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Does your town have any unique features?

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When I travel, I always find myself checking out the local architecture. I doubt that I’m the only one that does it. I’m often fascinated by things I’ve never seen before – things unique to that certain area.

I live about two miles outside of Nazareth, PA. In addition to being the home of Mario and Michael Andretti, the Martin Guitar Company, and being the town that Robbie Robertson pulled into in the song The Weight, Nazareth has something else that gives it a unique identity.

Someone posted a gee, can you believe this? picture on an inspection board a few years ago (maybe it was this board). The picture was of a downspout that extended horizontally over the public sidewalk, was attached to a tree and discharged in midair into the street. As I recall, several people poked fun at what appeared to be a homeowner’s unique way to route roof runoff away from his house. I didn’t think that it was odd at all, because that arrangement is common here in Nazareth.

I don’t recall seeing it done anywhere else, even in neighboring towns just a few miles away. It got me wondering if it’s common anywhere else, or if it is in fact unique to my little town. While killing time when my granddaughter was in Sunday school a few weeks ago, I walked around town with a camera and snapped some examples.

People are creative. Some are nailed to trees, some are secured to street signs and some have their very own post. Some go down to the curb and discharge into the street, some discharge high in the air but have a downward facing elbow and some just discharge straight out toward the street. The last arrangement makes me wonder how many convertibles have been flooded out over the years during sudden summer thunderstorms.

There’s also another very common thing in Nazareth that I haven’t found anywhere else. It’s very smooth, bluish white sidewalks. They’re rapidly aging and disappearing, but the best surviving ones have the look of polished marble. When I used to visit this town as a small boy, the ‘marble’ sidewalks always caught my eye and fascinated me (yes, I had unusual interests as a boy). The remaining ones appear to be at least 30 or 40 years old.

I wonder if the details of the finishing work have died out with the tradesmen that did it. I wonder why it fell out of favor and I’d love to know how it was done. I’ll have to find some old timers in town and about it. Maybe they’ll look at me like I’m crazy.

I put together a little album of some downspouts and sidewalks. I also included some other random shots that I took during my walk around town. The slide show option loads fairly quickly if you’re not on dial-up.

The last 10 pictures weren’t taken this month, but on August 29, 2004. It was a sad day. It was the final race held at Nazareth Speedway, another one of Nazareth’s unique features. The track is less than a mile from center square. After more than 80 years, there is no longer auto racing in Nazareth. Gotta make room for another shopping center.

So anyway, for anyone that waded down this far, what if any unique features does your town have? And does anyone know the secret of the marble sidewalks? Gee, that sounds like a Hardy Boys book!


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  • 3 weeks later...

Hey Joe,

I saw in my schedule that I'm in Nazareth later this week. I've been all over rural Northampton County, but never actually been in that borough. I'll definitely check out the trellis like downspouts and blue walks.

On the subject of unique features, the following isn't exactly my usual exploration of an area's historic architecture, but it was unique.

I was asked to go out to Columbia County to look at a grist mill that a community group wants to stop the township from demolishing. On the way there, I saw something quite strange, until I figured out where I was.

The small highway I was driving on was blocked off with piles of dirt and new pavement to the right created a 2 lane bypass around the closed section. After the bypass, I was heading down into a valley and saw a grid of streets like you would see in an old town. There were utility poles with wires, stone retaining walls above sidewalks, stone steps up to walks that just ended, but no buildings, except three attached row homes with massive brick pilasters on the sides of the two end units. I turned into one of the streets and immediately noticed, on a hill above this "town" smoke coming out of the ground at the cemetery! I drove up the hill and saw perpetual smoke coming out of the ground throughout the other side of the hill. I spent about an hour exploring among all the standing dead trees.

Once I saw the mountainous piles of coal about a half mile away, I remembered all the news stories. This must be Centralia! This place has had a burning coal vein under it since 1962 that's expected to burn another hundred years. Most people didn't leave their homes until 1991 when streets and buildings were sinking and CO levels in homes become intolerable. The town's population went from 1000 to 20.

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  • 1 month later...


I'm kind of late with this, sorry, but how did you like Nazareth? Did you get down to center square? Nazareth is the nicest little Mayberry-type town I've ever seen. In fact, it's a lot more like the TV Mayberry than the real Mayberry (Mount Airy, NC) is.

Let me know if you ever get back this way and have some spare time. I can show you some cool things, like several houses constructed of slate. I don't mean slate sliding, I mean walls constructed of slate.

Yeah, Centralia is really cool. I used to go through it once or twice a year, on the way to Knoebel's Amusement Park in Elysburg. I haven't seen it since they re-routed the state road (54?) around it. It was awesome seeing the open crevices with smoke and steam coming up out of them. I imagine the effect in the winter would have ben even better.

I've often wanted to talk to some of the few government buyout holdouts. I can't imagine any possible reason they would turn down an offer to get out with compensation.

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Hey Joe,

After being postponed twice, I finally did get up there. Unfortunately, I didn't have any extra time. This moderately sized Queen Ann was close to the south end of Main. I only had time to shoot in and out from the south that day. Only saw one overhead downspout.

I'm sure I'll be back soon to explore.

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Not much here except an interesting series of old dams. (Called 'priveleges'). Used to stop up the Neponset River and some other small feeder streams in order to mill lumber. (Cedar mostly). I'm looking out the window at one now. (A street runs across it). They are all from 'way the heck back'. (Town was settled in 1646 I believe, incorporated 1724). The colonists came out this way for cedar for construction and ships. Also some oak, pine, etc,etc. Lime kiln remnant in one part of town from that day. There are a couple of steep drop dams here. One of them has the remnants of a former power-station (circa 1930?). That one fed the power for Bird and Son (the company that makes shingles now owned by Certainteed). The other 'feature' is a series of high concrete walls, barbed wire and gun towers---'The State Pen". This town is 18 mi SW of Boston (Boston-Providence) and has been a highway route since the early days. You can view copies of hand-written town records going way, way back. My favorite is the comment of the guys who worked 'the day of "the Alarm" (April 19,1775). This town (like many around Boston) sent a group of farmers and kids by foot to Concord-Lexington fiesta. Brits were mostly back towards Cambridge by the time they got there. Some were in the army for 1-2 days, others never came back. "The day of the alarm" is how this is mentioned at that time. Not 'the beginning of the Revolution".

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