A Photo Collage of Vandergrift, Pennsylvania

My Medici Protectorate series begins with the Notaro family, who live in Vandergrift, Pennsylvania—my hometown.

I loved growing up there and miss it every day. While times have changed, this is the way I’ll always picture it. Here’s my brief homage to Vandergrift.

CasinoThis is the Casino. No gambling was ever done there, though. At least, not to my knowledge. When I was a young girl, it housed a movie theater and the public library. The police station was around back. Now, the inside has been restored and the Historical Society has a museum there. clockTown parades always ended in front of this building. There were some hauntingly beautiful Memorial Day tributes done there.

I’m guessing you can see the clock up above. Here’s a closer picture of it. This is one of those precious things that has no meaning or historical significance (at least, none I know of), but it’s a quaint detail that adds to the beauty of the town.

Inside the CasinoThis is the inside of the Casino, where the town museum can be found. I’ve been away for so long, I’ve never had the chance to properly explore it. One of these days I will, though. It warms my heart to know that people are going out of their way to preserve my hometown and my heritage for generations to come.

St. Gertrude ChurchWe have some beautiful churches in Vandergrift. This is St. Gertrude’s church. I celebrated all my sacraments there—baptism, penance, communion, confirmation, marriage. It’s now on the historical register as a protected landmark. My mom showed me pictures of the inside from when she was young. Beautiful murals decorated the walls. Sadly, they’ve been covered with plaster and painted over, so they’re long gone. But it’s still a beautiful church with lovely gothic details.

foundryThis is the foundry, where my grandfather went to work at the too-young age of fourteen. His father died, and as the eldest child, it fell to him to provide for the family—his mother and six siblings. The foundry is no longer operational, but in my novels, it is. A few pivotal scenes occur there.

Grant AvenueThis is Grant Avenue, the main street through the “business district” of town. When I was young, my friends and I would walk down there sometimes after school and definitely every Saturday. We’d shop for stickers and pencils at Everything Nice, nail polish and lip gloss at the Five and Ten, and smiley face cookies or glazed donuts at Dixon’s. (They made the best!) Sometimes we’d go to Sweetlane for homemade chocolate candies or a sandwich, or G&G or AJ’s for lunch. Those shops are all gone. Dixon’s, too, but the last three eateries are still there. A fire did some major damage when I was in college, and the other stores didn’t reopen. I still manage to stop in at at least one of the restaurants when I’m home, though. Great food. Great price. Great memories. I use them as inspiration for the shops I write about in the series, but I named mine after two of my great aunts (now gone).

Grant Avenue CircleThis is an older photo of the same street. Many a driver has done some damage on the island decorating the main intersection. It’s pretty, though. I’d hate to see Grant Avenue without it. I worked as a bank teller in the summers when I was in college. The bank (we called it the “upper bank” because we had three on that street) was right on the corner by the island. There were also some clothing shops near there, but I think they’ve all closed. Fun fact—the show Banshee filmed its final season in Vandergrift, and they updated many of these store fronts.

Sons of ItalyThis is the Sons of Italy. I guess I should say was the Sons of Italy. They had two halls (upper and lower) where I attended many events—wedding receptions, dances, graduation parties, weekly spaghetti dinners. Sadly, the roof caved in not long ago, and instead of repairing the damage, the building was torn down and removed. Many of my family members played bocce and cards at weekly tournaments there. We all miss this part of our heritage.

carnivalYes, times have changed. The town has changed. There’s a lot more I could tell you, more I could show you (carnivals and concerts at the park, festivals and fireworks, baseball games and tennis matches, one of the best football fields in the state), but this post is getting long, and I’ll never do my hometown justice, anyway. You need to see it to truly experience its beauty, which isn’t the architecture or layout, but rather, is the people. You’ll never find a community quite like it.

Let me leave you with a picture from a distance, so you can see the splendor Frederick Law Olmstead had in mind when he designed our little town.

Vandergrift


This post inspired by the WordPress daily prompt: Homage.

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24 thoughts on “A Photo Collage of Vandergrift, Pennsylvania

  1. Pingback: Author Inspiration and This Week’s Writing Links | Staci Troilo

  2. Really enjoyed the tour, Staci! I remember walking downtown to restaurants where I grew up (still miss that pizza at The Walnut Room), but my hometown is practically dead now. No new businesses, others going under, people moving out of the area. The Sons of Italy building looks very similar to my elementary school!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Funny. the SoA looks similar to one of my elementary schools, too. And The Walnut Room sounds wonderful!

      Vandergrift has also lost a lot of its businesses. A few of the eateries are still there, but the shopping has gone away, and many of the residents I knew have moved away or passed on. The people moving in aren’t the same community-types I grew up with. Crime has risen, particularly all kinds associated with drugs.

      The town definitely isn’t the same, but it will always be home.

      Liked by 1 person

    • We were founded in 1895. I’ll always remember that because my cousin got married on May 20, 1995, on the day of the bicentennial parade. I was her maid of honor. She, her husband, me, the best man, and the flower girl were all part of the parade, riding through town in a horse-drawn carriage. A lot had changed in those hundred years, and even more has changed in the 22 years since. Still, I don’t know anyone who hates having grown up there. It was a great place to have been raised.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a fabulous glimpse of your hometown. I grew up in a small town as well, several years spent in a tiny city and the rest spent in a quaint country setting. I remember the five-and-dime, the hometown soda bar and pharmacy and a old country store called Joe Machette’s that had wooden plank floors, vintage antiques, and cream soda in glass bottles. My hometown was established pre Revolutionary War. Reading this wonderful post has made me very nostalgic. You did an excellent job of sharing memories. I could so relate to all those wondrous places and moments of the past. You’ve inspired me to consider doing a similar post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ah, yes. We had so many special little shops. Fruit markets, Italian delis, a fresh pasta store, a couple of butcher shops. Three or four small pharmacies—and those pharmacists knew everything. Shoe stores (one orthotics shop, two regular stores [owned by brothers, I think], and one that would repair and dye shoes), women’s and men’s clothing stores, and a couple of tailors. I’ve lived in big cities, small towns, tiny developments, and a rural township. Nothing beats the small town community.

      I do hope you make a similar post. I’d love to see photos.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes. Progress has robbed us of some wonderful things. Every trip home shows me how things have changed, and I don’t think it’s been for the better. I wish we could go back to simpler times. At least for some things.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Me too, and I mean that. There was a day when someone like Patty Hall could dance among the fireflies and enjoy herself. When kids could run around unsupervised, and when shopkeepers knew who you were, and could tell you mom if you didn’t behave.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think there was a network of people in my hometown who just watched kids and reported on them to their parents. And that’s not even counting all my relatives… I swear I had at least one family member on every street. We couldn’t get away with anything. Not that we even did anything BAD. Not like some of the things you hear about today.

      Personally, I think it’s kind of nice to have that network in place. I might not have been able to get away with anything, but I always felt safe. It’s too bad things aren’t like that anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely homage, Staci. I love small town U.S.A., and Pennsylvania has some beautiful ones, for sure. Looks like you grew up in one, and it’s nice that you remember it so fondly. I really enjoyed the photos! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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