The Explorographer
Pete Gorda

A Few Hours in Pete Gorda’s World.


A while back I did a shoot at a really cool old theater in Blossburg, PA called the Victoria. To this date it has been one of my most popular stories and galleries here on my site. Through that shoot I met the wonderful owners Tom and Tonya MacNamara and Tonya’s dad, Pete Gorda.

While I was shooting various parts of the theater Pete and his family looked on in wonderment.  At one point, Pete approached me and gave me a nudge and whispered, “You have to see my barn sometime”. Then, he gave me a smile and a wink before wandering off into the theater somewhere. Since the shoot, I have tried to help the theater with a new website and promotion. Additionally, my band, “Wendy Owens and Renegade,” performed a show there. About a week ago, Tonya sent me an email exclaiming that Pete just bought a church! Intrigued by the news, she suggested that if I were interested, I should contact her to arrange another shoot. With my love for this kind of opportunity, there was no way I was going to say “no.” We quickly set up a date, and thus the adventure was set into motion.

It was a rainy and dreary Thursday morning, but despite the weather, I forced myself out of bed, packed my gear, and set off to meet Pete in Blossburg. After an hour-long drive, I reached the small town nestled about 40 miles south of Corning, NY, along Route 15 in Pennsylvania’s Tioga County.

Upon arriving in Blossburg, Pete called me and directed me to meet him near the theater at a house he had recently purchased. Pulling up, I found Pete waiting on the porch, beaming with excitement like a child who had just raided a candy store. His newly acquired three-story brick home from the early 1900s had suffered a fire, but Pete had tirelessly repaired the damage and was now working on installing new ceilings and drywall.

Despite seeing many abandoned places during my travels, I couldn’t help but admire Pete’s dedication to restoring this beautiful house. With about half of the interior already refurbished, it was evident that the finished product would be stunning. Remarkably, Pete had already secured a renter, a testament to the booming natural gas business in Pennsylvania. It was heartening to witness someone like Pete preserving these historic homes and breathing new life into them.

All this house exploring was great, but I was here to shoot a church.  So, Pete and I headed out.  Just before hopping in the truck Pete gives me that smile again and says, “follow me”. Somehow, I knew we weren’t going to that church yet.

Over the hills and through the woods we drove. Over several dirt roads and then……there it was…..Pete’s barn!


Wow, what a barn it is!  As we approached, Pete had me walk up to the silo and look up. Right in the center on the top ring of blocks a neck of a bottle is sticking out. Pete says that the guys who built the silo in 1911 celebrated the pouring of the last block by drinking a bit of whiskey and encased the bottle right in to the masonry on the silo. I could not get a good picture of it as the sun was at high-noon. I will get back there and get a shot of it soon, as I have already planned a revisit.

So we circled around back and Pete cracked open the barn doors and I peer inside!

The sun blazes through a loft window in Pete’s barn. Yes, that is an original Penn Yann Hand built boat on the left.

An old sign from a bridge that Pete worked on as a mason.

An old victorian era table just hangin’ out in Pete’s Barn.

Head crackers, er cast iron pans in Pete’s barn.

An original milking stool from Pete’s farm. Slide it under the cow, slap the bucket on the end and milk away.

As we explored the expansive barn, Pete shared snippets of his life story. At 76 years young, he had spent the last 35 years residing on this farm. Born just up the road on a neighboring farm, which now belonged to his brother, Pete’s roots ran deep in the area. He recounted his years spent working on the Saint Lawrence Seaway and contributing to the construction of the FDR power plant from 1955 to around 1970.

Despite his age, Pete’s enthusiasm for new projects remained undiminished. He spoke eagerly about his plans to construct a log cabin using a row of trees he had planted on his property many years ago, now mature enough to serve as building materials. Pete’s penchant for staying busy resonated with me; he firmly believed that staying occupied was key to maintaining good health.

After I finished capturing images, Pete beckoned me over to where he stood across the barn, eager to show me something. As I approached, my eyes fell upon a stack of hand-carved walking sticks, each one a testament to craftsmanship. Some were painted, others adorned with intricate wood-burning designs, but all were undeniably remarkable. Pete explained that a friend of his crafted them and insisted I choose one as a gift. I was overwhelmed by his generosity and couldn’t believe my luck.

With a few walking sticks in my collection that I have claimed on my travels and when I bring them home from my travels, the misses gives me that look. I dry them out and sand them off but nothing like these. Each one is a work of art. I tell Pete I just can’t take one of these, they are amazing, and I tell him that I will pay him, gladly. But he insists that it’s a gift. The choice was very difficult, but I ended up picking an awesome stick with two rattlesnakes carved and wood-burned into the length of the stick. An amazing gift from an amazing man!

Pete then led me outside and said, now you have to see what’s under the barn! How could it get any better? Little did I know.. First gem I spotted was this awesome American Flint Glass Workers Union local 1001 office door.

And then, the highlight of my day. An old WWII era Jeep in Pete’s barn. Man, I would LOVE to have this thing!! Pete assures me that it still RUNS!!

I am seriously considering asking Pete if he will trade me photos for life for this Jeep! Amazing! We head outside to take a couple detail shots of the barn.

Pete said they would store milk here to cool before shipping it out. Love these old dairy farms!

So just when I think that is as good as it is going to get, Pete takes me around back of the house and shows me his bike…

That’s a 50’s era Murray Aero-liner.  Pete insists it was in working order last week when he rode it.. And yes, that’s an old Ford pickup in the background. What is a farm without an old Ford pickup? And just beyond that are two trailers full of stuff as well!! Man, this just never ends. And speaking of “what’s a farm without”, what about a genuine outhouse?

While checking out the outhouse Pete “suggests” that his wife would love me to take a picture of her garden and Tulips while they are still in bloom. He says if I do that, he will take me to his Chicken coup to see all the goodies he has stored in there. How could I resist?

Next stop a large building out back Pete says is an old chicken coup. A whole wealth of goodies in here from vintage electronic gadgets, tools, and Pete’s famous cast iron pan collection.

Wow! That was awesome! Pete’s barn and collection is simply awesom…..wait what? Pete, “Come on, hop in the truck, I have something else to show you.” So I throw my gear in the back of the pickup and we head down the road then Pete pulls a right hand turn right into a field! His field of course, but a field none-the-less. About 100 yards in we make a left to a clearing, pull up and hop out. This is what I saw.

Pete says, “Come on, I’ll show you the inside and the deck.” The deck?!?

Once we get to the top and enter the tree house we are greeted by a little field mouse who is none-to-happy to see us. He scurries up the tree and back into his knot-hole home.

It was absolutely unbelievable. The entire treehouse and attached deck is supported by a massive 5 foot diameter maple tree. You don’t really get the feel for the massive size of this thing from my wide-angle lens but trust me, it was huge! After we came down from the tree house Pete pointed over to that line of pine trees I mentioned earlier and told me he planted those 35 years ago. Then he asked, “Do you think they are ready?” “Ready for what?”, I queried. “To cut down and build a log cabin?”, Pete exclaimed. Pete is just amazing. With all he has going he has even more going! Well, let’s go look at a church. Oh yeah, the church! So we hop back in the truck, after Pete takes another call, and head off to see the church.
On the way Pete tells me that Antrim was a mining town and John Magee Jr., son of the coal operator who founded Antrim and an officer in the Fall Brook Coal Company died in 1873 and left $50,000 for the construction of 5 Episcopal churches in the region. The church that Pete has purchased was the first of the churches built for a sum of $13,000. Quite a lot of money in 1880. The church, consecrated in June of 1882 and was in operation up until 2009. Here are some shots of the inside and out.

Pete ended off this unbelievable day by taking me down to the Duncan Tavern in Antrim and buying me a burger and fries for lunch. Days don’t get much better than this. Over lunch Pete tells me he has not decided what he wants to do with the church property yet. He tells me he would like to preserve it as a place for weddings or music, or maybe even an apartment. Only time will tell the outcome, but there is one thing that is for sure, the church and property are in no more capable hands than Pete’s to turn it around. If you have an old building that needs saving, Superman Pete just might be able turn that around too.

I would like to shout out a special “thank you” to Pete. Thanks for the tour, the walking stick, the stories, the lunch, and most of all, for allowing me to spend a few hours hanging out, and capturing your amazing world.



Explore. Photograph. Write. Repeat.

A multi-award winning travel photographer and mentor. Most known for his "abandonscape" images. Creator and curator of and

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  • WOW! I read this article 3 times. Had to take each word in. What a day you had. Super Pete never ends with his goodies. Great story! I hope you and Pete always stay in touch! He and Herb (Silk Mill) are the same age, maybe we can fix them up for a Preservation Fund Raiser!
    Thanks for sharing!

  • What? You didn’t get to see the teepee or the OTHER tree house?!
    I can’t wait to see the log cabin.
    Your photographs are great – thanks for sharing.

    • No Mark, I did not.. But, I plan to return..That is, if Pete can make time for me in his busier than busy schedule. Thanks for the great comment! 🙂

  • Pete’s World is my all time favorite story you have told! Perfect in evry detail. I really enjoy reading it over and over.

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