Historic Stone Wall Hill May Be in Jeopardy
In Ulster Township, on what we all know as the Milan-East Smithfield Road (officially known as SR4014), is “Stone Wall Hill.” For as long as I can remember, the wall has been there and is to me an architectural wonder. I was recently contacted by a resident of Milan-East Smithfield Road and asked if there was anything that could be done to save the wall. I questioned why they might think that the wall was in danger and was told that it is scheduled to be removed in a road-widening project in the near future.
In the conversation, I said that I had always been told that the wall was a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project and that I would hate to see this wall removed, as it stood as a representation of the hard labor our ancestors had to do to survive during the Great Depression. I called Bradford County Commissioner Mark Smith, who checked it out for me and gave me names of others to call for assistance. I called Rep. Tina Pickett’s office and was put in touch with a historical architect that works for PennDOT. He confirmed that the wall was scheduled to be removed and that I would need to prove that the wall is historic in order to save it.
I spent a great deal of time this summer reading microfilms of old newspaper reports and was able to copy information about many projects coordinated by the Civil Works Administration (CWA) and the WPA, so that the next time we are faced with the removal of historic treasures such as the stone wall, there is something to fall back on. However, I was unable to find anything in those talks about the Ulster Township project that would include the stone wall. I also called several long-time residents of Milan and was put in touch with Lawrence Allen, who, as a young boy, remembers the construction of the wall and that the project construction manager was Gaylord Parks. Mr. Allen said he also remembers that the wall was a WPA project. I forwarded this information to PennDOT and was told that I needed more proof.
Rep. Pickett’s office gave me the number for Rep. Tom Marino’s office in Williamsport and, when I called, I was relieved to hear the voice of senior legislative aide Bill McCleary. Bill and I were classmates in Towanda, and I knew Bill could help me get to the National Archives for information. Bill got right on it, and I was soon in touch with the agency. The archives have all of the WPA records for Bradford County (1935-1942) on microfilm and also the CWA records.
The CWA was the forerunner to the WPA and ran from 1934 to 1935, when the WPA was started. When walking through the project with the National Archives, we decided that the wall was most probably a CWA project, as most of the WPA projects were embossed with the WPA emblem somewhere in the cement. Unfortunately, the National Archives researcher could not find the Ulster Township project but did inform me that I could purchase the single roll of CWA microfilm for $85. I have ordered the microfilm, and I am hopeful that it will arrive before the New Year, as I recently received a letter from PennDOT relating that they will be purchasing the right-of-way for the road construction right after the first of the year.
Hopefully there will be someone that reads this who may have some information on CWA projects. I would really like to be able to save the stone wall. To me, it is a part of who we are. The removal of this man-made wonder will take a part of our history with it, and examples of how life was in Bradford County during the Great Depression will fade away forever.