Monday, March 7, 2011

Department Store Building of ...PottsVILLE (not town)

Busy times at work and in life... but here's another old department store building, the flat-faced brick one in the center. This one, in Pottsville, Pa., has been reused as a hotel -- as a number have across the nation (for example, the old Maison Blanche Co. store in New Orleans). A Ramada (previously a Treadway, a Travelodge, and a Quality) occupies this property at 100 S. Centre St., the site of a longtime branch of Dives, Pomeroy & Stewart.

Pomeroy's located here around 1900 after the closure of the firm of H. Royer and Son at the same address. The building that's here appears more modern. From the conventions of city directories -- where a change in address from "100-04" to "100-06" means some sort of expansion or rebuilding -- I'd assume this took place in the early 1920s. But I have nothing that actually says that, and the brickfacing on the building seems even more modern than that. Anyone know?

With both the main stores of Pomeroy's, in Harrisburg and Reading, now destroyed, there remain this store, the one on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre, and the former Laubach's store in Easton from the era when Pomeroy's, as the eastern Pennsylvania outpost of Allied Stores, was a name known from the Delaware River to the Susquehanna.

Beer aficionados make pilgrimages to Pottsville to visit Yuengling's. Some fans of nearly forgotten authors may still trek there to remember John O'Hara. Both sites are along Mahantongo Street, which in addition to being nearly unpronounceable offers a short history of Pennsylvania architecture in two miles. Beginning with an old hotel and passing a former coal company office building, a walk up Mahantongo passes typical Pennsylvania two- or three-bay attached houses with single dormers, Philadelphia-style rowhouses with flat roofs, at least one freestanding manor of the late 18th or early 19th centuries, Victorian turrets, bay-window duplexes that wouldn't be out of place in Boston, mansions of the Robber Baron era, 1920s Colonial Revivals, 1950s ranchers, 1960s two-story tract houses, even a 1950s garden apartment complex. before finally coming to an end a half-block beyond that staple of mid-20th-century development, a rounded-end cul-de-sac. Someone who knows far more about architecture than myself could do worse that doing a book on Mahantongo Street, which O'Hara renamed for his fiction as Lantenengo Street, and how it shows in one short walk the progress of residential architecture in the United States, from house styles that would have been familiar to the Founding Fathers to those baby boomers grew up with.

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