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  #1  
Old Posted Jun 17, 2011, 12:47 AM
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Renovo, PA

Renovo (pop. 1,228), located in north-central Pennsylvania, is the most remote town with a population over 1,000 in Pennsylvania. Along with neighboring borough South Renovo (pop. 439) and some "suburban" areas (Falwell, West Renovo, Drurys Run, North Bend), the Greater Renovo area has a population of a little over 2,000. Situated on a thin strip of land along the West Branch Susquehanna River in western Clinton County (pop. 39,239), Renovo is a great distance from even the smallest towns (county seat Lock Haven is the closest at 28 miles southeast)... it is truly a frontier outpost. To the north, south and west... the closest towns over 1,000 are between 45 and 50 miles... distances extremely uncommon in the Eastern half of the United States. The motorist must be very strategic concerning gas stations... as you can go 50 miles without one in this part of PA (and probably none are open overnight). Renovo is the only morsel of civilization along PA-120 between Emporium and Lock Haven (73 miles known as the Bucktail State Park Wild Area Scenic Drive)... a rugged, twisty drive along wild rivers and through deep gorges.

Remarkable for its remoteness, Renovo was granted reason to exist in 1862 when the Philadelphia & Erie (P&E) Railroad arrived. Located at roughly the halfway point between Philly and Erie, the railroad developed the massive Renovo Railway Yards... featuring shops, engine roundhouse and station. The remaining land was laid out for streets of the new town, incorporated in 1866, and the town would thrive for the next century as a hub of railroad industry. In the early 20th century, Renovo had a peak population of close to 5,000.

Renovo would enter into a death spiral in the 1960s when the Pennsylvania Railroad closed the Renovo shops and passenger rail was discontinued.

One might expect such a middle-of-nowhere small town to have a rather low-density, pastoral form of development... but Renovo was developed as a high-density urban railroad town. It's like a slice of a big city neighborhood plopped into the rugged wilderness of northcentral Pennsylvania. The town is very quiet today and lacks any economic purpose... but many impressive historic commercial and residential structures remain. Despite its tiny population, there is a wealth of photographic exploration opportunities for the urban/architectural enthusiast.







Traveling PA 144 through Sproul State Forest on the way to Renovo... looking out across the Allegheny Front toward Bald Eagle Mountain.


Neat map at the overlook... Renovo resides in the "Deep Valleys" section of Pennsylvania... a highly dissected plateau region featuring extremely deep, narrow valleys.


A few miles north at Fish Dam Run.


I then slowly descend the plateau... winding and twisting and losing all radio signals... until I finally reach Renovo along the banks of the West Branch Susquehanna.

The railroad running through Renovo.






yeah... this is in a middle-of-nowhere town of 1,000


density




Renovo's street grid is criss-crossed by gritty alleyways




















dormant rail facility


Renovo's downtown is located on the northern edge of town... across the street from the rail complex. Once bustling with activity, the street is now still.


the commercial corridor is a one-sided street... facing the railroad


some defaced commercial structures






Renovo Borough building
















these are sweet


I love clotheslines... so much character!














The ruins of Renovo Public School... closed in 1975 when the suburban Bucktail school complex was completed. This school was partially razed in 2001... only the entrances remain standing sentinel over the pile of rubble.




St. Joseph's... the church had a school... but it was closed in in 1982 after 107 years of operation. The school was razed in 1987 for that lovely church parking lot in the foreground.




badass siding on these three houses






crossing the West Branch Susquehanna to little sister South Renovo






popular canoeing area




coal tower








A few miles east of Renovo is Hyner View, which offers panoramic views of the West Branch Susquehanna and the Allegheny Plateau.



looking east toward Lock Haven


popular hang gliding spot


west toward Renovo... with the tiny village of Hyner below


Hyner Bridge


Hyner, PA


wall built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression


The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania






house in Hyner


Hyner View from below


farewell from Clinton County, PA!
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  #2  
Old Posted Jun 17, 2011, 1:45 AM
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Well damned if this doesn't cement Pennsylvania's status as the most fascinating commonwealth in our great nation. What a ridiculously awesome town, especially considering the super-isolated context.

Keep rockin'.
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  #3  
Old Posted Jun 17, 2011, 2:53 AM
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Thanks so much for posting these! One of my best friends nearly fifty years ago when we were in a USAF detachment at IU at Bloomington, Indiana, was from Renovo. I think three generations of his family worked for the PRR there.

He went home with me to NE Indiana on a few weekends, and couldn't stop talking about how beautiful the endless view over miles of flatland was. I guess it's all in the contrast compared with what one grew up with.

Not long ago I tried to find him, and all I found was his widow's obituary.
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  #4  
Old Posted Jun 17, 2011, 3:00 AM
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It's like an Ohio Valley town plopped in the middle of Pennsylvania.
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  #5  
Old Posted Jun 17, 2011, 3:31 AM
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In northern Pennsylvania, you tend to forget that you're in a state with almost 13,000,000 people.
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  #6  
Old Posted Jun 17, 2011, 3:57 AM
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YES!! The Pennsylvania Wilds.

Overall, north central PA is my favorite region of the state. I have have been to Renovo many times, stopping off during canoe trips on the West Branch. We do at least a few days' trip and Renovo is a bastion of civilization in the wilderness. Have always been impressed with the building stock there for such a small town. Now I know why... thanks for the history lesson. Sportsman's Bar was always a place to stock up on beer for the rest of the paddle and to have a steak and a few shots of whiskey.

This is classic Pennsylvania to me:

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  #7  
Old Posted Jun 17, 2011, 3:58 AM
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Great pics. Like you said Bob, it has a nice little urban town feel to despite it's obvious room to be more spread out if they had wanted to.
So I keep askig myself this question when I see this towns; If all the industry left, how do these people feed themselves?? What do they do? Why do they stay?

I just don't get it. How could you survive in an area with no economy or much of anything besides trees? Maybe I am a "mid-appalacian elitist" But i've always lived in an industrial zone where if you lose one job you can go get a job at a different company.

Great pics:




Droool....



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  #8  
Old Posted Jun 17, 2011, 10:26 AM
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Great job, Evergrey...as usual.
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  #9  
Old Posted Jun 17, 2011, 4:20 PM
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Great pictures! When you entioned Renovo on SSC years ago I thought I would eventually get there and photograph it before you. I was planning on driving through that area this October because the Eagles play in BUffalo and the foliage would've been awesome, but I was beaten to the punch. At least I know what to expect, as I still plan on driving through there.

I would've imagined that Renovo would look like some of the forgotten boroughs that I pass around in Tioga County, like Blossburg or Tioga. Renovo odes have a remarkable amount of density, as you showed.
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Old Posted Jun 17, 2011, 4:32 PM
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Love these dense little Pennsylvania towns surrounded by breathtaking scenery. Thanks for the excellent photographs.
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Old Posted Jun 17, 2011, 8:36 PM
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I don't think I could handle actually living there, but, I am in love with this town. And I, too, would want to know how the people there earn their living. The cars photographed would indicate a better economic state than I would imagine.
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  #12  
Old Posted Jun 17, 2011, 9:17 PM
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wow man, fantastic coverage. i've never had any cause to be in renovo, so i've never seen it. i think bucktail high ran in a cross country invitational i was in in high school. and i've been to orviston, not far from there, and that shit was ka-raaazy back country, honest to god deliverance with banjos. and it's an hour from where i grew up!

awesome stuff, man. love those deep valleys up there.
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Old Posted Jun 18, 2011, 2:09 AM
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I think people who live in towns like that will drive long distances to find employment, and don't discount how many people schools and government services employ.
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Old Posted Jun 18, 2011, 4:03 AM
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great tour, thanks. i now know where i'm headed to weather the apocalypse.

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Old Posted Jun 18, 2011, 5:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by llamaorama View Post
I think people who live in towns like that will drive long distances to find employment, and don't discount how many people schools and government services employ.
Some drive long distances, but mostly, they don't really have to drive all that far. North Central PA (and PA in general) just has tons of old towns between 5000 and 20000 in population scattered throughout the hills that have all types of industries and many colleges.

Many of these very small north central PA towns were settled as company towns... lumber, railroad, bricks, mining, etc... so that's where most of the people once worked. Those companies have long since moved on, but the settlements still remain. There is tourism-focused commerce in some of the towns in the region, but people usually drive to larger towns and cities like Clearfield, Lock Haven, State College, Clarion, Williamsport, etc.
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Old Posted Jun 18, 2011, 5:14 PM
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awesome tour. I love those shots that show the town with the green hills in the background. That's what I think of when I think small-town Pennsylvania.
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Old Posted Jun 18, 2011, 7:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thundertubs View Post
Well damned if this doesn't cement Pennsylvania's status as the most fascinating commonwealth in our great nation. What a ridiculously awesome town, especially considering the super-isolated context.
I second that. Pennsylvania is full of these no-name towns and each one is fascinating in their own right.

Thanks for the tour and the awesome photos!
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  #18  
Old Posted Jun 20, 2011, 2:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thundertubs View Post
Well damned if this doesn't cement Pennsylvania's status as the most fascinating commonwealth in our great nation. What a ridiculously awesome town, especially considering the super-isolated context.

Keep rockin'.
Agreed... Pennsylvania is a surprisingly vast state due to its rugged topography... hiding many fascinating places within its nooks and crannies.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Pence View Post
Thanks so much for posting these! One of my best friends nearly fifty years ago when we were in a USAF detachment at IU at Bloomington, Indiana, was from Renovo. I think three generations of his family worked for the PRR there.

He went home with me to NE Indiana on a few weekends, and couldn't stop talking about how beautiful the endless view over miles of flatland was. I guess it's all in the contrast compared with what one grew up with.

Not long ago I tried to find him, and all I found was his widow's obituary.

Nice story, Rob. I'm not surprised you of all people have expressed appreciation for this thread. There is considerable rail history, only touched upon by my thread, that you would find interesting.


Quote:
Originally Posted by stepper77 View Post
The cars photographed would indicate a better economic state than I would imagine.
looking over my photos... I thought the same thing...

Quote:
Originally Posted by giovanni sasso View Post
wow man, fantastic coverage. i've never had any cause to be in renovo, so i've never seen it. i think bucktail high ran in a cross country invitational i was in in high school. and i've been to orviston, not far from there, and that shit was ka-raaazy back country, honest to god deliverance with banjos. and it's an hour from where i grew up!

awesome stuff, man. love those deep valleys up there.
I've always wanted to visit Orviston (along with Monument)... perhaps the one nook of Centre County I've never seen

Quote:
Originally Posted by llamaorama View Post
I think people who live in towns like that will drive long distances to find employment, and don't discount how many people schools and government services employ.
Renovo does have a small K-12 system... and a tiny medical center... but there's got to be something that generates wealth for a place beyond local public services. I suspect a rather high percentage of Renovo's income comes in the form of government entitlements. To put it harshly, Renovo no longer has a sustaining economic reason for existence, but there is a (shrinking) legacy population which requires public services... hence a few education/medical/government jobs.

As for "extreme rural commuting"... Renovo is a level of remote beyond that of any other Pennsylvania town. Lock Haven (regional population of about 20k) is the only significant employment center within reasonable distance... 28 miles of twisty rural highway... especially tricky in winter.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pj3000 View Post
Some drive long distances, but mostly, they don't really have to drive all that far. North Central PA (and PA in general) just has tons of old towns between 5000 and 20000 in population scattered throughout the hills that have all types of industries and many colleges.

Many of these very small north central PA towns were settled as company towns... lumber, railroad, bricks, mining, etc... so that's where most of the people once worked. Those companies have long since moved on, but the settlements still remain. There is tourism-focused commerce in some of the towns in the region, but people usually drive to larger towns and cities like Clearfield, Lock Haven, State College, Clarion, Williamsport, etc.
I would say North-Central PA is the one region of PA that is not littered with colleges... depending on how you define the region (Clarion is quite borderline with NW PA... and State College is definitely not Northcentral... though it's a stone's throw away)... I'd say NC PA has the following colleges/universities:

Clarion U. (6,500 combined undergrad/grad)
Lock Haven U. (5,500)
Lycoming College (1,500)
Penn College of Technology (6,700)
Mansfield U. (3,400)

And of course... two small branch campuses... Pitt: Bradford and Penn State: Dubois.

Bucknell and Bloomsburg are nearby but are Central and East-Central respectively.

So... there's about 25k college students attending institutions throughout this vast region... with 3 medium/small members of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education... a big tech school... one liberal arts college... and two small branch campuses of major research universities.

Excuse my elaborate response... but I was rather interested in researching this myself.
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Old Posted Jun 20, 2011, 4:03 AM
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^ Right, I realize that north central PA cannot boast numerous colleges... I was referring more to PA in general when I said "many colleges" in the smaller towns. I also probably define north central a bit too broadly. Thanks for the research though -- good stuff.
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  #20  
Old Posted Jun 20, 2011, 5:19 AM
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I'd commute 100 miles to work to live in a place like this. er, round trip...
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