A vigorous city that has contributed in liberal measure toward the development of that great American institution---Rail Transportation; a city that continues to be a great railroad center and is yet turning successfully to diversified lines of industrial endeavor; a city that invites new industry and new home-seekers; a city of past achievement, Present Prosperity and promising future
Published By The
Altoona Chamber of Commerce
Enthroned amid eternal hills,
Who's walls are living green,
You sit smoke crowned, majestically,
0 Appalachian Queen!
Your towering stacks, like sentries stand
To guard your marts of trade.
Steam is your fleetwinged courier
And Din, your serenade.
From Nature's far-flung treasure
Your arms reach forth to bring
The elements, your workmen mould
Into a living thing;
A living, throbing steed of steel,
A vanquisher of space.
'Tis thus you aid the commonwealth
And fill your destined place.
Strategically your domain lies
Beneath the purple hills.
The smiling farmland tributes bring,
While magic beauty thrills
The weary traveler, from afar,
Who fain would stop and rest,
Where graciously your sceptre guards
The gateway to the west.
City of homes and workingmen,
A world awaits your wares.
Internal discord ne'er shall trend
To dim your furnace glares.
A civic pride unites us all.
No matter where we roam;
A hundred thousand hearts are glad
And proud to call you, Home.
--Robert F. Lantz
To the retired shopmen and railroad workers of Altoona, who built a great industrial systern and gave us the city we are proud to call home- to them we dedicate this booklet, published at the 75th Anniversary of the founding of Altoona.
The Altoona Chamber of Commerce
The Story of Altoona
ROMANCE is dead, you say?
No! Romance is not dead. It is all about you. It is at your elbow. For among the approved definitions of Romance is one which says: "A wonderful tale, characterized by adventures." So hear the story of Altoona if you would know Romance.
In the year 1849 a few little cleared patches of farms set in a wilderness, formed, with some of that wilderness itself, the site of what is now Altoona.
From out of the East, growing toward the clearings at the rate of a few hundred yards a day, came two lines of very slender and very light steel. In 1850 these little strips of steel had grown until they reached the settlement at the eastern base of the Allegheny Mountains. The tiny settlement did not yet have a name.
To this little settlement came a band of sturdy immigrants. They were German and Irish and Scotch, and with them Americans of pioneering instinct. They came to join the great adventure. They were Forty-niners as truly as were the gold sekers who went to California.
But these Pennsylvania Forty-niners sought more than mere gold. They had their adventure, with its hardships, and its privations, but while they were adventuring they were carving out homes for themselves in a rude mountain country.
Their adventure was to conquer a great mountain range and subdue it to the will of rail transportation. It would be a routine task today, but it was a type of industrial adventure then that had never been pursued by man.
They had nothing but their own brawn and their willing hearts, these Pennsylvania Forty-niners. They faced westward and went to work. Under scorching summer suns and in the drear of mountain winters they worked. They dug great cuts in the mountainside; blasted and dug through forests; wrestled with giant rocks; coped with slides and washes of earth. They came to a great valley that they must cross, and to do it filled the space between two mountains, which remains the marvel of the Horseshoe Curve even today. When the grade was prohibitive near the goal, they bored through the very mountain itself, and continued triumphantly westward.
For four years the great adventure went forward until, in 1854, the little bands of steel that had crept to Altoona from the East, had now reached Pittsburgh, the growing industrial city on the West. A railroad had been built over the Allegheny Mountains.
In the meantime, while the adventurers of the rail were pushing westward, a little band of pioneers had remained at the hamlet, back at the base of operations. Under the direction of far-seeing engineers they had built a set of tiny shops to maintain the equipment that was even now conquering the Allegheny Mountains.
Altoona's New Million-Dollar Community-Built Hotel, the Penn-Alto.
Casting about for a name for the hamlet, an engineer from Denmark suggested that since the first railroad shop in the world had been built at Altona, in that country, the new railroad town could well be named for it. The hamlet was accordingly called Altoona, the extra "o" being added to establish the individuality of the little American town.
So the great adventure was done. Few records have been kept except records of the work's progress. But there is a wealth of untold romance in the lives of the pioneer Altoonans. Even today snatches of retold tales, fast being lost, narrate the hardships met, hurts endured, chances taken to win from death, or lose; and all the pioneers did not win.
But here in this prosaic East, never clothed with the romantic glory of the West, the Pennsylvania Forty-niners matched their brawn and brain against an uncompromising Nature. They won and conquered a great mountain range to modern transportation. They won, and have given the nation a great industrial city which is the heart of one of the world's greatest transportation systems; a city whose generating forces daily, perpetually, pump the life blood through arteries of steel that cover the most populous area of the nation, and enable this great system to live and survive, and have its useful being.
The story of Altoona is the story of man's triumphant conversion of steam to a useful agent; steam and later electricity. He conquers and uses these great forces here. And these great forces, which spell Power, are synonomous with the life of this great city, where the Pennsylvania Forty-niners found a wilderness and builded an industrial empire.
Altoona, which is known as "The Mountain City," is located thirty-five miles southwest of the center of Pennsylvania. It is situated between two ranges of the Allegheny Mountains, in a wide valley that was used as a highway between the East and West even in the days of Indian trails.
The city is located on the four-track, main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad, 114 miles from Pittsburgh and 235 miles from Philadelphia. The city is also located on the William Penn Highway, the important east and west route through the State, and on the Horseshoe Trail, a highway of rapidly increasing importance, which runs from Elmira, N. Y., on the north, down through the most beautiful section of Pennsylvania to Cumberland, Md. on the south.
The Bake Mansion, Home of the Blair County Historical Society.
It is thirty-six miles along the Horseshoe Trail to Bedford on the south, where the Lincoln Highway crosses the Horseshoe Trail.
Altoona is set in the midst of the most beautiful scenic district of the great "Keystone State." The same hills and mountains
Locust Hills, New Residence Section at Western Boundary of City.
which go to make a panorama of natural beauty about Altoona are underlaid with coal, fire clay, ganister rock and sand, all of which are valuable natural resources to this section.
The first house in Altoona, one of logs, was built in 1849. Late the following year the erection of the Altoona shops on a small scale was begun. With the completion of the first of the railroad repair shops the village began to grow rapidly. In 1860 it had a population of 3,591. Then came the Civil War and Altoona became a place of importance as a railroad terminal. By 1870 its population had grown to 10,610.
The outstanding historic incident in Altoona & history was the meeting of the Loyal War Governors of the northern States, who,
A Group of Fine Suburban Residences.
in September, 1862, gathered at the Altoona Logan House to repledge their loyalty to the northern cause and their faith in Abraham Lincoln. Out of this meeting developed a correlated policy which contributed largely to the ultimate victory of the North.
Even back in Indian times Altoona was a scene of animated Indian and frontier history. Near the city occurred the massacre of the Bedford Scouts, in 1781, and the massacre of the Holliday family at an earlier date.
One of Original Homes at Alleghany Furnace, at Southern Edge of City. Built 1799.
East of the city, in Sinking Valley, General Daniel Roberdeau, a member of the Continental Congress and a sturdy Colonial soldier, built Fort Roberdeau, which was the largest and most important of the frontier forts.
It was used to protect settlers who mined lead in the valley, and this lead was shipped overland by wagons to Philadelphia, where it was cast into bullets for Washington's army. The site of Altoona was for many years prior to the Revolution a favorite hunting and camping ground of the Oneida, Seneca and Tuscarora Indians. It was near Altoona that Captain John Logan lived. This noted Indian scout was a staunch friend of the whites and was a romantic figure in the frontier history of this section. The vicinity of the city abounds in spots like Wopsononock Mountain, Chimney Rocks and Logan Spring, which were favorite places of the Indians.
Altoona was incorporated as a borough in 1858 and as a city in 1868. Each succeeding decade has shown a healthy growth, until at the present time the city has a population of 67,872.
Altoona Is Noted for Its Splendid Retail Stores.
Almost sixty per cent of the families of Altoona own their own homes, a record of which the city is very proud. There are 15,458 families in Altoona, of which 14,024 live in private dwellings. The city is distinctly one of homes. There are comparatively few apartments in the city, the Altoona family apparently showing a strong preference for an individual home. During the last few years, however, the city has had notable and attractive additions to its housing faicilites through the building of some beautifut apartment buildings.
While it is rightly known as an industrial city, Altoona is remarkably free from lower classes of workers which in many cities form slum or foreign sections. Altoona has scarcely a trace of such segregation. Only seven and one-half per cent of the population of the city is foreign-born.
An interesting and unusual feature about Altoona is that the city maintains forty-four thriving building and loan associations. This largely explains the abnormally high percentage of home owners in the city.
There are twenty modern public school buildings in Altoona, including seventeen grammar schools, a large central grammar building, a junior high school, recently completed and costing more than $1,000,000, and a most attractive high school.
Altoona's night school, open three nights each week during the school term, has a large enrollment of adults who study a great variety of subjects from manual training to the classics. Its work in citizenship has been particularly outstanding .
There are seven parochial schools in the city, and a modern, new Catholic high school.
Altoona's belief in high-grade schools is shown in the fact that almost $1,500,000 is contributed by the people of the city annually to maintain the public and parochial schools.
The city has a total of sixty-nine churches, with practically every denomination represented. Many of these congregations have beautiful houses of worship. Work is under way on a stately
cathedral which will be a thing of beauty among the many attractive buildings of the city.
With the very full complement of churches goes a well-developed religious life in the community, which finds expression in upwards of 100 auxiliary religious organizations that contribute to the betterment and high moral tone of the community .
The great, dominant industrial phase of Altoona's life is, of course, in the immense shops of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company located here and immediately adjacent to the city. These great shops, many units of which are the largest of their kind in the world, give, steady employment to approximately 14,000 men. These men are paid annually about $24,000,000 in wages, and produce and repair equipment to the value of $60,000,000.
Great steam and electric locomotives, the last word in modern types, are built at Altoona and at Juniata, the eastern suburb of the city. The Altoona shops also produce freight and passenger cars and, a great variety of miscellaneous railroad equipment.
Among the most notable units of the shops are the giant, new erecting shops at Juniata, just completed; the largest car wheel foundry in the world, located at South Altoona; the largest roundhouse in the world, located at East Altoona, and a test plant which is one of the finest equipped in America. Here great locomotives are placed on a test table, and they may speed up to eighty miles an hour, while a great variety of devices measure and register every exerting influence and phase of the engine's work.
One of the Buildings of the Blair County Hospital, Near Altoona .
The Altoona visitor who attempts to "do" the Altoona shops has a large contract on his hands. It would take days for one to pass through the bewildering array of great shops, runways, storage and test buildings and the hundred and one branches of the manufacturing departments. Technical men from all over the world come to see these shops of Altoona and invariably they grant them to be the greatest shops of their kind to be found anywhere.
While the name Altoona is synonomous with railroad manufacturing and repair shops, the very immensity of these plants has put in the background Altoona's diversified industrial establishments.
Among other things made at Altoona are bricks, bar iron, silk, motor trucks, working garments, confectionery, cigars, meat packing products and paper products and printing supplies,. Altoona's two silk plants produce more than 3,000,000 yards of silk per year and pay in wages more than $1,000,000 per year.
A Group of Altoona Bank Buildings.
Altoona has at the present time, 16,889 workers engaged in industry. The city's products had a value last year of $80,441,633, and the payroll of the workers who produced this vast array of goods totaled $27,134,996. Altoona's capital invested in industry is $312060,874.
Altoona has two national banks, four trust companies and one private bank, all of which are splendidly equipped and highly servicable financial institutions.
The clearing for these banks for the year ending August 31, 1924, was $169,656,283.31 and their combined resources are almost $19,000,000.00. The total deposits, largely representing savings of Altoona citizens, were at the close of last year, $14,659,682.30.
Interior Views of tthe Greatest Railroad Shops in the World, at Altoona.
Altoona's thrifty and healthy financial status is further reflected in the fact that the city has forty-four successful building and loan associations in which Altoona residents hold a total of 159,202 shares. The total assets of the building and loan associations of the city are $11,805,246.49. This is one of the most remarkable building and loan records of any city in the country, and it largely explains the very unusual number of Altoona people who own their own homes.
If further proof were needed to show that the people of Altoona are of a saving and thrifty nature, it is shown in the records of the Altoona Post Office, where Altoona people placed in treasury savings, during the first six months of 1924, a total of $320,460.00.
The stability of Altoona's industrial life is largely responsible for the regular and dependable status of Altoona business.
During the slumps and depressions that characterize the business of so many of our American cities at irregular intervals, Altoona for the most part enjoys a steady and dependable volume of both retail and wholesale business.
The retail stores of Altoona are of such a high order that the city is a shopping center for a population of upwards of 150,000 people, who come from within a circle whose radius is thirty miles from Altoona in all directions.
The city has a number of large retail stores which are metropolitan in their appointments, service, and the quality and variety of their wares.
Altoona has, particularly of recent years, achieved a statewide reputation as a wholesale shopping center.
The selling area for many of the Altoona wholesale houses cover a district fifty miles from the city in practically all directions. The volume of wholesale business grows year by year and each passing year sees several notable additions to the wholesale establishments of the city.
Altoona's mercantile business last year totaled more than $45,000,000, of which $26,000,000 represented retail business and $19,000,000 the gross wholesale business.
Altoona's public utilities, both civic and public, are among the best. The excellent service given the public by the utilities of the city is one of the reasons why Altoona is a most desirable place to live.
The major features in public service to the residents of any community consist of fire, police and health protection, lighting of streets and public places, transportation facilities within the city, gas service, electric lighting and power service, water, and services of communication.
Altoona has an excellent, fully motorized fire department, consisting of seven municipal stations and two Pennsylvania Railroad stations, whose equipment is always at the service of the city. Its police and traffic control systems are highly efficient, and the health protection activities of its municipal health department are notable among the cities of the State.
The electric lighting and power corporation which serves Altoona has an enviable record of service. This service is distinctive for its high quality, reasonable rates and almost complete freedom from interruptions .
The fact that there are almost sixty miles of trolley tracks within the city limits and connecting the city and nearby suburbs gives some idea of the efficiency of the urban and interurban transportation. This service is augmented by the operation of six bus lines, so that the average Altoonan, no matter in what section he may live, has quick and dependable service to any other part of the city or to any suburb. The rates to the public compare very favorably with those of other cities of the State.
The city's own $2,000,000 water plant, combined with the service of a private company which serves a portion of the city, gives Altoona an unfailing supply of pure, mountain water, which has remained remarkably free from contamination.
Of late years the water has been carefully treated to insure absolute protection. Troubles with either the quantity or the quality of water in Altoona are most rare.
The city is adequately served by direct pipe lines from the gas fields of western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. While it is necessary to take the same precautions to husband the supply as
have been taken throughout the natural gas fields everywhere, Altoona's gas supply has been a dependable factor in public service.
In matters of health, the public is protected by a vigilant and fully manned health bureau. Food and dairy inspections, inspections of all plumbing installed, examination of food handlers who serve the public, most rigid inspection of all phases of disease and contagion, and municipal garbage collection are some of the means by which the city health bureau looks out for the physical well-being of the community.
Two telephone companies and two telegraph companies give the city excellent service in these branches of public utility.
Altoona has two progressive daily newspapers, the publishers of both papers owning their own modern buildings. The city also has two weeklies and a monthly paper, as well as four modern job printing plants.
Good street lighting has come to be recognized as an important factor not only in convenience, but in matters of safety, and particularly as regards the operation of traffic. Altoona is lighted throughout by high suspended lamps placed at every corner in the city. Throughout the business section of the city modern, high-powered boulevard lights have been erected and are an attractive feature of the city's appearance .
Practically every lodge and fraternal organization of any standing whatever has its representative branch in Altoona, while some of these, including trainmen's lodges, are among the largest locals in the country.
Many Altoona organizations own their own attractive homes. Among these are the American Legion, Brotherhood of Railroad
Trainmen, Eagles, Elks, Knights of Columbus, Knights of Pythias, Loyal Order of Moose, Masons, Odd Fellows, Patriotic Order Sons of America, Red Men, Shriners, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Young Men's Institute .
Altoona has for many years maintained a Chamber of Commerce, which ranks high among similar organizations of the country, and has ever been an energetic and alert factor in unselfish community service .
'The city has unusually live Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions and Quota Clubs, as well as civic and ward associations, service men's organizations, parent-teachers' organizations, and social and political clubs of various kinds.
Altoona has five crack companies of the Pennsylvania National Guard. They are located in their own Armory home and maintain a band which is one of the finest among the Guard organizations of the State. Other representative bands give the city a generous complement of musical bodies .
The aesthetic life of the community is reflected in the fact that Altoona has an Art Institute which
Altoona's public and semi-public buildings are the chapters inher story of public service. Two large hospitals, the Altoona and the Mercy, are commodious, comfortable and modernly equipped in every way.
The Mechanics' Library, maintained through Pennsylvania Railroad interest, has 50,000 volumes available to the public.
The Federal building, bank buildings and department stores compare favorably with those of many larger cities.
The Altoona Gymnasium, a new health center, has one of the finest gymnasium floors and swimming pools in any gymnasium of the country. It is practically a public institution, being built through popular subscription by a large percentage of the people of the city.
Definite announcements have been made in the matter of two public buildings that will mean much to Altoona and its advancement. These are a new Pennsylvania Railroad station, which is being designed as a model station, and a new City Hall, which will take its place among the finer municipal buildings of the State.
The city has almost sixty acres of parks and playgrounds within its limits, or adjacent to the city. These breathing spots include the Altoona Cricket Field, which, although it is Pennsylvania Railroad property, is available to the public. Its great stadium has a seating capacity of 27,000.
In addition to the breathing spots in or adjacent to the city, Altoona calls Lakemont Park its own. This park, whose features are a beautiful lake and a diversity of amusements, is situated three miles from the city. It is renowned for the beauty of its landscape gardening, trees, flowers and shrubs.
Practically every public school yard in the city is maintained as an equipped playground during the summer months each year. In addition to the school yards, there are three more playgrounds, all equipped and maintained by the city, and which take care of a total of many thousand youngsters each summer day.
Although an inland city and further deprived of the advantage of being near a sizable river, Altoona offers splendid facilities for bathing and skating. Ivyside and Nela Beach, two large privately owned bathing resorts, have been recently completed and will accommodate many thousands of Altoonans. The charge for admission to these resorts is almost nominal. In addition to the private bathing resorts, the city maintains a large outdoor pool, which is open to the public at a nominal charge.
Its facilities are commanded almost exclusively by the youngsters of the community who practically regard it as their own .
One who has any knowledge whatever of central Pennsylvania need not be told of the scenic wonders of this section. Altoona is set in the center of a region that is virtually the show-place of the State in all that pertains to natural, outdoor beauty. Rugged mountain ranges give way to beautiful wood-clad hills at their base and these gradually recede to become broad, peaceful valleys that are threaded through by a network of excellent improved roads. One may travel out from Altoona in any direction over an excellent road and admire scenery which most travelers contend is more beautiful than that of New England. Central Pennsylvanians are quite sure of this and go a step further to say that no section of the United States has the beautiful scenery to offer that one finds, in central Pennsylvania. This is particularly true in the fall of the year when the mountains are clothed in a most gorgeous array of colors.
There are many particular beauty spots close to Altoona that attract the traveler. Blue Knob, on the west, comes very close to being the highest point in the State. Arch Spring, Penn's Cave, Lloydville, Chimney Rocks, and Wopsononock are other beauty spots that attract thousands of motorists annually.
Several years ago, when a leading magazine started a series of "See America First" pictures, featuring one view in each issue, the first picture of the series was one of the Horseshoe Curve. This beauty spot, just west of the city, is the place where Nature and the hand of man combined to make one of the scenic wonders of America .
In the past four years Altoona has entertained forty State and national conventions, with a total attendance of approximately 25,000. In addition to these conventions, the city has been host twice to the Pennsylvania Railroad Company's annual system athletic meet. Each of these events was attended by approximately 35,000 persons, coming from all over the Pennsylvania Railroad system.
Altoona's imposing array of recent conventions has given the city the opportunity to demonstrate that it can be an admirable host. The first requisite to a successful convention is to have good
hotel facilities. Altoona offers these in its new, community-built hotel, the Penn Alto. This modern, nine-story building has two hundred cozy, homelike rooms to offer its patrons and has a cuisine and general accommodations second only to a few metropolitan hotels.
The Penn Alto, Colonial, William Penn and Logan House hotels take the lead in expressing Altoona's hospitality to convention and other visitors. These noted, hostelries, with a number of other well equipped hotels and rooming houses, have enabled Altoona to take splendid care of its many large crowds. These crowds include the great gathering at Altoona twice a year when the world's greatest automobile drivers run off the 250 mile speed classic at the Altoona Speedway. The famous Altoona Speedway races are held on Flag Day, June 14, and Labor Day, of each year. Convention visitors, in addition to the comfort of good hotels, will find a welcome expressed in special street decorations placed for each convention. They will find recreation in and about the city at its many amusement places, including a splendid legitimate theatre, a high-class vaudeville house, and a group of motion picture houses that secure first releases on the best films produced.
The Convention Bureau of the Altoona Chamber of Commerce makes a specialty of' first, securing conventions for the city, and second, of extending every courtesy and co-operation to make these conventions most successful and pleasant for the visitors. The Chamber of Commerce is glad at all times to function as an information bureau for both convention visitors and motor tourists. The Altoona Chamber of Commerce has become a general information bureau for central Pennsylvania travelers, and is ready and anxious to serve at all times.
Based on its industrial past, on its busy present and its optimistic future, these seems every justification for Mr. Schwab's flattering consideration of Altoona, shown on the front cover of this booklet: "I regard Altoona as the Keystone City of the great Keystone State." It has long been known as one of the most important industrial cities, if not the most important railroad city in the United States, and the promising developments of the past two years indicate most forcibly that the scope of its importance as an industrial and transportation center will expand and grow at even a greater rate than during the past decades.
The great Pennsylvania System, popularly advertised as "The Standard Railroad of the World," has announced a policy of
expansion which will involve the expenditure of $12,000,000 at Altoona during the next three years.
The improvements decided upon by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company involve the remodeling of old plants at Altoona and suburbs, the erection of new plants and the extension of various facilities which pertain to the operation and maintenance of equipment at Altoona.
While the extension of the Pennsylvania Railroad's interests at Altoona would, in itself, be enough to guarantee the prosperity of the city for many years to come, it is by no means the only assurance of the city's industrial progress. The new silk plant of the Altoona Textile Company, the new plant of the Altoona Overall Company, the recent doubling of the capacity of the Dixon Motor Truck Company and the growth and development on all sides of the healthy smaller industries for which Altoona is noted, contribute notes of optimism to the general harmonious song of prosperity in the community.
Possibly the most accurate barometer which indicates good, poor or indifferent conditions in a community is the building record. Altoona's building program for 1924 far surpassed the building record of any other year in its history.
Altoona has just seen completed a new $1,000,000 headquarters building of the Bell Telephone Company; work is going forward on a new $1,500,000 cathedral; an imposing new, five-story business block is being built at the important corner of Eleventh Avenue and Twelfth Street , and adjacent to it the First National Bank is building a structure that will be a model for beauty and banking efficiency. A new Junior High School, costing more than $1,000,000, is now in use. In addition to these outstanding building projects, almost a score of smaller business blocks are being built at the present time in different parts of the city. While all these outstanding building projects indicate the industrial and commercial growth and expansion of the city, the most significant and satisfactory building activity is probably in the construction of the scores of homes that are now being built.
As a fitting and happy climax to two years of phenomenal growth and expansion comes the definite announcement that Altoona is to have a new City Hall and a, new railroad station. Thenew station will unquestionably be of a proportion and equipment in keeping with the high importance of Altoona as a railroad terminal point. It is announced that it will be a criterion among stations, of the country and will embody features of service and equipment that will make it a notable institution. While details of the plan for a new City Hall have not been announced as this
booklet goes to press, the one fact is assured that the building will be a monument to Altoona's civic pride and that it will be in keeping with the spirit of civic progress and achievement that has characterized Altoona, especially of recent years.
Always a growing and progressive city, and ever going steadily forward, Altoona's rate of progress has been accelerated of late. Big things have been done, and all optimistic citizens, which means practically all of our people, are quite sure that even bigger things are ahead. Altoona faces the future with confidence and satisfaction and the growing conviction that Altoona is becoming a more and more desirable place to call home.