Juniata Terrace Vies for Entry into the National Register of Historic Places

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Around 1923, the American Viscose Company established a community for workers at their Lewistown factory. The factory shut down nearly 40 years ago, but the tiny enclave of brick row houses has changed very little. Now two Penn State University Park graduate students are hoping to get the company town of Juniata Terrace on the National Registry of Historic Places. WPSU’s Emily Reddy reports.

Comments

Jeri Dukes
Lewistown, PA 17044
Apr 25, 2011

On behalf of the residents of Juniata Terrace, I would like to publicly thank Katie and Caitlyn for their hard work on the Juniata Terrace project.  Whether or not we receive the historic designation, it is nice to know that someone sees the value in our history and our residents’ memories.  Thanks also to Professor Peter Aeschbacher for selecting the Terrace as a project!

Kevin Conaway
Reedsville
Apr 25, 2011

Emily,

Thanks for doing this story.  My great grandfather was a foreman for American Viscose.  My grandfather a mechanic & my grandmother even took classes and worked there as a teenager in the 1920’s.  My father & his brothers also worked for American VIscose.  Three generations of Conaways lived on “Juniata Terrace”.  It is a special place with special people.  I am quite proud of the Morgan/Conaway history & glad someone is doing something to preserve it.

George Ross
DuBois
Apr 27, 2011

I worked for the American Viscose Div. of FMC Corp in Meadville. We too were in Rayon production as was the Lewistown plant. Viscose was originated by a Gentleman from England who believed that a factory should be “self-contained” except for raw material. His genius was a recovery method for acetone lost in the production process. It was highly dependent on water. We used 13 million gallons a day and reclaimed all but 3 million
To relate to the Lewistown plant, Our Union secretary was a feisty,  little lady named Mabel Smith who was well into woman’s empowerment long before the Woman’s Lib Movement. She told me of an incident she had at the Lewistown plant. There was a union strike against Viscose over production.  The Manager lock-out the workers and haired strike breakers to fill their jobs. Mabel was contacted by the Lewistown Union local the day before the “scabs” were to arrive. She recuited 8 women from Meadville and told them to bring raincoats then drove to Lewistown. The Management, to avoid injury, brought the scabs to work in trucks.
Mabel and her girls put on their raincoats and lay down in front of the plant entrance, defying the drivers to run over them. They would not. The Strike Breakers were dismissed and the situation was resolved.

William Conaway
Juniata Terace, Lewistown, Pa. 17044
May 01, 2011

First, I would like to express my thanks to Caitlyn and Katie. They were quite impressive. I have lived in the same house for over 67 years. My life is tied to Juniata Terrace, you might say. I did at one time work for the Viscose until it shut down in 1972, because of the flood. Sort of by accident I began working for the Borough of Juniata Terrace about 1977 and became the Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator and Supervisor of the Borough. I retired in 2001. For the past 4 years plus I have been serving on the Borough Council. I have seen the good and the bad in this community. We have been in decline for sometime and I see possibilities for a future for us. Thanks to your efforts to bring this story to the public; it could be the beginning we need. One story to share about life in the community in the late 20s. My Mother told me this about my Grandfather Morgan. He was a very fine pianist and as he was playing, people would gather outside on the sidewalks and listen to him. I guess the gathering would get quite sizeable. He would even do requests when asked. Just an example of life in a Company Town.

geoffrey nicklen
Stockton, NJ
May 02, 2011

Congratulations Caitlyn and Katie on your project. You may be interested to know that your plant in Lewistown was one of 4. established in the USA by an English textile company named Samuel Courtaulds. The other plants were located in Marcus Hook, PA, and Front Royal, VA and Nitro. I worked at the Marcus Hook plant in the 60s. This plant too had its own village for the workers.
These houses are still there and opposite the plant. The plant closed in the 1970s when FMC exited the textile business. A group of managers gained the rights to own and run the Front Royal plant.
Going back to Courtaulds, I would encourage you to look up their history. It is most interesting . Here is a brief synopsis.
The Courtaulds were French hugenots who fled to Essex in England in the 1800s to escape religious persecution.
Their family business was “Black crepe” used extensively for funerals. which they resaarted in their new home.
A plant manager, George Tetley was shown an odd filiament made from wood pulp that was being tried as a filiament for Edisons electric light bulb. It was useless for a lamp filiament but looked very similar to silk. Tetley convinced the Courtaulds to try manufacturing it as “artificial silk”.
As the cost was one tenth that of natural fibers, suddenly clothing became more affordable and even the poor could have more that one set of clothes. The textile industry boomed and plants making rayon were build in the English Midlands and North East.. The opportunities in the US were even greater and Courtaulds quickly built the Marcus Hook plant in 1910 and American Viscose was born. It was also lost but that is another story.

Joel Smith
Mechanicsburg, PA
May 03, 2011

My family has a lot of history on the Juniata Terrace.  Some aunts and uncles worked at FMC.  I was raised their myself at 146 terrace and my mother Phyllis Smith (Koontz) lived there until a few years ago when she moved to the Kish apartments.  My family also were particiapting members at the C&MA; Church on “the hill”.  My father Leon R. Smith Jr was actually born on the Terrace and later lived on a farm in maitland, only to return to rasie his 5 children as “Terrace tigers”.  Thanks for all your hard work on this project—the people and the place of JT are the backbone of the US and should be considered for this recognition.

Tony Fortini
Turnersville, NJ
May 04, 2011

Wow!  This is amazing.  My parents Joe and Barb lived at 203 Terrace Blvd and there are so many memories the space is not large enough!  My father was an original councilman in the 1960’s when the Terrace became a Borough.  He built the football field at the lower playground using topsoil from the hills surrounding JT, and started the Terrace Tiger Football Team in 1964.  Both Mom and Dad were very active in the Playground Association in the 1960’s.  My grandmother, Mabel Baxter lived on Delaware Avenue and her husband Dorsey Baxter worked at the Viscose until he became disabled.  My sister Lynn raised her children on the Terrace.  I am so thankful that someone has taken in interest in this great community.  There is so much history and great stories that it could fill a large volume book!

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