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St. Michael and Vicinity

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Serving as a base for the fishing and hunting trips of its wealthy clientele, the village of St. Michael was the original home (established 1879) of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club. Built by the members of the club, the cottages overlooked Lake Conemaugh, the man-made lake that burst its dam and flooded Johnstown in 1889. Although the lake, dam, and powerful industrialists are gone, the village remains. It retains only three of the original frame cottages, although these Queen Anne and Stick Style buildings were significantly larger than cottages. The three-story frame clubhouse has seventy-four rooms and a wraparound porch (1889; 186 Main Street). Completed just before the flood and owned by the group who bought the land originally, including Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, Henry Phipps Jr., Robert Pitcairn, and Andrew Mellon, the clubhouse has been restored and is now a hotel.

For several years after the flood, refugees from Johnstown resided here, until the properties were sold piecemeal. After the club disbanded, coal was discovered under the former lake bed, and in 1907, the Maryland Coal Company opened a coal mine and built company housing in the village, giving it the name of St. Michael. The building stock of this small town consists mostly of clapboard single-family homes.

The National Park Service restored the small, three-bay, gable-roofed frame cottage owned by Colonel Elias J. Unger, manager of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, and built an interpretive center nearby, northwest of St. Michael at 733 Lake Road, north of PA 869. This site explains the creation of the lake from the Little Conemaugh River and the failure of the dam, while the Johnstown Flood Museum ( CA14) documents the city's devastation when twenty million tons of water came barreling down the valley.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Lu Donnelly et al.

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