Well, it’s the beginning of November, and the start of a new month of excuses on my part. So, let me get it over with…..
I’m sorry my friends,
I don’t know what to do.
I try so hard to be
a better blogger for you.
I screw up a lot
and I’m slow to write to.
I don’t know why,
I haven’t a clue.
But despite all my flaws
You hang in with me,
‘Cause we’re all Duquesne friends,
And friendship’s the key!
Actually, I need to bring you up to speed on what’s going on in my life right now. I may have made you aware of the fact that in spite of the fact that I continue to sell real estate (or not sell as the case may be), I have been attempting to find a job that is reliable and one where a person can rely on a consistent income. Well, I am here to tell you that there is HOPE for all of us “old farts!”
I received the best birthday ever last week by being hired for a position at 63 years of age!!! I landed a position as the Administrator of the Berlin, Maryland Chamber of Commerce! I am super thrilled, not only by working in the town of Berlin, but by the fact that the Board of Directors had the insight to realize that solid years of experience has merit. After looking for ANY position for over three years, I assure you that their insight is a rarity.
Aside from the thrill of being hired as Administrator, I am even more delighted to be part of the town of Berlin. The town recently achieved recognition in the travel industry as the winner of 2014’s “American’s Coolest Small Town,” and needless to say, there is a vibrant business community. However, beyond all of this, the most extraordinary aspect of working in Berlin is the feeling and connection I get to the Duquesne we all knew and loved. The shops, the storefront windows, the quaint little eating establishments and the unbelievable friendliness of the people resonate with the familiarity that we all felt in our Duquesne. Here’s a little history of Berlin, it doesn’t have the industrial heritage that we were all familiar with, but is still a wonderful small town:
As you step into Berlin, full of rich history and character, you can’t help but catch a glimpse of Berlins extensive past, a past that has shaped this town into what it is today. Berlin was first known as Stevenson’s crossroad, named after the local landowners, the Stevensons. Berlin was later patented in 1677 as a tract of land named Burley which was situated at the crossroads of Philadelphia Post Road and Sinepuxent Road (a road going towards the ocean) which is the current day intersection of South Main Street and Bay Street. As a frequently traveled crossroad, Burley soon established the Burley Inn. Burley Inn was later renamed Berlin.
Through the late 17th century and early 18th century the area was mainly farm land owned by plantation owners as well as smaller farm owners. The area was mostly reliant on indentured servants and slaves. Tobacco was one of the popular crops grown in the area at the time. Around this time, the well-known war hero from the Barbary War, Stephen Decatur, was born in Berlin. A memorial can be seen at the Stephen Decatur Park and a plaque marks the spot of his house, which was located across the street from Stephen Decatur Park.
In the early 19th century, Berlin became the location of a rail junction between the North-South line, Worcester Railroad and the East-West line, the Wicomico and Pocomoke Railroad. This caused Berlin to flourish and grow. In 1868, Berlin got its first mayor, Dr. John Pitts. During the Civil War not much happened in Berlin. Many of the young white men went to fight for the South and many of the young, free black men went to fight for the North.
In 1895, 1901, and 1904 the town experienced three devastating fires that destroyed the downtown. After these fires, the town passed an ordinance that said all new structures downtown must be built out of brick to prevent any further fires. This is the reason for Berlin’s distinct brick architecture. By 1905, Berlin began to flourish again as it became the hub of Worcester County.
When the modern era arrived, however, Berlin became one of the many small towns in America that began to dry up with the boom of the automobile and creation of highways. Trains were no longer needed and because of that Berlin was no longer a prosperous train hub. Berlin went through a slow time until the 1980’s when the town members got together and decided to revive their town. They realized the potential Berlin had and began to restore it. One notable feature of this restoration was the creation of the Calvin B. Taylor House museum which is still open today. The Calvin B. Taylor House museum houses many historical artifacts and pictures of Berlin as well as from the house itself.
With this restoration came Hollywood. Berlin was the perfect small town setting for two full length movies; Runaway Bride and Tuck Everlasting. Ever Since Berlin’s revival in the 80’s, Berlin has grown even more. In the past few years Berlin has welcomed new restaurants, shops, and businesses turning Berlin into a popular tourist destination. Berlin has truly shown its growth and prosperity by being named America’s Coolest Small Town. This is only the beginning for Berlin, make our past your future!
I hope you’ll pardon all the gushing that I have done, but it is always nice to experience a similar feeling from our youth. The geography may change, but those joys remain. I walked along Main Street (our North 1st Street in Duquesne), the weather was blustery, the sun was shining, but the temperature was in the low 40’s. I recalled the excitement of how invigorating it was to visit the stores on 1st Street at holiday time, and immediately had those same feelings of warmth and home. If you would like to check out a bit more about the Town of Berlin, click the following link: berlinchamber.org .
I have received several emails recently from our friends who follow this blog. I think you’ll enjoy reading them, I certainly have. My thanks and apologies to the email authors for the time lag in posting these. I promise to be more punctual in the future when I receive an email, but you know how that goes! LOL! Enjoy these voices from Duquesne….
From – RICH SCHUR
Hi James, my name is Rich. Today my wife & I were eating at Di’s Kornerstone eatery. Two tables over were 2 women & a man who I told my wife that I recognized, but did not know his name or where I knew him from. I finally asked the man where I knew from. He used to own Huckster’s on Crawford. I think his first name is Nick, but I did not get his last name. Can you help me? Also my dad is from Duquesne. First on Camp Ave…then on Savey St. I was born in West Mifflin & lived here all 64 years. My dad worked in the Duquesne mill until it closed. I have nice memories of Duquesne…especially riding the Duquesne Motor Coach bus from Pennsylvania Ave to the library twice a week to swim. My name is Rich Schur & I enjoy reading your Duquesne Hunky. Thanks!
From – J.RIMSKY
Have been reading your blog for at least 3 years now. Your journalistic skills have validated my youthful memories as a Duquesne Hunky.
When I read your recent blog of Fr Dennis and saw the current look of the church’s inside (the altar, the choir loft), it reminded me that I haven’t seen the inside of the church in almost 50 years. Attached is a photograph taken of the boy’s choir approximately in 1957, posed in front of the altar, as it looked back then.
From – LOU ANDRIKO
from the McK. Daily News –
“Preservation society sets sights on former landmark McKeesport hotel”
By Patrick Cloonan
Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, 4:01 a.m.
McKeesport Preservation Society said it has taken steps to start a $5 million capital campaign to renovate the Penn-McKee Hotel.
“That’s what it takes to restore a 99-room hotel, to turn it back into a hotel,“ said Maryann Huk, director of the society that claims title to the long-closed hotel along Fifth Avenue near the Palisades and Marina at McKees Point.
On its mckeesportpreservation.org website there is a link to “Fundrise Handbuilt City,” the organization that will handle what organizers call a “crowdfunding” project. “Crowdfunding” is a practice of seeking contributions from a large number of people, usually over the Internet.
In a news release issued last week, the society said it will work with Chicago-based real estate developer Nathaniel Zorach on a plan “to stabilize and renovate the historic hotel.”
Zorach was connected to the society through a concept known as Fundrise, based in Washington.
“Fundrise is the number one website for funding for real estate development,” said Alan Diede, a volunteer working with the society. “The main thing is that it creates a pathway to generate the interest and the ability to get serious, interested parties working toward developing the property.”
Diede prepared the society’s news release.
In it the society said Zorach’s company, The Handbuilt City, is among a handful on the Fundrise platform specifically focused on urban revitalization.
“Crowdfunding is the investor’s equivalent of a Kickstarter or Indiegogo,” Huk said, referring to two other community-oriented websites.
Indiegogo claims it is “distributing millions of dollars every week to campaigners around the world,” while Kickstarter describes itself as “a vibrant community of people working together to bring new things to life.”
Huk said Kickstarter aided Kevin Sousa in Braddock. There he’s seeking to turn Superior Motors, a former car dealership, into a farm-to-table, community-influenced restaurant he hopes to open in February.
Braddock Mayor John Fetterman owns the building and is providing it free of charge. More than 2,000 people donated to his Kickstarter campaign while Sousa raised more than $300,000, including $40,000 from the Heinz Endowments slated for job training.
“We were searching for potential real estate developers who might be interested in working with us,” Diede said.
Huk said Zorach toured the long-closed hotel on July 28.
The Penn-McKee was a landmark in the days when McKeesport was among the largest cities in Pennsylvania. As former Daily News librarian Gerry Jurann wrote in a 2005 “Bygone Days” column, “if it happened in McKeesport” from 1926 until 1968, “it probably was at the Penn-McKee.”
On April 21, 1947, two future presidents, U.S. Reps. John Kennedy, D-Mass., and Richard Nixon, R-Calif., squared off there over proposed changes in federal labor law in an annual gathering of the Junto, a group of city businessmen interested in politics and economics. A state historical marker outside the hotel recalls that debate.
In recent years the building was owned by SeeBee Inc., which bought it in 1985 for $25,500, according to the Allegheny County real estate website.
Redevelopment Authority of the City of McKeesport is listed by the county as having taken the building on Jan. 4, 2011.
Huk referred questions about that ownership history to her attorney William Bresnahan, who could not be reached for comment.
On its website, the society describes itself as “a nonprofit 501 (C) 3 organization passionate about its mission to preserve and restore the historic architecture and urban fabric of McKeesport and the lower Mon Valley.”
In its release, the society said Zorach was “excited to work on a project that can call attention to the tremendous assets offered by a town like McKeesport.”
Zorach was quoted by the society as comparing McKeesport to Brooklyn, N.Y.
“Distressed real estate in so-called ‘up-and-coming’ parts of Brooklyn is going for hundreds of dollars a foot versus pennies on the dollar in McKeesport, but how can you beat this view?” Zorach said.
The society said he stood on a bicycle trail and observed the hills around the Monongahela River as well as former U.S. Steel National Tube Works structures.
According to its website, The Handbuilt City has a mission “to seek creative and profitable solutions for urban innovation,” particularly so far in Gary, Ind., and St. Louis.
“Focusing principally on affordable housing development through the stabilization of distressed neighborhoods, we envision a regional effort to advance standards for design, community investment, and green building across the Midwest,” The Handbuilt City states as its mission. “We are backed by diverse sources of capital and diverse private equity partners and are ourselves investors, craftsmen, technicians, designers and problem-solvers.”
On its website Fundrise touts “a simple goal,” to “give everyone the opportunity to invest in real estate.”
Zorach told the society that he is confident that a critical mass of interested parties could bring some serious momentum and capital to development in the town.
“Regulations and markets are going to keep evolving, but cities are, too,” Zorach said. “So it’s important for smaller cities to remain just as involved to keep up.”
Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
From – ELLIOT MARKOVITZ
For some reason, your most recent post about the term Hunky and the pictures of Duquesne jogged all kind of personal memories for me. I suppose I can lay claim to the title, sort of, since my father’s family came from Czechoslovakia. I lived in Duquesne from 1951 (birth) until we moved to Pittsburgh in 1962. Lived on Miller Ave. in Duquesne Place. My grandfather, Ben Markovitz, and father, Alfred “Itzy” Markovitz, the butcher- had a grocery store on Patterson Ave. Benny’s Market. I believe that entire neighborhood is gone now. My dad had two brothers, Sidney (store on Kennedy) and Harold; and a sister Pearl. Random thoughts (note: Not responsible for spelling errors):
- Getting shots from Dr. Landay
- Having a nickel coke at Palchak’s Drug Store
- My mom –Shirley Markovitz- giving me $1.00 and sending me to Kennywood for the day.
- The Dairy Queen at the bottom of my street
- Being able to take the bus to McKeesport , go to the movies at the Liberty, Victor or Memorial, and get a bag of popcorn; all for $1.00
- Duquesne Place Elementary School-all 4 rooms; two grades to a room.
- Learning how to drink black coffee at Duquesne High School football games so I could be tougher than the other kids who got hot chocolate or milk and sugar with a little coffee added. Having to behave at games because my dad knew all the cops. One of the comments referred to Andrew Fendrick. I had to especially watch out for Chief Fendrick because my dad knew him quite well; I think they went to school together.
- Playing at “the dump” behind Herman St.
- Being sent to Adler’s to get pants or shirts
- The Nike missile base at the top of Miller Ave. that guarded the mills during the Cold War
- Going to Paule’s Look-out for birthdays
- Jim’s for hot dogs with his special sauce that he broiled under the grill (Still go when I can)
- Getting haircuts at Frank Gigliotti’s on Grant St.
- The night Martin Luther King was killed. My dad got a call that the store had been broken into. I went with him to store with a baseball bat. The police were there and the place was a mess. We saw a man walking up Patterson carrying something. I don‘t recall if it was a shotgun or rifle. He was one of the regular customers and had tears streaming down his face. He came inside and told us he thought his son may have been involved. He moved a stool we kept near the cash register to the front door and told us to go home; that nothing more was going to happen to our store. And he was right. The next day a bruised kid and his dad came by, apologized and helped us clean everything up.
Thanks for doing what you’re doing.
From – Jeri Grandy
I was just Googling to see what I could find about Duquesne High School football. My grandfather, Joseph F Minotti, graduated from Duquesne in 1909. I even have the graduation program!
Perhaps more interesting is the photo I have attached. My grandfather is in the front row, center — the tall handsome guy. My mother told me he was captain. I don’t know if that’s true.
But the reason I’m writing is that we don’t understand why the team was called Cornell. Do you know?
I happen to have found an article from the Duquesne News from September, 1908 that references the Cornell Team. It appears that your grandfather was a force to be reckoned with as Quarterback!!