According to Wikipedia: Yellowknife > Uniontown

I don’t doubt Yellowknife (Northwest Territories, Canada) is a great town – but why does Wikipedia like it so much more than Uniontown?

About a year ago, I decided to create an entry on Wikipedia entitled “List of the Tallest Buildings in Uniontown, Pennsylvania”. Now, I know that Uniontown is no metropolis. In fact, a 2015 census estimate puts Uniontown’s population at 9,990. If that number holds true for the 2020 census, Uniontown will have an official census population below 10,000 citizens for the first time since 1900. Uniontown’s highest official census population was in 1940, when the city was home to 21,819 people.

The declining population figures do not take away from Uniontown’s impressive skyline. Wikipedia certainly has “Tallest Building” entries for cities with buildings and structures of heights similar to the tallest buildings in Uniontown. Emporis, a worldwide database of building information, remarks that Uniontown “has a remarkable skyline for a city of its size, suggesting a past of great energy and optimism”.

I figured that creating an entry on Wikipedia couldn’t hurt. I thought there was only a small chance Wikipedia wouldn’t accept the entry, especially if I made sure the article introduced some new knowledge to the online encyclopedia. So, I carefully went through the process of creating the article. I reviewed similar entries for other nearby cities. I went downtown and took some pictures of the tallest buildings in town. My entry had a short and sweet summary that offered some background on Uniontown’s industrial past. I also pointed out that Uniontown witnessed a population boom between 1880 and 1930. Uniontown’s most iconic downtown structures were built within that fifty year window.

Six buildings made the list. Each building on the list was over 100 feet tall, which I used as the baseline for qualification. I had created articles for Wikipedia before, but I felt this particular entry was my most unique and personal one. I had always been proud of my hometown’s architecture and history. “List of the Tallest Buildings in Uniontown, Pennsylvania” met Wikipedia’s standards for creation and soon appeared online.

I was really satisfied with my article. Wikipedia was too. At least, Wikipedia was satisfied initially.

School started not long after my article was officially created. A handful of my colleagues found my article to be somewhat whimsical but worth reading. Most were generally impressed with the list. Here was Uniontown, right alongside Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Cleveland, with its own “Tallest Buildings” article on Wikipedia.

One of the Computer Science teachers even used the article as part of an online scavenger hunt for his students during the first week of classes. After a few days, some students commented that “List of the Tallest Buildings in Uniontown, Pennsylvania” could no longer be found online.

That’s when I got the news.

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Fayette Building 

“List of the Tallest Buildings in Uniontown, Pennsylvania” had been recommended for deletion. Within a few days, the powers that be on Wikipedia had voted to delete the article. I did argue for keeping the page to no avail. For every point I raised, those behind the wrecking ball had a cataloged response. “List of the Tallest Buildings in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories” exists, and I have no problem with that whatsoever – but we can’t spare a page for Uniontown? I guess there just isn’t room for the Fayette Building on Wikipedia (outside of a small picture on the main Uniontown article). J.V. Thompson and D.H. Burnham would be very disappointed.

Information that was new to Wikipedia presented within my entry was not even merged into the Uniontown, Pennsylvania article. Wikipedia had dismantled “List of the Tallest Buildings in Uniontown, Pennsylvania” brick by brick before the mortar had even fully hardened.

After a year of sorting through the rubble, I have rebuilt my list – bigger and better. Most of the statistical data on my list is taken from Emporis, which is an amazing database.

The Tallest Buildings in Uniontown

Uniontown, Pennsylvania has an impressive skyline for a small city.

The gallery below shows the buildings in Uniontown, Pennsylvania that stand at least 85 feet (25.9 meters) tall. The buildings are ranked by row, starting with the upper left-hand corner and moving left to right. Click an image to make it appear larger. The eight tallest buildings in Uniontown, Pennsylvania are:

 

1. Fayette County Courthouse (188 feet – completed 1892)

2.Trinity United Presbyterian Church (150 feet – completed 1896)

3. Fayette Building (146 feet – completed 1902)

4. Marshall Manor (134 feet – completed 1973)

5. Mt. Vernon Towers (122 feet – completed 1974)

6. Gallatin Apartments (101 feet – completed 1929)

7. National City Bank Building (87 feet – completed 1924)

8. White Swan Apartments (85 feet – completed 1925)

Elevator Buttons of Uniontown

Read on to see my “Elevator Button” mosaic.

The excitement of riding an elevator typically passes with childhood. I distinctly remember jostling with my sister or cousin to see which of us would get to press the elevator button. My mother or grandmother would usually reprimand one of us for pressing the button out of turn. At the time, I was never sure why pressing the button mattered so much – but pressing the button definitely did matter. Children still rush to the control panel to press the button first. I suppose elevators seem to possess an almost majestic quality to children. 

As the decades have passed, I find elevators bring more a sense of relief than adventure. I’m not so concerned about pressing the buttons nowadays, but I do still always offer to press the buttons for other passengers.

I guess that’s because I was always good at pressing the buttons – much better than my sister anyway.

Uniontown has quite a few tall buildings for a town of only 10,000 people, making elevators necessary throughout downtown. While you can’t ride every single elevator, the kid in me found out yesterday that you can still press the buttons on quite a few.

And, yes, I did get briefly stuck in one. Thankfully, I don’t have claustrophobia or agoraphobia. I did press the hell out of the “Door Open” button, though. 

Blue Collar Candy: The History of the D.L. Clark Company

There is one candy bar that is distinctly Western Pennsylvanian – when was the last time you had a Clark Bar?

Although much of my work is fiction, I have invested some considerable time into a few nonfiction projects over the years. One nonfiction topic that is of special interest to me is the history of the D.L. Clark Company, former producer of the Clark Bar and Zagnut. The D.L. Clark Company has an incredibly interesting history that would immediately appeal to anyone fascinated by 20th century Pittsburgh lore.

I grew up with the Clark Bar, although I hardly knew that particular candy bar as anything unique among the world of confections. Oddly enough, the Clark Bar was actually the one candy item at my grandparents’ house that was distinctly “off limits” to any visiting grandchildren. As a child, candy hunting at my grandparents’ house was a tradition. My grandmother stockpiled chocolate candy and proceeded to stash the treats all over the place – often in very humorous and creative ways.

Despite her efforts, we were often successful in finding the “goodies”. There was always a variety.

Kit Kat.

Mr. Goodbar.

Twix.

Clark Bar.

But we were told that last one was decidedly not for us.

“Those are for your grandfather,” my grandmother would say.

That made good sense to me. My grandfather’s name is Clark. The five-year-old me was fully satisfied thinking that my grandmother had diligently sought out candy for my grandfather that just happened to have his name in blue lettering on the wrapper.

Of course, that was wonderfully convenient. I didn’t know anyone named “Goodbar” or “Twix”, so for a long time I satisfied myself with avoiding the Clark Bar and thoroughly enjoying whatever else I might find hidden away in the recesses of my grandparents’ dining room.

Clark Bar
The Clark Bar

I rediscovered the Clark Bar two decades later while on a field trip with a group of students in downtown Uniontown. My mind was immediately perplexed with how I had been able to forget such a clear memory from my childhood – let alone an absolute local history bonanza. That rediscovery touched off many years of research.

I was immediately engrossed by the details of the company’s history. David L. Clark was an Irish American, who had started his own confectionery in the back of his house. Those early efforts would expand into a brand that would become synonymous with Pittsburgh and introduce products that would continue to be made long after the company ceased to exist.

Initially, I turned my research into a lecture (Blue Collar Candy: The History of the D.L. Clark Company). I have been fortunate enough to share this lecture with several historical organizations throughout the Pittsburgh region over the last four years.

I shared this summary of the lecture with any hosting historical society, library, or museum for the purpose of publishing announcements:

Pittsburgh in the 19th and 20th centuries could, at times, be rough around the edges: the crackle of blast furnaces; the roar of locomotives; and the blast of steamboat whistles. Those features made up the Steel City we know and love – but that city had a sweeter side. Amidst the coal barons, railroad tycoons, and industrialists, existed one of our nation’s most successive chocolatiers and confectioners –David L. Clark. Clark, an Irish – born immigrant, established the D.L. Clark Company and helped pioneer various types of candy throughout the early 20th century. From the Clark Bar to the Zagnut and every treat in between, D.L. Clark Company products have brought smiles to the faces of Pittsburghers for over 125 years.

The Monongahela Area Historical Society was the first organization to host the lecture in 2012.

A few days after the presentation, I received a letter from Renee Exler of Monongahela, Pennsylvania, who is a member of the Monongahela Area Historical Society and Pittsburgh History and Landmark Foundation. What I received turned out to be a copy of a letter Renee had sent to Andy Masich, the President and CEO of the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Renee was kind enough to pass a copy along to me. The letter spoke well of the presentation, pointed out my research to Mr. Masich, and stated that, “People around the world have heard of the Clark Bar, perhaps eaten one, but this great Pittsburgh history would be lost…if it wasn’t for someone like Joshua Scully.”

My goal remains to eventually write the story of the D.L. Clark Company and seek publication. This is an ongoing passion and project.

After all that I’ve accomplished with this, I can’t help but wonder – what if I didn’t have a grandfather named Clark? What if my grandmother had said, “the Oh Henry! bars aren’t for you!”?

And then there’s the Zagnut, which has really created a niche all to itself.

More Fayette County

A previous post describes the great source of inspiration that Fayette County, Pennsylvania has been to me. I’ve lived in Fayette County my entire life and can’t seriously imagine living any other place. I found some more photographs that I wanted to share. The images in my previous post and those included below really show how this area can readily lend plenty of “settings” to the mind of an author. 

Location, Location, Location

What makes you feel right at home?

Anyone seriously attempting to write fiction is going to realize that setting is very important. Needless to say, the easiest places to describe are the ones with which you are most familiar. Without a doubt, I’m most familiar with the place I grew up and still call home – Fayette County, Pennsylvania

Fayette County is rich in history and natural beauty. There are few places in Pennsylvania that can rival Fayette County’s unique architecture, scenic wonder, and historical legacy. The county’s largest communities – Uniontown (where I reside) and Connellsville – offer a distinct urban and industrial feel that really tells the story of how these two towns were fashioned from the boom and bust of the coal and coke era

I’ve never had to look far to find an appropriate setting. Southwestern Pennsylvania has such a variety of places that I feel I’ve only cracked the service with the inspiration given by this region. Fayette County is at the heart of that inspiration. From the streets of downtown Uniontown to the winding footpaths of the countryside, this place has constantly walked me through new ideas – and I love my home for that.

I have more Fayette County pictures in this post.

Out of the Darkness

Norse Greenland is the setting for a novella combining elements of historical fiction with things that go bump in the night.

A few years ago, I started work on a novella set in Norse Greenland. If you are unfamiliar with the story of the Norse Greenlanders, I would suggest that you check out the following two links:

Greenland: What Happened to the Greenland Norse?

The Fate of Greenland’s Vikings

The Greenland Norse were also thoroughly examined in Jared Diamond‘s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

The mystery surrounding the Norse in Greenland is one of the greatest of the Middle Ages. I first became enchanted with the Norse Greenlanders over a decade ago when I really developed a fascination with Leif Eriksson and the Norse settlement of Iceland. Jane Smiley‘s The Greenlanders was the first novel that I truly loved and that work has been a source of great inspiration for me. 

I drew the maps below to go along with my novella set in Norse Greenland – Out of the Darkness. The fjord systems depicted are located along the southwest coast of Greenland. Out of the Darkness is set in the middle of the fifteenth century during the twilight of the Norse settlements in Greenland. A malevolent and seemingly supernatural force has appeared among the scattered farms of the Eastern Settlement (the maps below show districts, farms, and churches within this settlement). The Greenlanders must respond to this dangerous threat when several inhabitants of outlying farms disappear or are murdered (in a very specific way). As this menace emerges, several farmers in the settlement are looking to abandon their steadings in Greenland and attempt to begin a new life in Vinland (America). Much of the action takes place at Njals Stead, the farm of Thorolf Hafgrimsson, and in the Dyrnes district. As the novella progresses, the events of the story lead several characters to return to the deserted Western Settlement in pursuit of the evil that has terrorized the Greenlanders.

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