Hidden History: Concrete City

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NANTICOKE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – This month Eyewitness News is taking you back in time and visiting some of northeastern and central Pennsylvania’s hidden history you may not know. 

A quarter mile into the woods of Nanticoke, a piece of local history withstands the test of time.  

“They just walked away and they left them here,” says Nanticoke Historical Society archivist John Sherrick.    

More than 100 years later, the ruins of “concrete city” still remain, battling the encroachment of brush and trees.  Built in 1910 by the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western coal mining company, as many as 80 families once brought this community to life.  
 
“They brought in all of these huge prefabricated slabs and they put them all together and created the first concrete establishment in northeastern Pennsylvania,” says Sherrick. 

At first the concrete seemed like an engineering marvel, helping the buildings take shape quickly and inexpensively.  But that same concrete would ultimately be the project’s demise.  

In 1924, after just 13 years of use, concrete city was abandoned.  

“When they put all these buildings up there was no indoor plumbing,” says Sherrick.  So everything was an outhouse which was in the back of the building.  Now, if you wanted to keep up these buildings, since they were set in concrete, how you do improve them as you go along? How do you put new kitchens in?  How do you put new bathrooms in?” 

Another fault? The concrete was terrible at keeping out the cold.
 
“In the very very cold winters you would get frost in here and the water would damage the building,” says Sherrick.    

Moisture and mold was a year-round problem. 

“Every year they would take all the furniture out of these buildings and they would come in with high pressure hoses and they would high pressure the entire place out,” says Sherrick. 

It’s a process hardly sanitary or efficient.  It took less than 15 years to realize solid concrete wasn’t such a solid idea.  
 
“They just decided they didn’t want the upkeep, putting the sewer system in, the cost effectiveness,” says Sherrick.   

Concrete city has paid a price following nearly a century of neglect.  Floors once illuminated by the warmth of candlelight are now blasted by sunlight through a crumbling roof.  

“It’s something that they tried to do for a certain period of time that just passed into history,” says Sherrick.  

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