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Learning from Lewisburg
3. Lewisburg and the river  
6 Turn right and walk down St. George:  
  You are approaching the river, the West Branch of the Susquehanna.
The river and the town; a continual negotiation.
  The street sign at the corner measures flood depths. (The label is wrong, The marks measure gauge height — depth above the bed of the river — not feet above flood depth, which would be 19 feet deeper.) The 50 year flood, defining the "statutory floodplain" that is illegal to build upon, is at about 29 feet depth ... about five feet over your head. The house on the right (south) was built upon an earthen pad to lift it above the floods. The "flood proof" condominium group recently built along lower St. George St. appears to be normal townhouses until you look closely.
  The theory: an unoccupied lower-level, only garages and steps ...
  ... the practice: it's legal, but it's still pretty disconcerting to be half-flooded (here in the January 1996 flood).
  Land uses on the floodplain ... modest-priced rental housing (right) and a reclaimed hazardous waste site (left) where the coal gas works used to be.
  Note that the "St. George St. boat launch" — the sad stub of pavement that runs halfway down to the mud flats by the river — is the only formal governmental river access in the entire county. Lewisburg has clearly not embraced the full potential of being a river town.
7 Walk back up St. George and turn right up the alley:
  Note the arrangement of the typical Lewisburg residential lot with a house fronting on the street (usually not set back to any degree), a long narrow yard, and a garage — formerly at horse stable — on the alley.
  Stables in alleys; relict of horse-and-manure days; we can only imagine the tons of hay and oats that were imported, and the tons of manure to be exported.
  All blocks in the area of the original town survey were split by an alley running north/south (parallel to the river) except the blocks fronting on Market St. in which the alley runs east/west.
8 Turn left up St. Catherine, turn right on Second St. and walk up to the Union County Courthouse:
  Union County courthouse, built about 1845. after Union County broke off from Snyder County ... a small-town revel in the majesty ascribed to Greek Architecture in the 19th Century.
  Stand on the sidewalk in front of the Cronrath Funeral Home and admire the neo-Classical east façade of the courthouse in the Ionic order, rendered in wood.
9 Turn right down St. Louis and walk toward the river:
  Look to the left and the right at the alley to see again the typical arrangement of alleys running north/south behind the houses.  
  To the right, the Tasker Bliss House (just down Front St. a half block) – see the Historical Marker for details of another sidelight to Lewisburg history
10 Continue down toward the river ... to the corner of St. Louis and S. Water St.:
  Most major transport routes have been located on the other side of the river — the Atlantic side, closer to Philadelphia, etc. Shortly before the middle of the 19th Century, the Susquehanna Branch of the Pennsylvania Canal was laid about a mile east of here. It is still visible just west of the trail park west of Montandon; the linear depression that crosses Rt. 45 by the last row of trees. Lewisburg immediately linked up with a "cross-cut canal" running the mile from Montandon along the current path of Rt. 45. In the river are the remnants of the slack water dam just south (right .. downstream) of the Water St. corner, extending all the way across the river and visible only in low water. The dam pooled river water to create a boat basin for canal boats.
Canal era
  Historic picture of canal mouth looking toward Lewisburg. This figure was taken from a history of Union County published by the county historical society: Charles M. Snyder, Union County: a celebration of history, 2000
  The 1845 slack water dam, still visible at very low river levels at the foot of St. Louis St.
  Canal boats themselves were an early exportable product of the town, and that industry was the antecedent of Pennsylvania House Furniture, Lewisburg’s most noted industry.
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5 Read a house
/ 6 Deindustrializing/ 7 Downtown/ 8 Lower town/ 9 Highway/ 10 Past & future / Next>