Throwback Thursday: The Oldest Known Photo of Houtzdale

(Provided photo)

This week, the people of Houtzdale and the surrounding communities, will mark another Houtzdale Days celebration.  It is a nice three-day community event that brings together generations of natives and newcomers alike.

Houtzdale was a hurriedly surveyed and built town that stood on lands that Dr. Daniel Houtz of Alexandria owned since 1853.

He commissioned L.G. Lingle of Osceola Mills to survey the town in 1869, so that a vital railway line could be extended from Osceola Mills in order to open the rich veins of Moshannon coal for mining.

Lingle laid the town out on a grid between two hills.  The design was simple and did not include a public square or park, as did Osceola Mills.

The object was to get the place surveyed, build a connecting railway line, open the mines and let the place fill up with mostly mining families.

Houtzdale and adjacent Sterling, in Woodward Township, were beginning to thrive by the early 1870’s.

The photo shows Hannah (Main) street in 1874 and indeed portrays a crude looking village.  Tree branches don’t seem to be yet cleared and the street is little more than a mud path.

A family dwelling is shown with a wooden sidewalk, as are many other buildings all crowded together.  Some of the buildings were called hotels but were, in actuality, boarding houses for miners.

The photo seems to be taken from an upstairs window of another building near where the old St. Cloud Hotel stood. The house shown is likely where the Wreck Center (once Lloyd’s Hardware) stands today.

The contour of the hill, east of the town, leading to what was once known as the Franklin Side mines, is the natural and surviving clue to reconnoitering the positioning of the town in the photo.

Houtzdale, 145 years ago, looked like a tough place to live.  The people living there had to be just as tough.

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