Lou’s View – Nov. 10, 2016

The 1857 Map

by Lou Bernard

As I sit here at my desk, trying to simultaneously look busy and think of an idea for a column, I face the west wall of the library. I’m in the old section of the building, sitting in the corner that used to be Annie Halenbake Ross’s favorite—She could often be seen sitting in her rocking chair right where I sit now, reading her books. The windows are behind me, which is for the best, because if I could see through them without turning, I’d rarely get anything done. And across from me are the newspaper archives, the stairs, and this old map hanging on the wall.

This map is worth mentioning. It was made in 1857, and it shows Lock Haven from over a century and a half ago.

The map is framed and carefully hung—You don’t just slap an elderly document on the wall with masking tape. We are very careful with it, because it’s unique. This is the only known copy of this map, and it’s the oldest known map of Lock Haven if you don’t count the one Jerry Church sketched before he founded the city. That one shows the dozen or so square blocks in the beginning of Lock Haven, down toward the east end. The 1857 map shows Lock Haven’s growth in the next couple of decades, many of the buildings, and which parts weren’t settled yet.

In 1857, the east end of the city was pretty well inhabited. Homes and businesses hadn’t spread too far west yet, and west of First Street was pretty sparsely populated. You can see all this on the map, because each building is represented by a little black rectangle. The courthouse was still on Church Street at the time, where Jerry Church had originally planned it—The current courthouse wasn’t built until a decade later.

There have been some changes. Bellefonte Avenue was once Clinton Avenue, and this is shown on the map. North Jones Street was apparently once known as Front Street. South Fairview Street, where I live, is shown as “Broadway,” which is kind of fascinating. I have never heard it referred to that way, though I can’t wait to tell people I live on Broadway. (Which explains all the damn Cats in my backyard. Rim shot.)

Great Island Cemetery is shown on the map, along the south side of Bellefonte—Sorry, Clinton Avenue, in the Hill Section. The cemetery was moved in 1918, or at least the top part of it was—They left behind a lot of bones, coffins, and other interesting things.

Some of these streets just flat-out don’t exist anymore, such as Fern Street, Clawater Street, and Wood Street, all creatures unfamiliar to me. They were renamed, built over, or ignored, though I have to assume that if I haven’t heard of them, they can’t have existed for long. (A friend of mine once commented that only pizza delivery guys, EMTs, and me know the names of Lock Haven’s alleys.)

Believe it or not, there was actually a park between East and West Park Streets. These days, there are buildings where you can buy cigars and beer, which is also cool. But the map shows a small park in there, between the two aptly-named Park Streets. (I’ll admit it never occurred to me to question the names of those streets until I saw them on the map, and I’m the guy who once got an entire column out of a small hole in the ground and what had once stood there.)

There are even a few features on the map that never existed. They’re labeled as “proposed,” and some were actually built, and some weren’t. There’s a railroad line running south that wasn’t actually there when the map was made, the proposed Lock Haven and Tyrone Railroad. There’s also a proposed canal line in the southwest area of town, some of which was later actually dug, and some that wasn’t.

It’s actually cool to look at, this ancient map that shows my city in 1857. The changes, the things that have stayed the same. And staring at it helped me hammer out a column in about half an hour, so I have that out of the way now, too. What to write about next?