December 5, 2012

The White Pines

In Eighteen Ninety two an immigration agent for the Canadian Pacific Railroad, bought 12,000 acres in the Pennsylvania Mountains and there built a lavish summer resort hotel for German-speaking Jews. White Pines flourished until World War I, when anti-German hysteria and pressure from the federal government forced Owners to sell the resort.

The new owners, however, were far from what the hotel’s opponents had hoped for, or expected.  In 1919 the new owners of the White Pines buildings sold 750 acres and a lake for $85,000 to Two Local Unions.

The Local Union bought White Pines as a permanent home for its new program of worker education and leisure activities that it first ran in a rented house in the Catskills in the summer of 1919. 

The Locals bold experiment in running a worker resort near the summer homes of millionaires, however, soon floundered.  So in 1924, they sold the property to the General Executive Board of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU), the largest women’s union in the United States, which undertook a series of major improvements that would transform the White Pines into a "workers' play land."

Less concerned about profits than with showing "labor in its proper light," the ILGWU renovated the main building, expanded the kitchen, built an amphitheater, added new bungalows, and increased wages for its expanded staff, which included on-site doctor, chef, and dietician.  To make attendance affordable to rank and file members, it charged minimal fees and, when necessary, financially subsidized the operation.

Representing "a promise of a better day and our ability to bring that day," The White Pines thrived during the 1920s.  Here, union members and their families enjoyed a broad range of summer sports, dramatic performances, concerts, and lectures on current events, economics, art and literature, and social psychology presented by college professors, union leaders, and public figures.

 The mostly-New Yorker staff grew to several dozen people over time, including dining room servers, musicians, and a lifeguard. The ILGWU also rented the facility out to other unions, which made The White Pines a getaway spot for the larger labor movement.

The 1930s and 1940s brought many changes to The White Pines.  During the Great Depression, thousands of women joined the ILGWU, and the American labor movement enjoyed a new vitality and unprecedented legitimacy.

The ILGWU also began to organize women garment workers in northeastern Pennsylvania’s coal country, a region that since the early 1900s had become a haven for non-union garment factories, called "runaways," where employers hired coal miners' wives and daughters for meager wages.

The federal government's closure of New Jersey's Atlantic City resorts during World War II helped The White Pines turn a profit between 1942 and 1949.  Buoyed by the high blue-collar wages and strong union culture of the post-war economic boom, The White Pines improved its facilities and added a rustic recreation center called the Philadelphia Building.

After World War II, The White Pines became the union showcase that its founders had dreamed of.  Noting the impressive facilities and programs for children writing, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote after a visit in 1945, "You could not put children in a more favorable environment." In the summers that followed, some 10,000 visitors came each summer for vacations, retreats, forums, and conferences, all of which featured activities designed to booster union solidarity, including musical productions that featured union songs.

Urging members to become well informed and politically active, Unity House also offered numerous lectures, as well as books in its library, on social, economic, and labor issues. To uphold union ideals, ILGWU allowed the Hotel and Restaurant Workers to organize its staff in 1950 and also banned foreign-made products from the gift shop.

In the post-war era, The White Pines also expanded its mission beyond the entertainment and education of its membership. In 1948, ILGWU president David Dubinsky hosted an unprecedented weekend meeting for some 200 manufacturers, which helped avert a strike. Other "employer weekends" soon followed. Other unions also took advantage of the resort's impressive facilities for their meetings, including the National Association of Letter Carriers and the AFL-CIO.

In 1956, The White Pines opened a new 1,200-seat lakeside theater modeled on Radio City Music Hall, complete with a ninety-foot stage and up-to-date lighting and sound. Performers on the new stage included comedians, opera companies, the Harlem Dance Theater Group, and Radio City Music Hall entertainers
In the 1950s, the ILGWU could afford the subsided the operation. In 1953, for example, 78 percent of the guests were ILGWU members who paid a discounted rate.  By the 1960s, The White Pines, like neighboring resorts in Pike and Monroe Counties, were struggling, as air travel, cruises, and suburban country clubs offered vacationers many alternatives to the Poconos.

When the White Pines administration building burnt down in 1969, the ILGWU replaced the building and hoped that the proposed creation of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area would increase its appeal. In 1972, The White Pines opened a new main building that began to host newcomers to the union, including Hispanics, Asian Americans, and African Americans, who joined the aging Italian and Jewish membership.

The American garment industry, however, was experiencing serious decline as sewing jobs moved overseas and ILGWU membership fell from its 1968 peak of 451,000 to 360,000 in the mid-1970s. By the late 1980s only 160,000 members remained. Attempts to attract a younger crowd of members to The White Pines, with the addition of "El Coco Loco" Lounge, did not help.  In January 1990, faced with declining membership and annual subsidies of some $1,000,000, the union reluctantly closed the resort.

In the middle decades of the twentieth century The White Pines provided recreation, instruction, and entertainment to thousands of ethnic, blue-collar, and middle-class Americans. The White Pines had also effectively cultivated a "union culture" that ensured loyalty and strengthened the ILGWU during strikes and hard times. 
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November 1, 2012

The Sisters Home

The Sisters Home
From its beginnings in 1880 as a farmhouse on the fields of a Farm purchased by the Sisters of the Divine for the purpose of establishing a home for the disenfranchised, The Sisters Home has grown to be recognized as the premier nursing care facility and faith-based residence in the Greater Tri-state region. The Sister Home currently serves more than 700 older residents, many of whom are the underserved poor in the community. Although expanding and adapting its services to meet modern realities, the mission of Home has remained steadfastly the same: to provide compassionate and excellent care that promotes wellness, enhances quality of life and embraces diversity. The story of Home is more about the legacy of the Sisters of the Divine than it is about the bricks and mortar of the building itself. The Sisters of the Divine, devoted to service and committed to the dignity of each person, have quietly and steadfastly served this community for more than 130 years.
In 1985, the campus expanded with the opening of a New Building and for the Continuing Care Retirement Community. The New Sisters Home encourages wellness and autonomy through independent and assisted living experiences that keep the mind, body and soul active. While founded and co-sponsored to this day by the Sisters of the Divine, The New Sisters Home is like The Old Sisters Home, a place where people of many faith traditions live and learn together as a community of friends.

Now the Old Sisters of the Divine Home sits Vacant.
















October 30, 2012

Nathaniel White, "The Tale of an Abandoned Farmhouse and a Serial Killer"

Nathaniel White is a serial killer from Upstate New York during the early 1990s.
The Killings: White confessed to beating and stabbing six women to death while on parole. He claimed to have found inspiration for his first murder while watching "Robocop 2". This first killing took place on March 25, 1991 after White had been convicted of abducting a 16 Year Old Girl, but before he started his prison sentence and police did not make the connection at the time. In a plea bargain that would later be heavily criticized, White had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for the abduction and would therefore be eligible for parole after just one year. White was paroled in April 1992 and returned to Orange County, New York. White's first victim was the young niece of his girlfriend, whom he killed at the end of June, and he killed four others during the month of July.

 The New York State Police began investigating on July 30th 1992, after the body of Adriane Hunter was found and authorities began to suspect it was related to the earlier disappearances and murders. On August 2, White was arrested. White confessed and led police to his dumping ground in Goshen on August 4 1992. White was arraigned by a grand jury on August 7 for the murder of Christine Klebbe. On September 9, the other five murders were added to the indictment. White was charged with six counts of second degree murder and pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. White was convicted on all counts on April 14, 1993 and sentenced to 150 years to life.

The Tale of an Abandoned Farmhouse and a Serial Killer






The bodies of Hopkins and Whiteside were discovered in this house on Harriman Drive in Goshen.

See More Pictures Here


October 1, 2012

Wilde Yarn Mill


John Wilde and Brother, Inc., remains as a family owned woolen carpet yarn mill in continuous operation at this location since 1884, giving it the distinction of the oldest American carpet yarn company still in existence. The complex of three buildings stands at the lower end of Manayunk, once a part of an industrial landscape that included the Pencoyd Iron Works, later the American Bridge Company, and the Wissahickon Plush Mill. Surviving as the last of these, the Wilde mill now serves as the gateway to Manayunk from the south, as proclaimed in the sign painted on the Main Street mill. 

In 1882 brothers John and Thomas Wilde started the construction of a mill on Cresson Street near the intersection of Ridge Avenue.  This effort came two years after they had purchased two sets of cards and a mule, and had begun a carpet yarn business, spinning wool on the fifth floor of S.S. Keely's Enterprise Mill.  The Wilde's new mill, oriented toward Cresson Street, bares a significant resemblance to the pattern of mill construction prevalent throughout Manayunk toward the end of the nineteenth century. With its rubble stone walls and red brick trim, the mill follows the type built by S.S. Keely. Having been tenants of Keely,it appears likely that he would have constructed their mill. When completed two years later, the date 1884 was laid into the brickwork of its smoke stack where it is still clearly visible from Ridge Avenue. 

The process of spinning carpet yarn from wool stock has not changed much over the years, with the exception of the introduction of labor saving devices and the evolution of improvements to those machines. At John Wilde and Brother the acquisition of such machines led, in part, to the expansion of the mill. In 1932 the reinforced concrete and brick mill on Main Street was constructed down the rocky hillside from the earlier mill. Its structural system required fewer interior piers which resulted in more open space to accommodate larger, more modern machinery. Presently this mill houses the carding, twisting, spinning, and winding machinery. The carpet yarn process at the Wilde mill currently takes place in three buildings, the last one added in 1983; designed by Reshetar Architect, Inc., the reinforced concrete structure embellished with terra cotta tile, stands atop a rubble rock foundation (of the earlier Wissahickon Plush Mill) next to the first mill and serves as a warehouse. 

Bales of scoured wool from a variety of world markets arrive at the Wilde mill and are delivered to the warehouse, maintaining the inventory necessary to anticipate and fill its orders. From there the bales are fork-lifted into the top floor of the 1884 mill for blending. As much of the finish product of the mill consists of natural colored yarns, an assortment of wools makes up the inventory. The technique of blending the various colors achieves the distinction in the yarns. On this same floor six large Lumming feeding machines combine different types of wool to make a homogeneous blend layers, or the blended wool. Next the wool travels to a baling machine. Forced air blows it down to the floor below where it is compressed, strapped and stored as bales. To insure a good blend, the wool is put through this process three times. On one of the passes, a lubricant is added to aid in the processing and a pre-carder opens the fibers in preparation for carding. 

The spinning of a customer's order begins when the bales leave the old mill and slide on an enclosed incline down the hillside between the two mill buildings, landing near the carding machines. Situated on the top floor of the new mill, six large Davies and Ferber carding machines use toothed rollers to comb the fibers of the wool straight. With accurate measuring devices these machines weigh the raw wool before carding to establish the size of the finished yarn.  The product of carding, called roving, looks like finished yarn but has no twist and no strength. Wound on large spools, the roving leaves this floor for the one below where it is placed on continuous ring spinning machines to add the twist. The machines stretch and twist the roving as it is wound onto smaller bobbins. Twisting machines fitted with several bobbins of different yarns twist them together to achieve the desired number of ply. The Wilde Mill has a Saco-Lowell overhead creel-twisting machine on the second floor of the newer mill and Whitin twisting machines on the ground floor of the same mill. The final process before shipping, involves moving the finished yarns on a winding machine from the mill’s wooden bobbins onto paper cones or tubes for shipping and use by the customer. 

Two other machines, which survive from earlier days of textile production are still in use here. A picker, used for picking spun yarn, returns it to the appearance of the raw wool. This mill uses the picker for its small pieces of yarn called hard waste. The other machine, a willow or duster, removes short unusable fibers from waste known as fly, also returning it to pre-combed wool.  Both the willow and the pickers were manufactured by W.M. Schofield of Manayunk and patented in 1929. 

John Wilde and Brother, Inc. and Robert Krook, Inc., 4120 Main Street, survive in Manayunk among the stiff competition of corporate giants, paralleling the recent history of industry in America. Within the last twenty years in Manayunk, six yarn mills have closed, the last, Blankin Yarn Company, as recently as two years ago.
History Found Here.


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