commission Rules and Regulations.

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The Early Bird…
March 23, 2009, 3:31 pm
Filed under: Itineraries, PAontheGo, Pennsylvania, Tourism, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Where are you vacationing this summer? How about those smaller weekend and day trips for the warmer months of the year? You don’t know yet?

While the weather is still cold, and the trees aren’t even starting to bloom yet, now is the time to start thinking about where your travels will take you this summer. With money tight for most expenses, it is even more important to plan ahead to get the most for your leisure dollar – whether it’s a weekend getaway or a week long trip.

No idea where to start? PAontheGo.com has hundreds of listings of things to do, places to see, and even select locations to stay and eat. Browse around today, you may be surprised with the number of options in your own backyard, or just a short drive away.

You can also check out our eBay listings, which feature pre-planned itineraries and travel guides on destinations in Eastern Pennsylvania. These inexpensive guides list all of the top attractions, suggested touring schedules, dining recommendations, and insider tips to make the most of your trip.

PAontheGo.com is a free resource for all things travel and tourism across Eastern Pennsylvania. Visit us at http://www.PAontheGo.com today for more information.



When is a City Not a City?

All throughout Eastern Pennsylvania, there are literally thousands of small neighborhoods, villages, hamlets, and municipalities that dot the landscape. Some are marked, some are not… and only the municipalities – the townships, boroughs, and cities – are actually legal designations.

To add to the confusion, names of those municipalities can sometimes be misleading. As an example, Dickson City in Lackawanna County isn’t actually a city. It’s a borough.

Dickson City spans about 4.7 square miles, and is located a few miles north of Scranton. Like many of the small towns in area, Dickson City was a coal town, built on the success of the local anthracite coal mines. With the mining industry long gone, commercial shopping centers, such as the Viewmont Mall, now share the space within the borough with the older Main Street businesses and homes.

Originally known as the village of Dickson, the area was part of Blakely Township. In 1875, the village became its own separate municipality, and the name chosen by the local petitioners was ‘the Borough of Dickson City’.

So, Dickson City isn’t actually a city, but for the people who live, work and visit here, the semantics of it all doesn’t quite matter as much as other issues. But it’s an interesting quirk nonetheless.

 

PAontheGo.com is a free resource for all things travel and tourism across Eastern Pennsylvania. Visit us at http://www.PAontheGo.com today for more information.



Luzerne County Courthouse

The Luzerne County Courthouse was originally built on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre in 1786. It was a simple structure made of logs. As the county outgrew the space available it was replaced in 1801 with a Georgian-style building, a common style in Philadelphia at the time. 55 years later another courthouse was needed, and an architect from New York named Joseph C. Wells designed it. The new building was constructed in a style called Rundbogenstil, a round arch style, an attempt was made to fireproof the new building but it was not successful.

In 1892 the Wilkes-Barre Record published an editorial on April 12th recommending a new courthouse be built and the structure be made fireproof. It said “the current structure is note large enough” and “is not much better than a tinder box, liable to be destroyed any moment”.

The proposal sounded very simple and acting on the grand jury’s recommendation, the County Commissioners set out to choose an architect. In August of 1894, Elijah E. Myers of Detroit, a well-known architect of government buildings in Michigan, Texas and Colorado, drew up plans for the new courthouse. Myers’ design featured a slender dome with four square glass towers. A site on South Main Street was selected for the building. Law suits we filed and hearings were held as to the location of the site. The site was overruled and controversy continued over the Public Square location. There is no definitive reason as to the reason Myers’ plan was not used but on July 12, 1895 Luzerne County was sued by Myers for $10,000. The suit was finally settled out of court 29 years later.

The Wilkes-Barre Record wanted the courthouse built right and it did not agree with the method the Commissioners had been using. It said the Commissioners had no right to employ a contractor until a suitable site was approved. It also said they had no right to promise the architect $10,000 and $10,000 more plus 5% of the cost of the building before they knew what the cost would be.

In 1899 a contest was held for architects with March 15 being the last day to submit plans. The specifications were given in the Wilkes-Barre Record as follows:

“The building shall be a four or five story, steel frame, fireproof structure, providing offices for all the County officials and providing one large and five smaller court rooms and also jury rooms, judges’ offices, law library, waiting rooms, lavatories, hygienic closets, ventilation, lighting and heating.

The building shall be fireproof throughout, walls, floors, partitions, girders, roof, etc. Doors and window frames may be made of wood. The exterior shall be made of the most durable character. Cornices, finials, etc. where of metal shall be of copper. Galvanized iron will not be allowed.

The cost of the building is limited to $450,000, including all steam and gas fitting and plumbing and electrical wiring, mail chute, but not including power plant, heating plant and elevators or gas and electric fixtures.

Any set of drawings for a building which shall exceed in the probable cost the limits named by more than 10 percent, may also be excluded from the competition.”

25 architects submitted their plans though there was much secrecy to the process. F. J. Osterling of Pittsburgh, a little known architect, was awarded the contract by the Luzerne County Commissioners. However the plan he submitted was drawn for the Public Square location. Controversy still abounded over the location of the structure. Some residents wanted the Square to remain an open space, most did not want to spend money on a site and some wanted to use the River Common for the new courthouse. On October 19, 1901, the court gave Commissioners permission to build the courthouse on the River Common property. The original plans submitted by Osterling had to be revised to the River Common location.

The building contract was awarded to Joseph Handler on July 24, 1902 for an amount of $597,000. This cost did not cover the dome or interior finishing. Just two days later Handler turned down the contract because stone he bid on was no longer available to him at what he considered a reasonable price. Wilson Smith was then awarded the contract for an amount of $682,000 but a preliminary injunction was granted, blocking Smith from building the courthouse because “the amount of money needed cannot be legally raised”. The inunction was later dismissed and Wilson was given approval to continue the project on March 9, 1903.

As the project got under way, Osterling complained that Smiths charges were excessive and the County Controller became concerned to the point he held payments until an investigation could be completed. Work was halted on the building and Osterling attempted to fire Smith but after investigations into the matter a grand jury dismissed Osterling on June 10, 1905. McCormick and French, a firm from Wilkes-Barre, were appointed to take over as architect of the project on January 17, 1906 over Albert H. Kipp who was the runner up in the competition of 1899. Although there is no record Kipp was contacted, he died in 1906 due to a heart condition which is probably the reason the county decided against appointing him. Wilson Smith resigned from the project, giving it over to the Carlucci brothers of Scranton.

Once complete the building was magnificent. Its foundation is made of concrete, the exterior Ohio sandstone and the roof coverings are made of terra cotta. The rotunda is finished with marble with the piers supporting the dome and wall of the first story are of Botticino stone. The cornices, columns and balustrades are finished with white Italian marble, the bases being of Alps green. The floors throughout the building are of Tennessee marble, with those in the gallery and rotunda being laid in patterns.

There are five court rooms in the building, most of them being on the third floor. The Orphan’s Court Room, is on the second floor and is finished in white Italian marble panels with a mural over the Judges’ bench titled “The Symbols of Life”. The other four rooms are finished in fine wood, two in mahogany and two in walnut. Each of the four rooms has a large mural as well, the names being “Justice”, “Prosperity Under the Law”, “The Judicial Virtues”, and “The Awakening of a Commonwealth”.

A plan to furnish the building was made with specifications for all of the furniture, rugs and window treatments.

Today the county still uses the building for court cases and to run its day to day operations.

PAontheGo.com is a free resource for all things travel and tourism across Eastern Pennsylvania. Visit us at http://www.PAontheGo.com today for more information.



Stegmaier Brewing Co.

Charles Stegmaier was born on October 7, 1821 in Wurtenberg, Germany where he would later learn the art of brewing beer. He worked in several local breweries in Wurtenberg until the age of 27 when he set sail for America. He quickly found a job working in the small Corporation Brewery in Philadelphia. Soon after he worked with the Louis Berdoll brewery where he met John Reichard of the Reichard & Weaver brewery in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 1851. Charles and John formed a partnership and produced the first lager beer in that section of the state. This partnership did not last however. That same year, Charles married Catharine Baer who was the daughter of George C. Baer. A few years later Charles would accept a position at the George Laurer brewery in Pottsville.

In 1857, Charles Stegmaier moved back to Wilkes-Barre. Once there he formed a partnership with his father-in-law George Baer and built a small brewery on South Canal Street where he brewed beer in a wooden kettle and stored it in an abandoned coal mine under the building. In order to expand their operation they built a new brewery, complete with underground vaults, on East Market Street. The new brewery opened in 1863 but would close just 10 years later.

Charles needed to find work to support his family so he operated a hotel for two years until he was able to purchase the Joel Bowkley brewery on North River Street. He formed a new partnership with his son Christian and they were finally able to raise the funds necessary to buy back the Baer and Stegmaier brewery in 1880. The business continued to grow and they expanded further by building a new brew house and storage facility in 1894. This increased their yearly output to 300,000 barrels.

The business was doing very well by this point and in 1897 Charles and Christian would incorporate as the Stegmaier Brewing Co. Charles stepped down from being the company’s manager in 1902 letting Christian take the helm along with his other sons Fred and George. Within the community the Stegmaier family was well known for their charity, as they contributed a lot to the development of Wilkes-Barre.

In 1910 and 1913, Stegmaier Brewing Co. won eight gold medals in Paris, Brussels and Rome. After the end of prohibition it was one of the largest independent breweries in all of North America. At it’s peak, Stegmaier was producing half a million barrels a year and used the rail lines of Wilkes-Barre along with a fleet of 60 trucks to distribute its beer. Stegmaier beer could be purchased all along the East Coast of the U.S.

The Stegmaier Brewing Co. saw many years of success before they closed their doors in October of 1974 when a sudden announcement of the sale of the company to another local brewery, Lion, Inc., was made by Edward R. Maier. Edward was the great grandson of Charles Stegmaier. The announcement was a surprise to the workers at Stegmaier Brewing Co. The company had always been a family owned business and was well respected by it’s employees. Many of the employee’s parents and grandparents had worked in the brewery. After the sale to Lion, Inc., which was Stegmaier’s closest competitor, about 50 employees were hired, including Edward Maier who stayed on as Executive Vice President. The remaining 150 lost their jobs.

Since 1974 the old Stegmaier Brewing Co. building sat vacant. During the 1990s, Wilkes-Barre city council voted to have the building torn down but it was later saved by a federal project to take over the building. On February 17, 1998 the Stegmaier Federal Building opened as an office building for the U.S. Post Office and other federal programs. The building was restored and preserved as one of Wilkes-Barre’s most significant historic landmarks.

PAontheGo.com is a free resource for all things travel and tourism across Eastern Pennsylvania. Visit us at http://www.PAontheGo.com today for more information.



A Romantic Notion

As Valentine’s Day approaches next weekend (on February 14th, in case you forgot), instead of the usual flowers, chocolate and greeting card, why not try something a little more out of the box?

Make reservations at a local restaurant, and enjoy a romantic meal together. If you can’t get a reservation for the dinner hour, try a late reservation, and share a special dessert instead.

Maybe a last minute trip to a bed and breakfast is more appealing. If you can’t get a reservation for Saturday evening, try Friday night instead. Even if the bed and breakfast is only a few minutes away, the quick romantic retreat can go a long way to ridding yourself of the winter blues (and making the romantic gesture).

And if you aren’t one for the sappy, traditional Valentine ideas, then get out and spend the day doing something you love. Visit a museum or historic site; go shopping for something new, or antiquing for something old; catch a movie at a local theater…. whatever you choose, it’s about spending time with that special someone.

If you need some ideas on what to do or where to go, be sure to check the hundreds of listings on PAontheGo.com!

PAontheGo.com is a free resource for all things travel and tourism across Eastern Pennsylvania. Visit us at http://www.PAontheGo.com today for more information.



Going Downhill Fast (And Loving It!)

A cold snap has settled in across Eastern Pennsylvania. For some, that means bundling up, starting a fire in the fireplace, and hunkering down until warmer weather comes back to the area. But braving the cold has its rewards, especially on the slopes of the many ski resorts across the region.

Just because the weather is cold, doesn’t mean there aren’t outdoor recreational opportunities abound. Why not try your hand at skiing, snowboarding, or even snowtubing for a day?

Outside Hazleton, in Luzerne County, you can enjoy the white stuff on the slopes of Eagle Rock Resort. Ski, snowboard, snowtube or even skate around on their ice rink!

If you’re looking for a fun family outing, try snowtubing at AvalancheXpress in York, which features a number of snow lanes from mild to ‘Xtreme’.

And of course, head to the Pocono Region for some great skiing at a number of different resorts. Camelback Mountain Resort, near Tannersville, is one of them, with over 30 trails, 15 lifts, a terrain park, and more.

Don’t wait too long to enjoy the slopes in the area, because eventually the weather will warm up, and the snow will melt away until next winter.

Visit PAontheGo.com today for information on the above locations, and a whole lot more fun winter activities!

PAontheGo.com is a free resource for all things travel and tourism across Eastern Pennsylvania. Visit us at http://www.PAontheGo.com today for more information.