As you may or may not recall from my “Valley of the Dolls House” entry, Saturday, myself and my friend Lou were supposed to be shooting an old ballroom located in downtown Sayre, Pa. Turns out the guy that we contacted misunderstood which ballroom we were talking about. Who knew there was more than one in the whole state of Pennsylvania let alone the Sayre, Athens area. Well, as it turns out, the one he was talking about was in his HOUSE! Now I don’t know about you, but before today, I knew about negative 10 people who would have a ballroom in their house. I take that back, I know Elton John does but he’s dead and I really don’t know him. (ed. note; Elton John is NOT dead) Anyway, after a few phone calls we head over to the gentleman’s house to take a look.
The gentleman to which I speak of is Stag. Yup, his name is Stag. So after a short 5 minute drive we arrive at Stag’s house. Some of you may remember hurricane Irene this past year and the damage that it caused in the northeast. Well this little town of Athens, PA was hit hard by the flood. This house was in it’s direct path. Stag and his family are making a hard fought comeback though and are planning on a full restoration of this beautiful 1890’s home.
3 floors of Victorian style beauty. Stag gives us the full tour and expresses his interest in having us film the house upon completion so he and his family have a record of the before and after. During the tour, Stag takes us to the third floor and sure enough there is a ballroom. Still under major renovation it is not really photograph-able on this day but Stag assures us there is a lot more to see. He leads us back down to the first floor to check a wall in their dining room where he removed 2 layers of wallpaper to uncover a beautiful hand painted mural. I was not un-common for artists to paint walls in larger homes such as this back in the late 1800’s. This could be the precursor to modern printed wallpaper.
This scene depicts the local river and elm trees that would have been present back at that time. Absolutely gorgeous! Unfortunately they are too far gone to restore. I have retouched this photo to bring back the original beauty so that the family would have a nice representation of the mural as if it was new. Then Stag leads us to a living room with an awesome fireplace. The mantle carving is exquisite.
As you can see in the mirror over the fireplace that construction is in full effect. Stag tours us through the rest of the house explaining that one section an entire wall collapsed into an 8ft deep sinkhole and had to be completely reconstructed. The flood damage to the entire town was devastating. But, the town has pulled together and is coming back. Progress is slow but it is happening. Before we wrap up the shoot we stop at the homes entrance to take some photos of the amazing main staircase. Note the pocket doors that are still functional and throughout the home.
In this last photo you can see quite a bit of the detail work. Just amazing!
We finish up and bid Stag and his family a gracious farewell. Lou and I can hardly wait to see this beautiful house finished and come back to shoot the results. What a great place! Great to see the community of Athens making a comeback as well. We mount up and head out to our next stop but decide to take a detour along the way. I mention to Lou a building I had spotted a while back and he suggests we stop. He knows the building and the owner so we decide to cruise on in and ask to do a shoot. This is the old Blue Swan Mills building in Sayre, PA.
It now houses the Chamber of Commerce but back in the day it was responsible for parachute manufacturing during the war and lingerie after that. Lou had shot some great photos of some of the vintage sewing machines that were here so I was pretty excited. I mean, this place made suspants!!
We went up and checked the front door as this was a Saturday and had no idea if anyone would be there. There were cars in the lot so we figured someone was working. The door was open so we went inside in search of Lou’s friend, the building owner. The building is 2 floors and a basement. We searched all of the offices but they were all closed. In our search we did run across this vintage fortress…wow what a find! We pause to take a couple shots. Here you can see I have lined up my camera for the shot.
Here is the finished photo.
Here is a shot of Lou capturing this gigantic beast. Man that thing was heavy!
Here is my shot from that spot.
Inside we find this amazing alien looking safe. It looks more like a giant nuclear fallout door than a safe. They sure did want to protect stuff back then. Here is a shot of Lou taking his photo.
Here is my shot of the Alien Safe. This thing was SO awesome! I want it and I have no idea what I would use it for.
Here are a couple of the vintage documents from the Blue Swan Mills Company. The first is just an old invoice.
This second document is very cool. I suspect it was a Christmas bonus check for $3.00 back in 1947. Back then, that was a lot of money. 20 gallons of gas for the family car or 8 pounds of bacon! 🙂
Getting all the shots of this awesome vintage safe we could we packed up and head back the way we came in. We had a moment at the end of this hall. The lights in a lot of this building are automatic. About halfway down this hall all the lights went out. Quite startling when you think you are all alone.
We head to the second floor to see if anyone is around and still nobody. Lou wants to show me the cool sewing machines and leads me to a room off the main hall. Much to our disappointment, all the machines are gone. In fact they have cleaned the entire top floor out.
While it was disappointing not finding the cool sewing machines to photograph, it is awesome to see that someone has fixed this building and is improving it for use by local businesses. There are so many places like this that I see that are neglected and left for dead. This place has been saved and that rocks!! A shining example of what can happen when someone truly cares about a building!
Here are some exterior shots of this extraordinary building.
Well, we didn’t get to shoot the ballroom we wanted on this day but never fear, it’s still on the list. We did get to see two communities doing great things and that was no disappointment to us!
MET YOU AT THE ARTFEST ON SUNDAY–I WAS SUPERCHARGED TALKING WITH YOU AND YOUR WIFE.I want so to go on nature walk this summer ,but can’t afford it. THIS IS SO COOL—You will not believe it ,but when I was looking through your pictures I reconized one as I worked there in the sweat shop they called Sayre Lingerie [after Blue Swan] for 15 years–the room with the very long view and the squecky woods floors used to have 2 or 3 rows of tables end to end the full length of that room. There was rolls of fabic on sliders or rollers and I would walk back and forth pulling and flattening out the wringles -then they would lay the patterns on top of 5″ or more layers depending on the size of the order to be cut –then another would run a cutter and cut out the patterns–most of the time I worked in the sewing department as a button hole/sewer or a bar-tacter which was a stick the secured ends of fabric or put on the nitegown straps.I remember those walls and hall allows wonder what was in that room with the wheel on the door –now I know ! Bring back memories for sure–thanks for the photos and the inspiration I would love to work with you and learn more, Thankkyou so Much !
Love the house from Athens but can’t figure out where this house is. can you explain where it is?
oh my god that floor texture is amazing. Great shot.
Awesome. I grew up in Sayre, Pa. The same craftsman that did the woodwork in the Athens home must have done the work at my house at 408 So Wilbur Ave. Sayre, front entry and staircase almost identical!
My Aunt worked at the Blue Swan. Anxious to see more in future. I assume the home in Athens has to be in area of Main St. Did you know there are homes with old slave tunnels in Athens?
Octive Blakeman Healey
I think The house in athens was the old Bixby home on main street next to dandy mini mart