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.
This 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. Town 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.
This 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.
We 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.
This 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.
This 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).
This 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.
This 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.
Yes, 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.
This post inspired by the WordPress daily prompt: Homage.