Whatever Became of….
Whatever became of those wonderful old objects from our past? You know, those things you looked at all the time and took for granted when they were here, but now that they’re gone you wish you could see them again. Many are gone for good, victims of weather, neglect, and progress. Others have found new homes, or new incarnations. I’m sure you have wondered about some other things that you remember and are curious as to their whereabouts, so let’s hear from you. Here are a couple to get you started:
If you’ve lived in Upper Merion long enough to remember the King of Prussia Plaza’s early beginnings, you will remember the old clock tower in the middle of theoutdoor mall. Yes, the plaza was once an outdoor mall, where children played in small sandboxes in the center of the courtyard, filled with stone turtles and concrete ramps. There was even a circular sliding board for a short time, but we heard that a kid got hurt playing on it, and it was immediately removed. I remember walking through the mall on a crisp autumn afternoon, listening to the sound of leaves being blown about and whirling and swishing as they collected against the doors of the stores.
The clock was the tallest point in the complex for many years, until second stories were added when Gimbles and Wanamaker’s arrived. The clock would chime on the hour, and the sound could be heard far and wide. Eventually the tower was removed, as the first enclosure of the Plaza got underway around 1970. The tower itself was moved to the back parking lot and left by the curb, but the clock mechanism was removed to be reused. Today the only clock in the King of Prussia Plaza is located just outside of J.C. Penney, and although the faces have been updated, I have it on the best authority that it is actually our dear old clock.
In 1906, a 110′ tall observation tower was built by Variety Iron Works of Cleveland, Ohio, at the top of the hill known as Mt. Joy, in Valley Forge State Park, at a cost of $4,575.00. It stood 500 feet above sea level, and served as a prominent attraction for nearly 90 years. In the early days, there were coin-operated telescopes on each of the four sides, and for a dime you could gaze upon the countryside for a minute or so. Soon after Valley Forge became a National Park in 1976, the trees that surrounded the tower had grown to where observing became impossible. The tower remained as a bit of an icon, but there was no longer a view, and folks slowly stopped visiting. After all, why climb all that way just to look down. The tower was closed, and fell into disrepair and was removed in the late 1980’s. Now even the road has been removed, and the site can only be accessed by hiking trail.
The tower though, found a new life at the Grand Canyon of PA, where it was refurbished and proudly stands today. To see a short video, go to youtube, and search “squirrel on observation tower”. You will see the observation deck that you will remember, plus the decorative ironwork.
The Continental Soldier of the Valley Forge Motor Court
The town of New Centerville is probably a place you’ve not heard of, but it’s only two miles west of King of Prussia. It was the second stop past King of Prussia Station on the Chester Valley Railroad, and today you’ll know it as the area where Barnes and Noble is located, now known as greater Devon. Along the southbound side of route 202, next to Winberie’s restaurant is a portion of the building once known as the Valley Forge Motor Court. Back when the Valley Forge Music Fair was in full operation, it served as an overnight stay for performers and patrons alike. Since the demise of the Music Fair, and the arguably unsuccessful changeover to retail began, the motor court has closed its doors.
In better times, a lone sentry stood watch over the property. The whereabouts of the stalwort soldier is a mystery, but it was known to have been stored against the building for many years, after it was removed to make way for the expansion of U.S. 202. Some reports say that it made its way to Adamstown, and was sold as a decorative item from one of the many antique shops there. If anyone knows of the whereabouts of this fine lad, please let us know.