TRULY RURAL: SELLERSVILLE, PENNSYLVANIA

Modern Male Sellersville

MODERN MALE, SELLERSVILLE, PA, FOURTH OF JULY WEEKEND

(A recent Pearl S. Buck pilgrimage took a friend and me also to surrounding towns in very rural Pennsylvania.  Sellersville was a curious combination of past and present.  We had to turn to Wikipedia to learn some of its past.)

Guide Pearl Buck Estate July 2017

EMMA, OUR CHARMING GUIDE TO NEARBY PEARL BUCK ESTATE

Sellersville was founded in the early 18th century. It was centered on a major road known as Bethlehem Pike that connected Philadelphia to Bethlehem and the rest of what was then far Western Pennsylvania.

(Wikipedia is rather voluble about this tiny burg surrounded by farmland, hills and almost-mountains of the appropriate shade of violet.)

(We had begun our Pearl Buck-quest at a delightfully vibrant and lively farmers’ market in Perkasie.  First peaches joined healthy cabbage, vibrant tomatoes and a rainbow, so to speak, of fresh ‘greens’, sold by the farmers themselves.)

The ‘shank of the day’ was spent exploring the Pearl Buck Estate on nearby Dublin Road. 

Welcome Sellersville Rural PA July

WELCOME TO SELLERSVILLE

Our finale was a bountiful and gracious late lunch at Sellarsville’s remarkably sophisticated Washington Inn, in what most people otherwise might describe as ‘a backwater’.  The name of that Inn was just part of the constant Fourth-of-July references that peppered our adventure, –none planned and all greatly appreciated–, on our Country’s sacred Birthday weekend.)

Flag Sellersville PA

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DEAR AMERICA, FROM SELLERSVILLE

The town was very small and was called Sellers Tavern. Its most notable feature was a large inn. The present Washington House in Sellersville, however, was not Sellers Tavern.

Washington Inn Side View Sellersville PA

HOW WASHINGTON INN LOOKED FROM MAIN STREET IN ITS PAST

The town grew slowly over the years until the Industrial Revolution. In the 1860s the North Pennsylvania Railroad was built, running parallel to Bethlehem Pike: this stimulated the growth of light textile industries and brought a wave of population growth.

Proud Past Sellersville Rural PA July 2017

PROUD PAST – SELLSERSVILLE’S MAIN STREET

The East Branch of the Perkiomen Creek runs through the town, connecting it to an adjacent town of Perkasie. This creek was dammed in the early 20th century,  creating a small body of water known as Lake Lenape. (So, even in Pennsylvania, places are named after those who were destroyed — these first settlers — in order that ‘progress’ might take place…)

Along the length of the lake, a park was built on Perkasie and Sellersville lands. In the 1920s and 1930s this park housed a carousel, a roller coaster and several other amusements.

The railroad brought hundreds of people from Philadelphia in the summertime.  It became a well known vacation spot for blue-collar city workers.

Sellersville Theatre 1894 2017

SELLERSVILLE THEATER, 1894

The town was also home to the Radium Company of America, which was the largest uranium milling facility in the world at the time.  (There seems to be no notice of the human toll of uranium milling, or the “luminescence” to follow.  At Wheaton Glass Museum in South Jersey, the human toll of luminous glassware is frankly declared.)

Cloud Bank Sellersville PA

TURRETED TOWN OF SELLERSVILLE, PENNSYLVANIA

The United States Gauge Company originated in Sellersville in 1904.  It became a prominent manufacturer of gauges for military use, many of which were coated with radium-based paint[1] for nighttime luminesence. The company later became instrumental in the production of nuclear weapons,[2] leaving behind a legacy of industrial and radioactive contamination that has been well-hidden by local, county, state, and federal government agencies for decades.  (Ironically, my friend – who had planned this intricate excursion- and I were actively speaking with longing of the healthy air, the healthy lives these fortunate residents must have!)

Clematis Exuberance Sellersville PA

CLEMATIS EXUBERANCE, WASHINGTON INN

Today the town is still relatively small, sandwiched between a ridge line and the larger town of Perkasie. The center of town still runs along Bethlehem Pike, now called Old Route 309.

Storied Washington Inn Sellersville PA July 2017

THE WASHINGTON INN, 2017

The Washington House still stands and has recently been restored to become an upscale restaurant.

Washington House Sellersville PA

HOTEL AND RESTAURANT: WASHINGTON INN

Next door to the restaurant was a livery stable, which was converted into a theater (later a movie theater) in 1894. It has since been restored.  It was reopened in 2001 as Sellersville Theater 1894 as a live music venue.  (The Washington Inn and the Sellersville Theater cooperate in evenings of food and drama.  My friend and I signed up for chances on “A Big Night in Sellersville — involving gastronomy and theatre and ‘a night in the Tower.’)

Parisian Cafe Chairs Sellersville PA

PARISIAN CHAIRS, WASHINGTON INN, SELLERSVILLE, PA

The creek is still dammed but only the carousel in Perkasie remains of the amusements.

The textile industry has long moved out of the area.  Sellersville has become mainly a residential town for people working in the many urban centers that are only a short commute away.

The town is surrounded on three sides by open country and spread-out housing developments.

The Teller Cigar Factory was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

TURRET OF YESTERYEAR, SELLERSVILLE, PENNSYLVANIA

Sellersville Turret PA July 2017

 

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Poem Written in Lobby of Mass MOCA art museum – A Saga of Transformation

Sunshine at MASS MOCA October 2014

 

MUSEUM LOBBY      (a.k.a. Mass MOCA – Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art)

 

conduits of yesterday-metal

vie with writhings pf formidable tubes

against the striated ceiling

 

columns unretouched in this century

allow the past to bleed through

–here, the hue of Mohawks in rain

–there, the tone of too many tears

 

beams scoured by time

jostle too-shiny

modern replacements

 

I resist descending

this fierce metal stairway

leading to that basement

where factory workers headed

to restrooms lacking all rest

where harshness and high walls

surround sinks that still insult

 

this lobby, capacious and echoing

streams with guests

–eager and savvy

–even the children

skipping toward grim gate and guard

 

everywhere

pillars / ceilings / room dividers

flaunt splotches and scars

vivid as palettes of the brilliant

whose lifework adorns

relentlessly eloquent walls

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

Mother’s Day, 2017

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Factory Wall MASS MOCA October 2014

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Factory Bathroom MASS MOCA

***Factory Washroom MASS MOCA

I actually thanked the Mass MOCA guards for the policy of not retouching the industrial past of this glorious museum, –full-to-the-brim with the most challenging art installations.  They were gratified, especially when I added, “This reality honors all who worked within these walls.  And underscores the powerful meaning of each artist’s work.”

As a creative person, I viscerally feel how stifled those factory workers must have been, laboring deep within these endless, now empty, but then emptying, spaces.

On this week’s Berkshire Journey, I realized that the transformation of Mass MOCA echoes that of the miraculous Michener Museum in Doylestown, –once a prison where my friends (mothers, nursing mothers, grandmothers) were impounded over an entire weekend for daring to lie down in front of bulldozers who would destroy the banks of the Delaware, so that the dread PUMP could be built to deplete our sacred river.

James and Mari Michener’s vision has been realized, that art triumph over incarceration.

I salute all the visionaries who knew that thought-provoking installations could surpass industrial dehumanization.  Being at Mass MOCA is like standing under a shower of fresh mountain waters, mixed with electrifying ions, generous helpings of stardust, and more than a dash of cayenne.

***

Campanile MASS MOCA Entry October 2014