Johnstown Flood National Memorial

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Johnstown Flood National Memorial
What remains of the South Fork Dam (11717678065).jpg
Dam abutment and Elias Unger's farm
Map showing the location of Johnstown Flood National Memorial
Map showing the location of Johnstown Flood National Memorial
Location in Pennsylvania
Map showing the location of Johnstown Flood National Memorial
Map showing the location of Johnstown Flood National Memorial
Location in the United States
LocationCroyle Township / Adams Township, Cambria County, Pennsylvania, USA
Nearest cityJohnstown, Pennsylvania
Coordinates40°20′44″N 78°46′43″W / 40.34556°N 78.77861°W / 40.34556; -78.77861Coordinates: 40°20′44″N 78°46′43″W / 40.34556°N 78.77861°W / 40.34556; -78.77861
Area164.12 acres (66.42 ha)[1]
EstablishedAugust 31, 1964[1]
Visitors111,987 (in 2005)
Governing bodyNational Park Service
WebsiteJohnstown Flood National Memorial

Johnstown Flood National Memorial commemorates the more than 2,200 people who died and the thousands injured in the Johnstown Flood on May 31, 1889. [2]The flood was caused by a break in the South Fork Dam, an earthen structure known to be structurally lacking. The memorial is located at 733 Lake Road near South Fork, Pennsylvania,[1] about 10 miles (16 km) northeast of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The memorial preserves the remains of the dam and portions of the former Lake Conemaugh bed, along with the farm of Elias Unger and the clubhouse of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club which owned the dam and reservoir. Hiking trails connect various parts of the memorial, and picnicking areas are present throughout. [3]The United States Congress authorized the national memorial on August 31, 1964.[1]

Visitors can tour the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Clubhouse and the Lake View Visitor Center. In 2006, the clubhouse was acquired by the National Park Service as part of the Johnstown Flood National Memorial. It can be toured by ranger interpretation or van guided.[4] The visitor center includes the Unger House and the Springhouse. It has two floors of exhibits and the “Black Friday” film. Permanent exhibits consist of maps, views of the former dam, tactile displays, historic photographs of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, reproduction Morgue Book, oral history of flood survivor Victor Heiser.[5]

Johnstown Flood[edit]

Founded in 1800, Johnstown was a steel town that grew from the development of transportation in the region such as the Pennsylvania Railroad. The town had a population of 30,000 people who were mostly German and Welsh. Johnstown was established in the center of a floodplain between Little Conemaugh and Stony Creek rivers. The surrounding environment was devastated by deforestation and the leveling of hills which caused periodic floods in the area.[6]

On May 31, 1889, the South Fork dam, owned and operated by the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, broke from the weight high rain accumulation in its reservoir. It released 20,000,000 tons of water traveling at 40 mph. The wall of water reached upwards of 70 feet high and extended 14 miles down into the Little Conemaugh River Valley where it flooded Johnstown and destroyed property, industry, homes, and farms. Water and debris were caught in the arches of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s stone bridge causing citizen to be trapped against debris soaked in oil. The oil caught fire causing 80 people to parish. Johnstown was ravished by typhoid after the flood leading to 40 more lives lost. At the end of the city lines, about three acres, remaining residents were treated and cared for by relief corps from several cities in Southwestern Pennsylvania. The federal government and foreign countries responded with money, food, and clothing for the town which totaled at over $3.7 million. The flood lasted for 10 minutes; however, the aftermath left 5 years of rebuilding before Johnstown had fully recovered.[7]

Victor Heiser, a survivor of the flood gave his recollection of the event. He was just sixteen when the flood happened and remembers the flood as a "huge wall" coming down the street. According to his recollection, the people living in the area near the dam would often say "That dam will give way, but it won’t ever happen to us".[8] The longest living survivor of the flood, Frank Shomo has passed away March 20, 1997 at the age of 108.[9]

Lakebed Rehabilitation Project[edit]

On January, 2020, the Lakebed Rehabilitation Project began at the Johnston Flood National Memorial. The project's goal was to restore the view of how the lakebed looked before the breakage of the dam in 1889. Vegetation has grown in the area so the National Park Service Wildland Fire and Aviation staff cleared it using a masticator machine.[10] This caused problems however as there are many places that both man and machine cannot clear with safety, An organization named Allegheny Goatscape from Pittsburgh used their services of 12 goats and a donkey to provide assistance in clearing the area. The herd is able to eat an approximate of an acre of vegetation every two weeks.[11] Another organization named Russell Tree Experts from Ohio also assisted in mechanical clearing of the lakebed.[12] This clearing project is expected to continue till the summer of 2021.

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "The National Parks: Index 2005 - 2007" (PDF). National Park Service, US Department of the Interior. p. 75. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-10-10. Retrieved 2009-05-07.
  2. ^ Walker, T. "Johnstown Flood National Memorial". State Parks. Retrieved 2021-03-04.
  3. ^ "Things To Do - Johnstown Flood National Memorial (U.S. National Park Service)". www.nps.gov. Retrieved 2021-03-04.
  4. ^ Fork, Mailing Address: 733 Lake Road South; Us, PA 15956 Phone:886-6171 Contact. "South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club Clubhouse - Johnstown Flood National Memorial (U.S. National Park Service)". www.nps.gov. Retrieved 2021-03-04.
  5. ^ Fork, Mailing Address: 733 Lake Road South; Us, PA 15956 Phone:886-6171 Contact. "Lake View Visitor Center - Johnstown Flood National Memorial (U.S. National Park Service)". www.nps.gov. Retrieved 2021-03-04.
  6. ^ "Johnstown Flood". Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Retrieved 2021-03-04.
  7. ^ "Johnstown Flood". Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Retrieved 2021-03-04.
  8. ^ "Victor Heiser describes surviving the Johnstown Flood at the age of 16 - Johnstown Flood Museum". www.jaha.org. Retrieved 2021-03-06.
  9. ^ US Census Bureau, Census History Staff. "May 2019 - History - U.S. Census Bureau". www.census.gov. Retrieved 2021-03-06.
  10. ^ Fork, Mailing Address: 733 Lake Road South; Us, PA 15956 Phone:886-6171 Contact. "Lakebed Rehabilitation Project - Johnstown Flood National Memorial (U.S. National Park Service)". www.nps.gov. Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  11. ^ Fork, Mailing Address: 733 Lake Road South; Us, PA 15956 Phone:886-6171 Contact. "Herd of goats for Lakebed Rehabilitation Project - Johnstown Flood National Memorial (U.S. National Park Service)". www.nps.gov. Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  12. ^ Fork, Mailing Address: 733 Lake Road South; Us, PA 15956 Phone:886-6171 Contact. "Russell Tree Experts - Johnstown Flood National Memorial (U.S. National Park Service)". www.nps.gov. Retrieved 2021-03-05.

External links[edit]