Sunday, January 12, 2014

Small Town Bits Sunday #2 Starbrick, PA

A fair number of thoughts have transpired about what I want Small Town Bits Sundays to be. All those thoughts happened in a week's time. I am sure the thought process will continue to evolve and that is part of the fun. Just because I liked the sound of it, didn't mean I had a whole list of what I was going to write about. I still don't. There are a couple things on my list and one post that is currently in draft form, but there isn't a big long list.

Small Town Guy and I were out and about earlier today before he went to work. Part of the conversation in the car had to do with Small Town Bits Sunday and how I wasn't sure what I was going to sit down and write about. It was about that time we turned left off our usual/beaten path.

A year ago I saw a photograph similar to this one...


To me, there is something serene and magical about this photo. This is definitely not the same photo that piqued my interest a year ago, but it gets the job done. When I moved home, I HAD to know where this spot was. Guess what?!? Small Town Guy knew right where it was. Driving by here isn't much out of our way, we just get too busy and don't do it. Well, today we did. We took that left hand turn mentioned above and headed here.
A couple days ago we could have taken a snowy picture like the one above. Today, not so much. This weather is really crazy. It was in the 50's and rainy today. That rain melted most of the snow. Unfortunately for many, this is the second time since Christmas that we have had enough rain to melt a fair amount of snow. Snow melt and rain usually results in flooding. Here is what this area looked like today.

This is the view from the road.
Quaint, serene, and magical come to mind.
The forbidden factor due to the "no trespassing" sign also adds some intrigue.

These photos were taken around 11:30 a.m. 
That is fog you see. Fog, rain, and 50 degrees on 1/11/14. CRAZY!

Sometimes swans can be seen swimming in the area.
The swans were no where to be found today.

We continued our drive down this road. This is River Road in Starbrick, PA.
It is named River Road because, yep! it runs along the river, the Allegheny River to be exact.

As we continued our drive down River Road we were still talking about what I was going to blog about for STBS #2. As I started taking pictures it was decided I would blog about Starbrick. In a day where information on EVERYTHING is available at our fingertips, I didn't figure it would be too much ask. I was slightly wrong. My initial search didn't turn up much at all. Wikipedia told me it is a census-designated place in Warren County and as of the 2010 census 522 folks lived there.
I reworded my search a little and still came up pretty empty. I am a member of some pretty neat local groups on Facebook, so I turned to one of them and asked the question "Does anyone have any information or stories on how/when Starbrick came to be?"

Sometimes, answer comes immediately. This wasn't one of those times. I now knew that 522 lived here in 2010 and I also knew the area was named because star bricks were made here once upon a time. The latter being something I have heard for a long time, but I had no information to substantiate it. So...perhaps it wasn't true.
The star bricks look like this...

They make great additions to backyard gardens.

The Facebook conversation wasn't moving very fast. We have a quarterly publication in this area and my family has a set of the publications from from the 50's through to the early 80's. I thought for sure there would be something in one of them. NOPE! I will, for sure, be looking into additions printed after 1981, but there is nothing in the issues we have.

The topic made for good conversation. My Grandfather offered suggestions of someone I could speak with. My Grandfather received a phone call while I was visiting and he even asked the caller what they new about Starbrick. It wasn't much and they suggested I call the person suggested by my grandfather. My Dad went home and pulled out some publications, books, etc written on different topics relating to Warren County. At first glance, it seems we are going to come up empty handed there too. I need to sit and do more than just a quick glance.

Small Town Dad suggested a couple different terms to use in my internet search. I did finally come up with something.

Warren history dot org has a document titled "Places in Warren County, Pennsylvania" written by an Ernest C. Miller. It seems there are a number of places in Warren County that little information is available. This is what he published about Starbrick:

"STARBRICK --- a village in Conewango township just west of Warren.
This now important industrial suburb of Warren owes its name to the somewhat transitory existence of a corporation named The Star Brick Company. The firm was located on the western end of the propery now owned by the General Concrete Products Co. It was first organized in 1899 by well-known Warren businessmen and the kilns were located near the railroad, and the clay pits were in the rear. 
During the early years of the company, the bricks, with the figure of a large star moulded therein, were in great demand because of the lively building spree going on in Warren.  About 1908 the plant failed, probably due to the fact that the clay on the land became exhausted. These bricks were in great demand among the boys of Warren; they melted lead, poured it into the star design, and inserted a heavy safety pin in the star as the lead hardened. The result was a fine replica of a sheriff’s badge!
Today both sides of the highway at Starbrick have been built up with diversified industries."
Some say that isn't much, but for me it is enough. I now know that Starbrick was organized in 1899. It was named for the company that made the star bricks. I also know there is a good chance boys today still want to melt stuff and make star molds.

It has been said the star bricks are favored by collectors. I don't know if this is true or not, but I do know we like to collect them. If Small Town Dad or I are out and about on a hike and a star brick is found, it doesn't get left behind.

It was said in a different article in a different outlet authored by Elaine Rhodes, the Star Brick Company closed around 1908 due to  having depleted the clay deposits on site. It was also said the plant only ran in the summer and could produce up to 30,000 bricks daily. The bricks were marketed mainly in Warren.

I learned through conversation with my Dad and Grandfather, and also through the facebook conversation, there were also bricks made with raised stars. It is said the raised star bricks are even more rare.

I did learn some firm and concrete information. I was also left with more questions.
My research on Starbrick isn't complete, but it is enough at this point to have written this entry and for that I am thankful to all that helped!

Some times it pays to take a left turn off our usual beaten path and see what else is happening in the world. It can lead to conversations with those in the car with you and it can lead to conversations with other members of your family. All important. There is nothing wrong with plain old, old school conversation!!!

I do have two more pictures to share from our ride down River Road. I mentioned the rain and snow causes flooding. There was definitely flooding taking place on River Road.

This image shows chunks of ice being washed onto the road. The river is on the left side of the road. This flooding was occurring from the melting process and a stream on the right side of the road. I should have taken a few more pictures to show more of the raging water. I was more interested in the ice though.

Something else that caught my eye was this tree. With the fog and the white snow this tree definitely stood out! I believed it to be a woodpecker tree, but wasn't certain since I could only see one hole in the tree. I showed the picture to Small Town Dad and he agreed it was done by wood peckers. I might need to start stalking this tree to see if I can see the wood peckers that are guilty as charged.

Again, sometimes making that left hand turn off the beaten path can be a good thing.
I hope you enjoyed today's tid bits and the photos.
I also hope you will take some time to not be so busy with your every day doings to enjoy the small things around you!

Best wishes from my small town to wherever you are in the world!

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