Broad Ford Views 2
Compiled & Written by K. R. Overholt Critchfield, August 28, 2009
With Thanks To Jeffrey Antol, Microsoft Virtual Earth & Penn Pilot

Two Photographs from Virtual Earth

The photographs immediately above and below were views of Broad Ford seen on Microsoft Virtual Earth on March 28, 2009. They are important because we now have evidence that the Overholt Distillery's last-standing bonded warehouse was dismantled this past spring (see Broad Ford Dismantled). The trees were "logged out" and bushes were cut down all over the property, clear to the Youghiogheny River. Other structures were removed, and others may yet be removed by the present owner, Terry Shallenberger (of Shallenberger Construction, Connellsville, PA). A company spokesman explained that some walls of the warehouse had fallen down, that the building posed a threat to safety, and that it had to be removed. The good news is that no further demolition has occurred since this past spring, and at that time, the owner currently had no plans regarding the other structures. The bad news is the admission that the purchase had been made primarily because it was riverfront property. To me, this is bad news because riverfront properties often morph into riverfront housing attracting high-end, up-scale tenants, so the history of the site and the preservation of the remaining buildings may not be the central concern of the new owner.

Because of the recent turn of events, it has been my task to collect as many aerial photographs of the A. Overholt and Company distillery complex as are still available online, because they may be our last bird's-eye views of what used to be at Broad Ford. Of course, the immense brick Bonded Warehouse D is rubble now. Its demise marked the end of the last-standing bonded warehouse that, in its heyday, housed upwards of 33,000 barrels of aging Overholt rye whiskey. As for eyewitness reporting, Broad Ford Dismantled is the first of six new web pages featuring the photography of cjb19772009 (currently known as Mtnbiker09), a young Pennsylvanian who trekked into the heart of the ruins, and came back with an amazing pictoral narrative. This set of photographs, published on Flickr as Historic A. Overholt Company Distillery, currently includes 289 shots. In a 3-page feature, Broad Ford Distressed, cjb shows us clear-eyed shots that reveal the current status of the buildings, and in two pages of Broad Ford Forsaken, he gets to the heart of the theme of abandonment with Inside Looking Out and Outside Looking In.

It may yet be possible to save what is left of the A. Overholt and Company distillery, so that the history created at this site will not be lost forever. As for this page, it is the first of four new web pages in an expanded edition of Broad Ford Views, presenting some of the best bird's eye views of Broad Ford that could be collected from the World Wide Web. Of course, these views are no longer accurate, and may eventually disappear from the Internet, as the visual data at various web sites is updated.

In the photos presented here, it is easy to see the creeping effects of distruction in the roof of the bonded warehouse, but keep sharp and you will see the same deterioration elsewhere. For a proper comparison, you will need to see the historic photos presented in the first page of Broad Ford Aerial History, which includes shots taken during flights over Broad Ford in the years 1939, 1959 and 1967.

Old & New Photographs from Penn Pilot

Penn Pilot is an online library of historical aerial photography sponsored by the Pennsylvania Geological Survey. It is supported by the Pennsylvania State Archives, and hosted online by Pennsylvania State University. For aerial photos of Broad Ford that were taken back in 1939, 1959 and 1967, see Broad Ford Aerial History. Here we are dealing with pictures taken during the recent past.

Penn Pilot
Photo Centers --

When you go to the Penn Pilot web site, take your time and try out everything that will help you get acquainted with the changing landscape of our little corner of the world. When you choose an era (given as 1937-1942, 1957-1962, or 1967-1972), you will see hundreds of red dots filling up the map of Pennsylvania, each dot representing a huge aerial photograph. For me, the quickest way to find what I want to see is to manipulate the zoom-in "plus sign" (+) control first, keeping my target area in the center of the screen with each zoom closer, and then I choose the era. Proceeding in this manner gives a choice of red dots that is easier to handle. Once you figure out the parameters of the red-dot grid, you multiply your chances of finding a better angle for your target. Therefore, one dot may give you the area you want to study, but remember to try another dot nearby.

Manipulate the aerial views by using the curved arrows in the map controls, for this will give you many photographs of the same sector, but from different perspectives. Also, notice you can retract the control bar and see a photo without that distraction up in the top left corner. The Microsoft Virtual Earth feature can be accessed by selecting "None" in the drop-down "Select Era" box. Zoom-in on your target area (Broad Ford, for instance), then click on "Bird's eye" from the map menu, and you will get to see the same photos shown above. The "Aerial" tab will give you photos that can be found on other map web sites, but here, they are more accommodating.

You can find more information about the Penn Pilot project by looking over what appears to be an old proposal, or presentation, posted online as a pdf document (see URL below). Note that if you reduce the pdf view to 25% or 50%, the document will upload more quickly. Apparently released in 2005, this is a report by Brian Bills, Center for Environmental Informatics, Pennsylvania State University. The goal of the project was to digitally scan the 1940, 1960, and 1980-era historic aerial photos, and "provide online access to the images through an easy-to-use map-based web application." The stated rationale for the project was to "enable utilization of this valuable resource in many cultural, civic, and scientific applications, increase access to those unable to visit the Geologic Survey or State Archives, protect the photographs from wear-and-tear resulting from repeated use," and "provide digital images that are ready-to-use in a variety of computer applications."

Pennsylvania State University Proposal

Go on to
Broad Ford Views 3, for more pictures from Penn Pilot.

End of Page . . . Return to Karen's Branches