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Danville

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Danville began as a family business: after the Revolution, Colonel William Montgomery (1736–1816) relocated from Chester County to the narrow valley between the Montour Ridge and the North Branch Susquehanna. There along Mahoning Creek he developed an industrial village of saw, grist, and woolen mills known as “Montgomery's Landing.” In 1792, his son, Daniel Montgomery, established a general store and founded the town that bears his name. Laid out along the riverfront, the town plat was a rectangular grid with a central square between Ferry and Pine streets on Market Street. When Columbia County was formed in 1813 (including what is now Montour County), the Montgomerys gave lots for the courthouse and jail at Market and Mill streets. In the following decades, Daniel worked to improve transportation systems, financing the local spur of the turnpike (1814), Susquehanna River Bridge (1828), and North Branch Canal (1834). The Catawissa Railroad came through the southern edge of town in 1853, followed by the Lackawanna and Bloomsburg line in 1860. After midcentury the wealth generated by the iron mills brought architectural sophistication. In his roman a clef, The Cinder Buggy: A Fable in Iron and Steel (1923), Garet Garrett wrote: “Them mansions on the hill … they came out of it. The library, that row of fine houses you may have seen on what we call Quality Street, all the big and little fortunes you see people living on here, came out of that mill.” A spacious neighborhood of high-style houses grew north of Bloom Street, and the business district along Mill Street is still lined with two- and three-story Italianate brick buildings from those prosperous years after the Civil War. The commercial buildings at 249 and 275 Mill Street have cast-iron fronts while the molded metal facade on 334 Mill Street is textured like stone. Although the factories and mills have been razed, Danville retains much of its iron-era architecture, from Federal-style and Second Empire houses to Greek Revival churches. Danville showcases versatile local architect Charles Wetzel, who designed Grove House (1867; 580 Railroad Avenue), First Ward School (c. 1870; Pine and E. Mahoning streets), the former City Hotel (1872; 235 Mill Street), the Thomas Beaver Free Library ( MT6), and many of the town's finest houses, including his own ( MT5).

Writing Credits

Author: 
George E. Thomas

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