|A Quick Tour of the
City of Johnstown, Pennsylvania
As a city, Johnstown grew from a small village of under 5,000 people as a stop for the Conestoga wagons, on the banks of the Conemaugh River in the early 1800's to a city of 67,000 people at the 1940's census. With the 17 municipalities in contiguous municipalities the number was over 112,000. Since the decline of steel and coal production from its height in 1945, the City has lost more than half its population (census figures and projections). The major task of local government is to find ways to create jobs so that our children can remain. The City itself has retained a vitality that is absent in other western Pennsylvania Steel Cities. Our Downtown is quite beautiful. The scarcity of land in the flood plains help property retain a high value and agressive efforts by the City of Johnstown and the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority have removed blighted buildings and built a sustaining regional office and service center. The current challenge is to preserve a downtown retail district in the face of competition from two suburban malls. Many communities know these same problems, while we have not won the battle and may not the City is still doing quite well. The following information is about downtown Johnstown.
|Joseph Johns (changed from Tschantz) was Swiss German who bought the property at the confluence of the StonyCreek and Little Conemaugh Rivers and laid out a town there in 1800. The town was the Borough of Johnstown and occupied the the first four wards (Central Business District) until after the flood of 1889. The great flood created the need to work toghether, several boroughs joined together to form the City of Johnstown. Today, over 100 years later, those independent boroughs still maintain an independent identity within the framework of city government. This statute of Joseph Johns was erected in Central Park by residents of German descent in 1937.|
|Joseph Johns also dedicated four
quarter blocks at the intersection of Main and Market Streets.
The original plan calls for this land to be used for public markets.
That part of our history has passed by and one of the quarter blocks is occupied by City Hall shown here.
|Another of the quarter blocks is occupied by Morley's Dog which has become a mascot of sorts for the City. The statute was move from Palliser Street in the Borough of Southmont after World War II. No we are not entirely paranoid with the fence. A few players for a visiting AAABA baseball team from Baltimore vandalized the cast iron statute after a loss in the annual tournament. It was repaired, but a fence was put up to "discourage" future retribution from disappointed baseball players. The dirt in the foreground of the picture is flower beds that the Public Works department plants every year at locations around the city.|
a local beer,
is named after him.
For many years this watering trough and
fountain sat on one of the public quarter blocks on Market St. It was moved
to the small "mini-park" created in the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority's
Main St. Restoration/Parking Garage Project. The bronze plaque depicts
an indian bending down to a stream to get a drink of water. The reverse
side shows a plains buffalo.
|The Johnstown Incline Plane is both a major tourist attraction and
an important public transportation service. People living in Westmont Borough
at the top of the hill have short walk to work downtown via the incline
plane. It avoids a several mile drive on roads cut into the mountain. The
Incline Plane is the steepest vehicular Incline Plane in the world. The
Incline plane regularily carries cars up and down the hillside. There is
a restaurant, interpretation center with a large map of the area and an
observation deck on top. The pedestrian bridge over route 56 (4 lane) was
built in 1994 by the Cambria County Transit Authority to make it easier
for commuters to get into downtown via the Incline Plane.
The Incline Plane was condemned as unsafe for public use in the late 1970's. At that time it was owned by the Borough of Westmont. The Borough sold it to the Cambria County Transit Authority. It was later rebuilt from the ground up with a US Department of Transportation Grant.
|The Incline Plane was built by the Cambria Iron Company to provide transportation to a subdivision it was opening which later became Westmont Borough. The Incline Plane was under construction during the flood of 1889. There are numerous stories about people using the tracks to climb out of the path of the flood. The base of the incline plane looking into the First Ward is shown here. The blue marker shows the height of the flood water (approximately 14' above current street level and over 40 feet above the river).|
|The Penn Traffic Building housed Johnstown' major Department Store. It never reopened after the 1977 flood. Instead its owners converted it into to office space and it currently houses the Johnstown Federal Courthouse and other Federal agencies.|
|The City Public Safety Building (center of picture) is located at Market and Washing Streets. Streets in the downtown are generally one way and traffic including police and fire vehicles can quickly respond anywhere in the city. There are two additional fire stations located in the eastern and western ends of the city.|
| This picture is taken of
Market St. from the 5th floor of the Public Safety Building.
The Westmont Hillside is in the Background.
|The Johnstown Tribune Democrat , pictured here, has offices
on Locust Street facing Central Park.
The Tribune Democrat has been providing news to the people of Johnstown since 1853.
It is a daily morning paper.
| The Working Man statute was erected
by the Tribune Democrat in front of its offices.
It is a very lifelike man in bronze reading a newspaper. The statute is so lifelike that you have the feeling he is just taking a quick break and will shortly walk away.
|Central Park was laid out by Joseph Johns as a gift to the people buying lots from his subdivision. It occupies a one city block in the center of the Central Business District. The park has a fountain, gazebo for summer concerts and speeches and benches for people to sit on and not feed the pigeons. Feeding pigeons (or skateboarding or roller skating) in Johnstown is a serious offense.|
Johnstown Information Page