A Walking Tour of Johnstown, Pennsylvania
There is no better way to see America than on foot. And there is no better way to appreciate what you are looking at than with a walking tour. This walking tour of Johnstown, Pennsylvania is ready to explore when you are. Each walking tour describes historical, architectural landmarks, cultural sites and ecclesiastic touchstones and provides step-by-step directions. More
There is no better way to see America than on foot. And there is no better way to appreciate what you are looking at than with a walking tour. Whether you are preparing for a road trip or just out to look at your own town in a new way, a downloadable walking tour is ready to explore when you are.
Each walking tour describes historical and architectural landmarks and provides pictures to help out when those pesky street addresses are missing. Every tour also includes a quick primer on identifying architectural styles seen on American streets.
Johnstown is best known for the flood that decimated the town on May 31, 1889 that killed 2,209 people in one of the country’s greatest calamities. What is lesser known is that Johnstown has been visited twice more by great, rampaging waters - a flood in 1936 that caused significantly more property damage and in 1977 when relentless rains brought five times as much - 128 million gallons - water into the city.
Around the floods Johnstown was a prosperous and hard-working mill town. The Pennsylvania Canal reached Johnstown in 1830 and the Pennsylvania Railroad arrived in 1854, two years after the Cambria Iron Company was founded in the Conemaugh Valley. The Cambria Iron Company of Johnstown was the greatest of the early modern iron and steel works, a forerunner of Bethlehem Steel Company and the United States Steel Corporation. It was the site of several major technological innovations that were copied throughout the world, including early use of the Bessemer process for refining steel and many new methods of heating, handling and rolling steel.
As Cambria became one of the nation’s largest iron and steel producers it employed as many as 7,000 workers. The wealth spilled into Johnstown - by 1901 there were enough shoppers to support 11 department stores in the downtown area. The most modern buildings of the day, many that still line the Johnstown streets, were erected to replace ones destroyed in the Great Flood of 1889.
Those streets look remarkably what founder Joseph Schantz (Johns), envisioned when he plotted and planned the first permanent settlement in 1800. An Amish farmer, Schantz arrived in Philadelphia from Switzerland in 1769 and set his sights westward. During his life-time he used the name “Schantz” (Johns) on most of his land deeds and “Jantzin” (Johnson) in his family Bible records. In 1793 Johns bought a tract of land between the Conemaugh and Stonycreek rivers, built a cabin, cleared some land and began to farm.
Anticipating the creation of a new county (Cambria County in 1804), Joseph Johns hoped that his land would be chosen as the county seat. With this in mind, he laid out the first village lots and streets in 1800. He called his settlement “Conemaugh Old Town.”
Our walking tour historic downtown Johnstown will begin in Central Park, a greenspace that remains the same public space as it was in 1800 when it was so designated by town founder Joseph Johns...