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Milton and Vicinity

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Herbert Bell's History of Northumberland County (1891) describes Milton as “the commercial, educational, and religious center of this region.” Founded on the West Branch Susquehanna River in the last decade of the eighteenth century, Milton burgeoned following the construction of the west branch of the Pennsylvania Canal and Limestone Aqueduct (parts of which are extant) in 1830. The arrival of the train in the 1850s transformed Milton into the industrial and transportation hub of the county's northern section. Two of its four railroad stations survive, one is used as the borough hall and the other is the police station. The most important industry was the Milton Car Works where the manufacture of railroad cars and iron bridges began in 1864. The American Car and Foundry Company (ACF), founded in 1899, still operates a facility here.

Formed from the merger of two villages in 1817, Milton had no center square. The public space, Lincoln Park, is located at the intersection of Front and Broadway in the northwest corner of the irregular grid. In 1888 a fire destroyed 665 buildings and consequently most of the notable architecture dates from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Phoenix-like, Milton resurrected after the fire and survived floods in 1972 and 1976. The finest residences were clustered along the river on N. Front Street and Broadway Hill. One building that survived the fire is the John Herthington House (1804), built by mason Peter Schwartz at 355 S. Front Street with a handsome Federal entrance; another is located at 37 W. 4th Street. Post-fire houses include the Charles Godcharles House (c. 1890) at 101 N. Front Street, a gargoyle-guarded Gothic folly built for a nail manufacturer, and the H. A. Fonda House (1890, Moses, King and Ferris of Philadelphia), 60 Walnut Street, a well-fortified Richardsonian Romanesque sanctuary with four round corner towers and massive chimneys. The Shingle Style is represented by the Dr. J. S. Follmer House (1904) at 635 Broadway. The polychromatic First Presbyterian Church (1882; 50 Walnut Street) was designed by Joseph Nesbit, who was also the architect of the Milton Freight Station (1883; 2 Filbert Street) built for the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad and now used as the borough hall. Nesbit also designed the Physical Laboratory at nearby Bucknell University (1904; see UN19).

Among the notable twentieth-century buildings is the Milton Armory (1922; 133 Ridge Avenue), one of many Pennsylvania National Guard armories built by Wilkes-Barre architects Thomas H. Atherton and W. G. Wilkins. The streamlined U.S. Post Office (1933; 29 N. Front Street) was designed by Philadelphian Harry Sternfeld with the assistance of John Stewart Detlie, who, as the Great Depression deepened, turned to Hollywood set design and married Veronica Lake before creating a practice in Seattle. The post office is enlivened by an Art Deco copper and brass panel depicting the American eagle and the Susquehanna River. The Milton Historical Society is located in the former Colonel James Cameron House (1842) one-half mile south of Milton on PA 405.

Writing Credits

Author: 
George E. Thomas

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