Archive for the ‘ Concrete City ’ Category

Of Concrete City, Mermaids and Ghosts (both Past & Present) Part 2

CCCCHeader 2011

Concrete City 2011

Don’t ever believe the hype about anything.   Almost seventy-six  years ago, on September 13, 1938, Luzerne County’s well-respected news authority, The Sunday Independent, reported about a Ghost Town, called Concrete City, which had been, “left to the ravages of time and scurrying rats”, after a 15 year span  in limbo as an abandonment.

CCCGhosts 1 2013

Concrete City Still Standing in the New Millennium

What was the implied fear in 1938?  Concrete City had become a contradiction!  You see, historians seemed to be claiming that the city had become “only a memory”, yet, there it was, all up in your face. Concrete City had morphed into an apparition for all to witness!

These abandoned homes, once considered a model of modern efficiency, have even survived the dawn of a new millennium, remaining nestled in their wooded area on the boundary between Hanover Township and the city of Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, with their industrial-strength existence still generating a lot of interest, which is nothing new.  When these homes were first built, the local headlines exclaimed “Good-Bye To That Landscape Eyesore—The Mine Patch! Workmen’s Homes At Concrete City Are Virtual Villas” in the September 26, 1914 issue of the Times Leader.

Historical View of Concrete City

Historical View of Concrete City

And just in case anyone thinks that hanging out in the abandoned city is some new phenomenon, I’d like to share a blurb I found in the The Sunday Independent from November 18, 1945:

“A Nanticoke resident who had put his heating stove on the back porch last spring found it missing when he went out there to bring it into the house for the coming cold weather.  The cover was still up; however, giving the impression the stove had been there all the time.  He remembered that some youngsters have a “bunk” in one of the abandoned Concrete City houses and upon investigation found his heater there. “


I’ve blogged about NEPA’s infamous Ghost Town, and constantly evolving street art gallery, several times. In fact, Concrete City was my first Guerrilla History post (and how I cringe when I look back at those pictures)!    I still love finding new information to share, not that it is necessarily “new” information– just new to faux historians, like me!  As mentioned in Part 1 of this blog entry, I recently visited the Luzerne County Historical Society to read a Wilkes College Archaeological Field Methods study from 1982.

Concrete City was opened in 1914 and was lived in by 40 families until it was abandoned in 1923.  Everyone living there had a male family member working at the Truesdale Colliery, just a ¼ mile walk away.  It was considered to be ahead of its time, despite the lack of indoor plumbing or heat and electricity.  So what was life really like in this community with homes described as “virtual villas”?


According to that archaeological report, the city was built in the form of a rectangle with all of the houses facing inwards.  Four double block homes are located in the front, which mirrors the units at the back of the property, with eight units on each side.

There used to be a road of crushed shale rock circling the inside of the complex and a single tree was planted in front of each unit, creating a uniform line.  A lawn area was planted in front of the houses and each family was required to have a lawn mower.  Large community trash bins were located near the front of the complex.

Concrete City Historical View

Concrete City Historical View

The homes had dark green trimming and red chimneys.  Concrete walks led to the front and side doors.  Each building had French windows with flower boxes attached.  Hung above every front door by chains was a marquis roof.   A wooden coal shanty and outhouse were built at the rear of each unit, leaving ample space for flower or vegetable gardens.


There was a central well located in the middle of the complex since there was no indoor plumbing.  Water was heated on kitchen stoves so the family members could bathe in a concrete tub located in the kitchen, which was also used to wash clothing.  The garments were then either hung outside when it was warm and dry, or put up “on lines in the enclosed, upstairs back porch during cold weather”.


Also in the center of the complex was a baseball diamond, a tennis court and a playground with teeter totters, swings and gymnastic rings.  There was a concrete wading pool for kids and a waist deep, concrete swimming pool for adults.  These were the first in-ground pools built in Wyoming Valley.  The Times Leader described the scene in 1914:

“A circular swimming pool with constantly flowing water was installed in one corner of the big central square and on hot afternoons many of the children, some in improvised swimming costumes  and some with the alarming lack of them that characterizes the swimmin’ hole boy, disported themselves in its safety shallow waters. For there are between eighty and ninety children in Concrete City, and evidences of their presence abound.  Behind this house there is a child’s double seated swing.  In front of that, a benignant collie prowls and smiles upon the tumbling infants.  Even all the rag dolls are not taken in every night.”

ccc pool

Sadly, some accounts say that the adult pool was filled in after a young boy drowned in it.

The city was occupied for nine years before closing.   The archaeological report says, “It was closed, because cracks had developed in a few of the buildings and there were many water and sewage draining problems that could not be resolved.  The Glen Alden Coal Company considered the installation of a sewage system much too costly and decided to shut down the village in 1923.”

The report also says that no evidence is left of the outhouses, coal shanties, playgrounds, a tennis court or baseball diamond.  But apparently in 1982 you could still see the pool.  I can’t say that I’ve personally seen any evidence of it these days and I think I know what may have eventually led to its demise.  According to an article in the Citizens’ Voice on April 19, 1979, “Beautiful Village Now Fire Training School”, the pool was cleaned out and filled with oil and various types of debris to teach firemen how to extinguish oil fires.  What an ironic after-life experience for the drowning victim, that is, if you follow (& believe in) shows about hunting for ghosts in abandoned places. Someone should call Zak Bagans about this!

I’m often contacted by amateur ghost hunters asking if I have knowledge of anyone passing away at abandoned places.  Thanks to the research efforts of genealogist, Plymouth Historical Society Board Member, historical preservationist and living historian, Amy Cargill Kirkpatrick, I have an actual obituary connected to Concrete City.


Henry Slusser—Heart trouble caused the death Saturday afternoon of Henry Slusser at his home in Concrete City.  He was a former resident of Black Creek Township and is survived by his wife and two step children.  Harold Copeland, at home and Mrs. Walter Sherman of Wanamie; also two brothers, Roger and Rueben Slusser.  The funeral will be hold from the family home Wednesday afternoon at 2 o’clock.  Services will be held at the residence and interment and interment and Edge Hill Cemetery.

In terms of the little boy who drowned, the only newspaper information I was able to locate so far was a quote from a former resident in the Citizens’ Voice article mentioned above.  Another tidbit of information I gleaned from that article was that the homes were originally built for mining officials, but “as more imposing homes were built later for the officials, the concrete structures were rented to the better class of miners.”


According to The Sunday Independent, July 23, 1939, “When the word went out to abandon the settlement, doors, windows and shelves were removed.  The concrete structures themselves have withstood the wear of the elements and still stand erect for the most part.  Only one has crumbled. “



Not a whole lot of rapid change has occurred at Concrete City within the last 76 years.  You have to wonder if the space will ever get the opportunity to develop into something else.  While taking photos of mermaid inspired leggings for the creator of Skinny Jeans and Sippy Cups, Adrienne  Shellenberger (featured in Part 1), I said that I wished I could make a better connection between Concrete City and mermaids for my blog post.  Adrienne said, “That’s ok.  I like things that are random.  Besides, everything evolves from the sea.”  Maybe the fact that mermaids and artists have made their way to Concrete City is a sign that evolution is finally underway.

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Snow Mermaid at Concrete City–Don’t Miss Part 1


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Of Concrete City, Mermaids and the Ghost Town Stairs to Nowhere (Part 1)

…..with fellow blogger and snow mermaid, Adrienne Shellenberger

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It may be hard to believe now, but in 1982, just 59 years after closing the now abandoned housing development, Luzerne County’s infamous, real-life ghost town was the subject of a Wilkes College Archaeological Field Methods study because people had mostly forgotten about it!  Makes you wonder how mankind has managed to preserve facts about Ancient Egypt and cavemen when we can’t seem to keep track of local places and events from less than a hundred years ago, such as Concrete City, the Kirby Park Zoo, or an abandoned amusement park right off of Route 11!

Apparently, back in 1982, common misconceptions about the development, created out of concrete to house the families of high-level mining industry employees, included the belief that the dwellings were top secret barracks built by the U.S. Army, and that people never actually lived in the city.  But, as we  all know now, the abandoned housing complex was constructed in 1913 by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, and was occupied by forty families until 1923.

Locating the property today can prove to be quite a challenge if you don’t know where you are going.  I learned the hard way several years ago that the Historical Marker for Concrete City isn’t actually located near the ghost town.  The buildings themselves are just shells; and weeds, trash and trees cover much of the long abandoned village.

Concrete City 2 14 a

But visiting Concrete City is so worth the trip!  I recently collaborated on a project involving product shots of mermaid inspired leggings with the creator of Skinny Jeans and Sippy Cups, Adrienne Shellenberger, at this location, and was motivated to dig into the history of the place a little more to see if I could learn anything new about these now prehistoric versions of modern tract housing.

Concrete City 2 14 b

People contact me all of the time with questions about the abandoned housing complex because of previous blog posts.  The most often asked question is if anyone ever died at Concrete City (the answer is “yes”, and “more than once”, but more about that in part 2), and where the bathrooms were located.  One topic that no one ever asks about are the “stairs to nowhere” located in each dwelling on the second floor.  “I thought it was because they used the same “mold” for both floors”, stated Adrienne.   So did I, until deciding to look into documents discussing the interior room plans for the Concrete City houses.

Concrete City was designed by architect Milton Dana Morrill, who is most famous for several government buildings in Washington, D.C.  He is also responsible for other poured concrete homes which were built in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Virginia Highlands.  Morrill invented a system of steel molds to create trough-like boxes which could be filled with concrete to create a house.

Building Concrete City

Building Concrete City

The houses at Concrete City are “double block” style and they are mirror images of each other.  Each unit has eight rooms with a concrete floor basement.  There was no plumbing, electricity or heating in these homes, yet they were considered very modern during the early part of the twentieth century!

1st floor

Concrete City Historical Living Room

Concrete City Historical Living Room

Concrete City 2 14 d

Concrete City Living Room/ Dining Room in December of 2013

The first floor has a living room, dining room and a kitchen with a pantry.  You can easily identify which room is the living room because that is where the front door was located.  Every kitchen, which contained a sink, wash basin and stationary wash tub, had a side entrance door.

Concrete City 2 14 c

Concrete City Side Kitchen Door in January of 2014

Concrete City Historical Kitchen

Concrete City Historical Kitchen

The second floor of every unit had three bedrooms, three clothes closets and a linen closet in the hall.  And one report mentions “an upstairs porch facing the rear of the house” on the second floor.

2nd Floor Design

Take note of G, 3-step unused closet

The homes were heated on the first floor by a coal cooking stove in the kitchen, and a pot belly stove located between the living and dining rooms.

Concrete City 2 14 e

Since concrete is slow to heat, the houses became very cold and damp in the winter.  According to that Wilkes Archaeological Field study, “To overcome the dampness, each unit had an elevated closet on the second floor, the closet being reached by three steps”.

Concrete City Fish Room

Concrete City 2nd Floor Stairs to Nowhere

In the film The Seven Year Itch, Marilyn Monroe may have said, “A stairway to nowhere! I think that’s just elegant”, but at Concrete City, elegance had nothing to do with it!  And I wonder if that is the second floor “porch” being referred to above, or is that another mystery yet to be solved?!


While waiting for Part 2, be sure to check out Adrienne Shellenberger’s Concrete City inspired post about mermaid leggings for a post-apocalyptic world!


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The House Of Fans

Wrong Turn

If you spend any time in Northeastern Pennsylvania, one thing that becomes evident is that everything and everyone here has ties to the anthracite coal mining industry.  The entire landscape has been permanently scarred by mining, and the reminders don’t look as if they will ever go away.  One such relic is the The Dorrance Colliery Fan Complex. 

Forgotten URBEX Chair at the Wilkes-Barre City Cemetery

Located on North River Street, right down the road from the long abandoned Hotel Sterling, directly behind the Wilkes-Barre City Cemetery and nestled along the Susquahanna River, remains the last portion of  the Dorrance Colliery.  For those of you outside of the NEPA region, a colliery is a coal mine and the buildings associated with it. 

 The Lehigh Valley Coal Company operated this particular colliery from 1880 until 1959 and this fan complex was there for all of it.  Fans were required for safety reasons, such preventing gas explosions.  (Ahhh, the good old days of mining coal with open flame lamps!) 

While this veritable death-trap of a fan house still remains, the actual coal breaker and the other buildings were demolished in the 1980s to make room for a personal care home. 



Are they 100% sure that tetanus can’t become airborne?  😉 

***2016 Update: Some of these structures were recently demolished



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(Video) Ghost Town: Post-Apocalyptic Chic “Concrete City”–another Unemployed Zombie Building Infiltration Specialist Production

To see my video featuring a fun romp thru a ghost town in Pennsylvania visit: (Video) Ghost Town: Post-Apocalyptic Chic “Concrete City”–another Unemployed Zombie Building Infiltration Specialist Production Abandoned in 1924, Concrete City is said to be the first example of modern-day cookie-cutter or tract housing.  This residential development, built in 1911, consisted of 20 buildings, each one housing two families.  Both halves of every structure contained a living room, kitchen and dining room downstairs, with four bedrooms on the second floor.  Outhouses were constructed behind the dwellings.  The homes were arranged around a central plaza that contained a pavilion, baseball field, tennis court and wading pool.  Concrete sidewalks illuminated by electric lights and landscaped yards completed this cutting-edge community, which was abandoned in 1924 because the owners did not want to install an expensive sewer system as required by the township.

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Spontaneous Acts of Art: Concrete City Ruins

*(All photos are my own unless another photographer is credited.  If the photo is from another person, you can click on the photo itself to see more of their work.  All photos were shot at Concrete City) 

Old Skool: All Great Truths Begin as Great Blasphemies


Photographer: Dawn Robinson–Baltimore, Maryland

I love to explore the ruins of Concrete City, an honest to goodness ghost town  in Northeastern Pennsylvania that has morphed from a long forgotten hopeless abandonment,   into a frequently changing urban art gallery.   There is something amazing about a place that is left to disappear into history that creates a second life for itself.  At Concrete City you can feel a faint heartbeat and bear witness to the stirring of a soul thru the expression of the street art that people feel compelled to create on its decaying & crumbling walls. 

All We Know is Falling </3 Caution Cliff Ahead

By “street art”  I don’t mean misspelled racial slurs, poorly drawn genitalia, or swastikas (although you will run into plenty of that), I mean art that was clearly done by someone with talent or at least a statement with a deep thought behind it.  The purpose of this kind of art is to question the existing environment with its own language.  It is art that is unsanctioned and not sponsored by community or government initiatives.  “Street art” is art in its truest form—art for art’s sake brought to life in a public space.   

Concrete City is also a location popular with Paint Ball enthusiasts which helps to add a certain photographic ambiance to an otherwise dreary location. Photographer Katherine Rogers—Tattoo Artist, Reading Pennsylvania

Photographer Katherine Rogers—Tattoo Artist, Reading Pennsylvania

Old Skool: Imperfections Create Character

 I don’t just mean old skool graffiti in which traditional artists have primarily used free-hand aerosol paints to produce their work.  Today’s resurgence in street art encompasses many other techniques such as stencil art, sticker art, and installations.   And in a phenomenon that I find most interesting, this art renaissance that is spontaneously occurring at Concrete City has attracted the attention of photographers who are actually bringing models there to shoot on location!  At Concrete City!  😉 

Photographer: LUIGI ROMANO (aka Egoista_73)  from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

“I like to do photo shoots in this area because it’s the right amount of strange. It’s colorful, creepy and crazy, and there’s nothing better than having that combination with a mix of modern people.” —Corrine Klug

Photographer: Corrine Klug—Dallas, Pennsylvania

“I like doing out of the box fashion shoots, Concrete City is an amazing place, and pretty PRIVATE for the most part, it’s a place where you can clear your mind and just enjoy the art of it all.”– Sande Kaczkurkin

Photographer: Sande Kaczkurkin  “Pennsylvania Sande”—Springville, Pennsylvania with model Sarah Cugini of Model Mayhem–MM Number 2100887

With a little luck, maybe this creative energy can find a way to infuse itself into some other areas of Luzerne County if community leaders would allow it.  These are artists who clearly want to share their talents, why not give them some space somewhere to create community generated art?  Wilkes-Barre is a small community without a lot of money; it needs all of the free inspiration that it can get! 

Is it vandalism or Van-Dali’-ism?!

The history of graffiti/street art includes Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire.  Graffiti was found in the ruins of Pompeii, on the walls of ancient Jerusalem, and in ancient Egypt.   It has always been used by mankind to express underlying social and political messages. One of the most famous and inspiring graffiti campaigns predating the modern street art movement began during World War II with the tag “Kilroy was here”.   Kilroy was a little long-nosed character with a bald head that began popping up in unexpected places across the theaters of war visited by American troops.  American soldiers engaged in competitions to inscribe the tag in obscure locations to help keep the battle-weary soldiers inspired.  Soldiers became so engaged by the graffiti art competition, that the mysterious Kilroy character had Japanese Intelligence Officers and Hitler himself worried about the “message” being propagated by the little ubiquitous guy. 


Photographer: Stacy Shannon—Alexandria, Virginia

Today, graffiti has become a rapidly developing art form that is gaining legitimacy.  The art world of curators, dealers and collectors are helping graffiti artists expand their audience on a worldwide scale, just as Luzerne County is gearing up to start its own War on Graffiti in the name of keeping our streets free from gang influence.  Our community leaders and law enforcement officers are telling residents to protect our children and our streets from gangs by reporting all graffiti to the police departmentIncidentally, there also happens to be a stream of funding available at this time for communities who can prove that they are plagued by the infiltration of gang-related activity. 

Sadly art is historically a casualty in any community where leaders try to create solutions to avoid an impending economic apocalypse.  I’d hate to see local Banksy wannabes get silenced during a campaign against little local gangsta wannabes just as graffiti art is sweeping the nation as a means to revitalize declining and blighted communities.  Cities like Los Angeles and Chicago are publically recognizing the talent of their graffiti artists by providing the means for them to do legal graffiti, which helps to foster developing street artists while lessoning the amount of graffiti that appears in their cities as vandalism.  One criticism often heard in Luzerne County is that we knock down our historic structures and do nothing with the newly created space, or worse yet, put up a parking lot— UNUSED parking lots

Our leaders need to foster more progressive thinking in terms of turning our dying community around and breathing new life into our often empty streets.  With price tags for the historic preservation and the economic development of our blighted structures reaching into the millions, as our community sits and waits for something to happen to reinvigorate the center city area of Wilkes-Barre, local graffiti artists have been creating a message (for free!) that is calling out to other creative individuals.   Local street artists are drawing visitors and compelling them to document a broken and deserted town sitting in the middle of nowhere in Luzerne County.  What can we do to get these people to travel less than ten miles down the road to breathe a little life and tourism into Wilkes-Barre using the same inexpensive method? Can the same medium be used to draw local residents in neighboring communities into the center of Wilkes-Barre again?  Maybe, if given the opportunity, at least temporarily until the millions needed for community redevelopment and historical preservation can magically arrive……Just as the Kilroy Graffiti Campaign gave hope to American soldiers fighting a war, perhaps a Community Graffiti Campaign is what the city of Wilkes-Barre needs to give citizens a renewed sense of optimism as they prepare to fight their own war–a war against economic blight.

Giraffiti in The Concrete City Jungle Room


Beyond Concrete City, people in the area are currently talking about the red cat stencil tag artist.  Who is this mysterious street artist and what is their message?  Can anyone out there offer any insight?


Gruesome Intermodal Kitty

Frank Clark Jeweler Cat


South Street Bridge Stencil Art Cats

Another South Street Bridge Playful Kitty

And this keeps showing up in the most unusual places also….who is he?

Graffiti IS happening in Luzerne County and very little of it appears to be gang related…..


Visit Vimeo to watch my Concrete City mini-movie!


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Post-Apocalyptic Chic Ghost Town: Concrete City, Nanticoke PA


By Cheri Sundra


Abandoned: 1924

Pictures from June 1 and June 7, 2010

Nanticoke has its own post-apocalyptic-esque ghost town—the only thing missing is the roving band of marauders.  Referred to by some as one of the failed technological experiments in Pennsylvania railroad and coal mining history,  and by others as the first example of modern-day cookie-cutter or tract housing, the Concrete City ruins still stand as a monument to the “company housing” living arrangements experienced by some area workers during the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s.  Described as “virtual villas” by the upper class of coal mining families, these houses were regarded as a futuristic marvel when first constructed.

“Company Housing” in Pennsylvania usually referred to villages comprised of frame-built wooden houses, commonly called “shanties” by county assessors, that were hastily built by industrialist owners for their low-paid employees.  By controlling their housing arrangements, employers maintained more control over the lives of their employees and had more opportunity to exploit workers and their families.  A great example of this “traditional” company town can be seen at Eckley Miner’s Village, located just 9 miles east of Hazleton, Pennsylvania.

Concrete City is “company housing” with an architectural twist.  The “city” is a very early example of International Style Architecture which is characterized by buildings with rectilinear forms, unadorned of ornamentation or decoration and constructed with steel, glass and reinforced concrete.  This architecture style is a minimalist concept that stresses functionalism.

Pennsylvania railroads were using concrete, a novel building material at the start of the 20th Century, on a wide variety of projects.  Concrete City was built by the Coal Division of D L and W Railroad for employees of the Truesdale Colliery. The homes, which were built in 1911 and opened in 1913, were rented out to a hand-full of their current employees for $8.00 per month. Called the “Garden City of the Anthracite Region” by its designers, the requirements to be met by employees for residency consideration in this cutting-edge, model worker housing community included English as a first language and employment with the company in a position of “high value” such as mine supervisor, foreman or technician.

Concrete City consists of 20 buildings.  Each one was a duplex that housed two families.  Each half of every single standing structure contained a kitchen, living room and dining room downstairs and four bedrooms on the second floor.  Concrete outhouses were constructed behind each house.

All of the houses were arranged around a central plaza that was about the size of a football field which contained a pavilion, baseball field and a tennis court.

There was a wading pool for children and a waist deep, circular swimming pool with constantly flowing water for adults which are said to be the first in-ground pools built in the Wyoming Valley.  The pool was emptied in 1914 after a boy drowned.  Concrete sidewalks illuminated by electric lights and landscaped yards completed the futuristic community.  Concrete City residents were said to be plagued by dampness because moisture constantly seeped thru the porous concrete which led to condensation on the walls.

This is a picture of an item from the archives of the Luzerne County Historical Society.

Eleven years after it’s construction, Concrete City was abandoned because the owners did not want to install an expensive sewer system as required by

Concret City Now

the township in 1924. Ironically, demolition of the modern “Garden City of the Anthracite Region” was halted when it was discovered that the implosion of 100 sticks of dynamite in one of the houses had very little impact.  The concept of demolishing the city made of concrete was deemed too expensive, despite the fact that coal was discovered under the site after it was abandoned.

Currently, many of the structures exhibit fire damage because the Luzerne County Volunteer Fireman’s Association has used Concrete City as a training center.

Despite the fact that it has been designated as an historical site in 1998 by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, locals frequently use Concrete City for paint ball games or parties as evidenced by the numerous paint balls and beer cans scattered about the grounds. Graffiti covers all of the buildings throughout the entire abandoned community.

Concrete City ruins photographed on June 1 & June7, 2010


***To see how Concrete City seems to be experiencing new life as a frequently changing urban art gallery, go to Spontaneous Acts of Art–Concrete City Ruins

***Want more in-depth history of Concrete City, with a twist?  Check out   Of Concrete City, Mermaids and the Ghost Town Stairs to Nowhere (Part 1) and  Of Concrete City, Mermaids and Ghosts (both Past & Present) Part 2

***And visit Vimeo to watch my Concrete City mini-Movie!

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Ghost Town Graffiti


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